Hoping to generate both money and steam for his 2019 mayoral bid, Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 has concluded his campaign’s first quarter at a variety of events around the city.
The former alder, who is challenging three-term incumbent Mayor Toni Harp for New Haven’s top office this year, attended a half-dozen informal gatherings over the weekend, as Sunday night marked the close of the first fiscal quarter. Elicker — who is participating in the Elm City’s public financing initiative, the Democracy Fund — asked supporters to meet him and his team in informal settings to discuss their concerns and feedback and contribute the small-dollar donations with which Elicker has committed to funding his second bid for mayor.
“Part of participating in the Democracy Fund is having those intimate moments with folks in smaller crowds, doing it that grassroots way,” Gage Frank, Elicker’s campaign manager, told the News. “It’s a lot more hard work, on our end, to get those small donations, but it’s a lot more rewarding.”
According to Frank, the campaign had two events on Saturday and four on Sunday, all in the vein of similar events held throughout the quarter. The meet-and-greets double as conversation starters — residents can meet Elicker and express their concerns — and important fundraising opportunities, as invitations and event notices solicit donations of around $25 each.
The campaign hosted both Saturday events in East Rock. And on Sunday, Elicker’s team began with an event in Westville. His team then met with Yalies for Justin Elicker — a new group that formed this semester to help Elicker reach out to and communicate with Yale students — for brunch, before hosting a two-hour event at Katalina’s Bakery. In the evening, the team hosted another event at BAR pizza.
Elicker, who arrived in New Haven 11 years ago for graduate school at Yale, first ran for mayor in 2013. At the time, then-Mayor John DeStefano was vacating the position after 20 years at the helm of the Elm City. In a packed Democratic field, Elicker — then 38 years old and a young upstart with two terms of experience representing Ward 10 on the Board of Alders — came in second to Harp in the primary. After the primary loss, he again challenged Harp in the general election and fell 1,900 votes short.
In New Haven, which has long been a Democratic stronghold, Harp has not faced any serious challengers either from within or outside of the party since her first election.
After the 2013 election, Elicker assumed the executive director position with the New Haven Land Trust, a local nonprofit. He and his wife Natalie, a lawyer with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut, have two young daughters — whose futures in the city he has cited extensively as reasons for seeking to lead City Hall.
After filing his formal papers late January, Elicker became the first candidate to jump into this year’s race. On the same day, he committed to participate in the Democracy Fund, as he did in his 2013 bid.
The Democracy Fund was launched in 2007 as a pilot by the State Election Enforcement Commission. Participants in the Fund are subject to certain restrictions — candidates can receive no more than $370 from any individual donor, substantially less than the legal cap if a candidate does not participate. The fund also provides limited matching funds for candidates who raise funds from at least 200 individual donors, each of whom must donate at least $10.
“When Justin is going to these events … he is accountable to all of those residents,” Jacob Malinowski ’20, president of Yalies for Justin Elicker, told the News. “It’s orders of magnitudes larger than a candidate who doesn’t participate [in public financing].”
After announcing that she would seek a fourth consecutive two-year term in City Hall, Harp told the New Haven Independent in February that she would not participate in the Democracy Fund. Harp, who served in the State Senate representing New Haven for more than two decades prior to serving as mayor, has never participated in the initiative.
Frank was unable to share specifics on fundraising totals for the quarter, noting that, in accordance with the Democracy Fund, all information on numbers and donors would become available to the public on April 11.
Harp is New Haven’s 50th mayor.