Daniel Zhao

Two weeks after losing the Democratic nomination for mayor to challenger Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, three-term incumbent Mayor Toni Harp officially suspended her campaign for the city’s top office on Wednesday, marking the end of a decades-long career in public office.

After a hard-fought race — one of the most contentious New Haven has seen in decades — that ended in a decisive victory for Elicker, Harp weighed public support against the legitimate financial and operational challenges her general election campaign would have faced. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her candidacy and will instead focus on her duties as mayor and ensuring a smooth transition to the next administration. Harp, who had the option of running her campaign as the Working Families Party candidate, will remain on voters’ November ballots but will not actively seek any support.

“I’ve been blessed — and remain grateful — for enthusiastic assistance from thousands and thousands of supporters, contributors and voters,” Harp stated in a press release through City Hall on Wednesday. “We’ve worked together to advance this city well beyond where it was six years ago and among so many accomplishments, I’m most proud of the partnerships and collaborations at the heart of them.”

Before becoming the Elm City’s first female mayor in 2013, Harp had an already illustrious career representing New Haven. She served on the Board of Alders — the city’s legislative body — and represented portions of New Haven and West Haven in Hartford. As state senator, she co-chaired the Appropriations Committee as well as the Mental Health Working Group under the state’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety.

In her six years as New Haven’s chief executive, her office prioritized balancing the city’s budget and developing a robust private sector while focusing on urban development and improving public school graduation rates.

In the release, Harp touted her accomplishments on a wide range of issues ranging from recent work on infrastructure developments such as the Downtown Crossing Project, which aims to connect residents of the Hill to New Haven’s downtown, to her first act as mayor — removing a fence that once separated the Elm City from neighboring Hamden.

She also noted lower crime rates and successful programs like the Gateway to College high school completion program and Youth Stat, which seeks to reduce young people’s interaction with the justice system via school-based interventions.

Elicker’s campaign — which waited for Harp’s decision but moved ahead with calling for Democratic unity and campaigning for the general election — thanked Harp for her career in public service. In the weeks following the primary, several longtime Harp supporters have thrown their support behind Elicker, including Juan Candelaria, a state senator.

Elicker’s campaign manager, Gage Frank, told the News that Harp’s “dedication to the community and compassion for New Haven residents will have a long-lasting positive impact for many years to come.”

The Wednesday press release, in addition to the list of Harp’s accomplishments, ultimately cited the unlikeliness of a continued Harp campaign’s success. Harp beat Elicker in 2013 and easily won her next two terms. This year, however, she failed to defend her mayoral legacy, which now includes a series of scandals and charges of corruption in City Hall.

Elicker bested Harp by about 2,000 votes — winning 58 to 42 percent — in the Democratic primary and flipped several wards that he lost six years ago. The week following the election, Harp met with supporters and advisors to discuss her options going forward. Ed Corey, her primary campaign manager, left the campaign immediately following that loss and wished her the best in future endeavors. The campaign did not announce new leadership.

Harp earned the endorsements of the Democratic Town Committee and the Working Families Party, a progressive pro-labor party that recently endorsed Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 presidential election.

The 2019 general election will be held on Nov. 5.

 

Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu