With three weeks remaining until the Nov. 5 election, the People’s Campaign — an independent, grassroots effort to reelect Mayor Toni Harp — is ramping up outreach efforts and accusations against her challenger Justin Elicker SOM ’10 FES ’10.
Last week, the People’s Campaign made an appearance at a Harp appreciation event and called for supporters to campaign for the incumbent mayor. Harp, who suffered a 16-point loss in the Democratic primary against Elicker, announced in late September that she would officially suspend her campaign but remain on the ballot as the Working Families Party candidate. At last week’s event, she maintained her campaign’s suspension but told the attendees that the choice remains with the voters and reminded them that her name will appear on the ballot in November. Following the event, the People’s Campaign began a concerted effort to encourage high voter turnout for the mayor in the general election.
“The most important thing that we can do in this country right now is organize our communities so that everybody votes,” People’s Campaign Treasurer Alexander Taubes LAW ’15 told the News. “It’s going to lead to the power being shifted to the places it needs to be shifted.”
In the past week, the grassroots effort has ramped up its direct voter outreach. On Sunday, organizers hosted voter registration training for about 20 attendees. At the event, they emphasized the importance of accuracy — both on registration forms and in the information they provided to
The People’s Campaign is also gearing up for a rally on Nov. 2, the weekend before the general election. The campaign will march from City Hall to a church on Dixwell Avenue, where organizers will host a rally at the reconstruction location for the Q House — a community center that once served as a social and recreational cornerstone of the traditionally low-income Dixwell neighborhood. While funding issues forced the city to close the house in 2003, Harp’s administration broke ground on reconstruction last year and has touted the Q House as a key accomplishment on the stump.
Beyond hosting events, People’s Campaign organizers have ramped up online advocacy for Harp. They have put up online posts and pamphlets dispelling myths about the upcoming general election — that Elicker has already won and that Harp’s name is no longer on the ballot — and accusing Elicker of lying to receive donations.
On Friday, the People’s Campaign issued a press release via Facebook and accused the Elicker campaign of a “$20,000 lie” — referring to the amount he received in the primary election and is set to receive for the general via his participation in the Democracy Fund. The Democracy Fund is the Elm City’s public campaign financing initiative. In addition to providing candidates with $20,000 for each election cycle, the Fund matches individual donations, which are capped at $390.
The $20,000 is conditional on elections being contested. Elicker’s campaign manager Gage Frank told the News that the campaign has not yet received $20,000 for the general election. At a public hearing following the primary election, Frank told Democracy Fund commissioners that the Elicker campaign would return all of the general election funding the team receives if Harp removes her name from the ballot.
The People’s Campaign reviewed a recent email from Elicker’s team and pointed out what it deemed to be inaccuracies in a press release.
In particular, the press release contested the Elicker campaign’s assertion that the mayor “rallied her supporters and asked for their votes” at last week’s appreciation event. At the event, Harp did not explicitly solicit votes or indicate any coordination with the People’s Campaign, the press release said. She did, however, tell voters, “If you want me to be your mayor, then you’ve got to vote for me.”
In addition, the People’s Campaign criticized Elicker’s email for stating that Harp “booked a $1,000 per person fundraiser in Woodbridge to fund her campaign.” The email referred to an upcoming event in Woodbridge hosted by Women Advocates for Victory in Elections. According to the Facebook event, Harp will join State Sen. Marilyn Moore — who is currently running for mayor in Bridgeport — for a conversation about the differences between this election and the previous ones involving the two. In particular, the Facebook event said that attendees will have the opportunity to hear Harp and Moore share “their truths and not the falsities disseminated from their Trump-like opponents.”
The Harp campaign has previously linked Elicker to Trump in an ad accusing both men of “overconfidence and incompetence.” Elicker has criticized this ad and others as inaccurate and divisive.
The Women Advocates for Victory in Elections organizers request that attendees donate anywhere from $100 to $1000, and the Facebook event specifically calls on voters to cast their ballots for Harp and Moore on Nov. 5. Event flyers were paid for and approved by Harp 2019. The Elicker campaign has termed this a Harp fundraiser, but the People’s Campaign maintained that the fundraiser with benefit the Moore campaign in addition to “retir[ing] some Harp campaign debt.”
Taubes told the News that Elicker is using lies to fuel campaign donations that have already cost the Elm City $20,000 due to public financing. This cost may double should Elicker receive general election funding and putting a strain on an already-limited municipal budget, Taubes said.
“Why does he need to do that when the only thing he’s up against is a People’s Campaign that doesn’t even have a bank account?” Taubes said.
The People’s Campaign formed a political action committee — meaning that the campaign can fundraise to campaign for Harp — after filing with the City Clerk’s office in the weeks following Harp’s primary loss. Harp’s third quarter campaign filings reveal that the candidate herself loaned her campaign $13,500 to cover outstanding debts.
The general election is on Nov. 5.
Mackenzie Hawkins | email@example.com