Following Justin Elicker’s SOM’10 FES’10 landslide victory over incumbent Mayor Toni Harp in last week’s Democratic primary, another mayoral challenger has dropped her bid.
Wendy Hamilton, who jumped into the race shortly after Elicker in late January, told the News in an interview last week that she was ending her candidacy. Hamilton, a local activist and retired nurse, ran a nontraditional campaign. She did not fundraise and did not pick up enough signatures to make the primary ballot. Nonetheless, over the course of the summer, she participated in several forums and debates alongside Elicker, Harp and Urn Pendragon — another self-funded candidate.
Over the past few months, Hamilton said the primary goal of her campaign was unseating Harp. Following Elicker’s victory last Tuesday, Hamilton told the News she would step aside, regardless of whether Harp chooses to run on a third-party ticket in the general election. She added that she hopes that her candidacy and beliefs will tug the eventual mayor further in the direction of progressivism.
“My original goal was to remove Toni Harp from office,” Hamilton told the News. “[Elicker] will be fine [as mayor], as long as he doesn’t allow himself to be bullied by Yale or anyone else.”
Hamilton is a longtime resident of the Elm City who gained publicity for donating roughly $1 million — inheritance from a late relative — to local causes in 2016. Since Harp’s first victory in 2013, Hamilton’s discontent with the Harp administration has grown.
In interviews with the News, Hamilton emphasized the importance of removing the current administration, highlighting festering problems with the city’s relationship with Yale and underfunding for public services such as public education and low-income housing.
Over the summer, while Elicker and Harp duked it out over contentious issues such as lead paint policy and incendiary attack ads, Hamilton told the News that she saw Elicker as the race’s “frontrunner.”
Elicker clinched a significant margin of victory at the polls on primary day — he defeated Harp by securing roughly 60 percent of the total primary vote, or over 2,000 ballots. With this decisive win, he is likely to become New Haven’s 51st mayor come January.
Harp has the possibility of continuing her campaign as the Working Families Party candidate to challenge Elicker in the November general election. Her campaign has not yet confirmed whether she will take up the mantle of running as the underdog. Over the weekend, her campaign manager, Ed Corey, told the News that Harp was “still weighing her options” and that “who the other candidates are” would not factor into her decision.
The city’s finances and City Hall spending were two major points of scrutiny for Hamilton during her campaign. She warned that, at its current rate, the city’s poor fiscal standing would translate to a point of no return. Throughout his campaign, Elicker also sounded a warning on the longer term implications of financial distress and called Harp and her administration out for inefficiency and mismanagement. To combat criticisms, on the campaign trail, Harp often asserted that she inherited much of the city’s most challenging fiscal circumstances and that her administration has worked to steady the ship.
Hamilton specifically praised Elicker for participating in the city’s public financing initiative, the Democracy Fund, touting it as proof of Elicker’s commitment to transparent and tightened financial order. She also noted the positive implications Elicker’s participation might have on residents’ faith in City Hall.
Urn Pendragon also entered the race as a Democrat and, like Hamilton, never gained significant traction amid the battle between Harp and Elicker, the only two candidates with enough signatures to make the party ballot. Pendragon told the News that she joined the race for “a political voice” and to “push City Hall” on the issues she cares about. She will technically remain in the race but has not proven to be an active candidate.
Wendy Hamilton was the 2016 New Haven Register person of the year.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org