On Sunday afternoon, Gov. Ned Lamont, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and a host of state and local officials and community leaders crowded into 161 Whalley Ave. — the campaign office of Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 — to rally for the Democratic nominee ahead of November’s general election. Meanwhile, in Woodbridge, at the home of Yale Medicine professor Gary Desir MED ’80, Mayor Toni Harp hosted a fundraising event for her recently unsuspended bid for a fourth term in the Elm City’s top office.
Elicker bested Harp by 16 points in September’s hotly contested Democratic primary. Two weeks after the election, Harp publicly suspended her campaign and announced that she would remain on voters’ November ballots as the candidate for the Working Families Party, a progressive, pro-labor organization. On the day of her campaign’s suspension, a grassroots effort — The People’s Campaign for Toni Harp — sprung up on Facebook. The group subsequently filed with the city to become a formal political action committee and has been actively soliciting votes on the mayor’s behalf.
On Thursday, Harp announced that she was “unsuspending” her campaign. Harp 2019, her primary election funding organization, has remained registered and will be active between now and the general election. Since the primary, Elicker’s team has likewise continued to campaign throughout the Elm City, targeting a broad coalition of voters that includes Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats. He now also enjoys support from prominent Connecticut Democrats, with recent endorsements from all three of New Haven’s representatives in Washington — Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
Both campaigns hosted events on Sunday to galvanize supporters ahead of the general election, which is just over two weeks away. Elicker’s rally was a show of Democratic unity as a slew of New Haven alders, state government officials and federal representatives took to the stump to call for his election.
“Today was clearly very exciting and an indication that after the primary — such a significant victory for our campaign — that Democrats are ready to move forward and unify and move beyond the election to governing,” Elicker told the News at the rally. “I think it’s critical to have good relations with every level of government that’s in this room … [in order to] resolve many of New Haven’s challenges.”
Speakers at the event included Blumenthal, Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, State Sen. Gary Winfield, Ward 27 Alder and Majority Leader Richard Furlow and New Haven Rising’s Rev. Scott Marks, among others. Democrats at all levels of government commended Elicker’s leadership and called for a united effort to ensure that New Haven, in Blumenthal’s words, “does the right thing this November.”
With a dysfunctional government in Washington, Blumenthal continued, New Haven’s election has national implications — Democrats, he said, will come together and succeed for the Elm City and for the country.
At the rally, Elicker thanked attendees — particularly those who supported Harp in the primary but have since thrown their support behind him, as the Democratic nominee — as well as his campaign staff. He said that his staff’s backgrounds, which include homelessness, interactions with law enforcement and growing up with a single parent, represent the struggles that his campaign cares about.
Twenty minutes from Elicker’s headquarters, dozens of Harp supporters gathered to hear her speak at an event held in partnership with State Sen. Marilyn Moore, who is running for mayor of Bridgeport. The event, hosted by Women Advocates for Victory in the Elections, celebrated what co-coordinator Valeta Luckett called “history in the making” and claimed to dispel alleged lies about the two candidates disseminated by their “Trump-like opponents.” Harp 2019 organizers took donations from attendees at a table that also included flyers from the People’s Campaign.
At the event, Harp touted her three-decade record in public service, which she said taught her to ask the questions of, “how much did you do, how well did you do it and is anybody better off?”
She returned to noting administrative accomplishments such as reducing violent crime rates, increasing graduation rates and reducing the deficit while creating a surplus — all of which have been focal points of her campaign. Harp also acknowledged the great challenges facing several New Haven’s neighborhoods and expressed her commitment to improving fortunes in the Elm City.
As of Thursday, Harp is publicly campaigning following three weeks of suspension. The incumbent mayor announced her decision to reenter the race as an active candidate on The Joe Ugly Show, which aired live on Thursday, and said that her change of plans is a response to a groundswell of support since her primary loss. She specifically noted the People’s Campaign as evidence of the hundreds of supporters who “think it’s important that [her] leadership continues because it actually reflects them and the things they want to do in the city.”
According to Andrea Scott, deputy treasurer for Harp 2019, the campaign is back in full swing but looks different than its primary election counterpart. Harp 2019 does not have a campaign manager — primary campaign manager Ed Corey left the campaign amicably the day after the mayor’s primary defeat — and is “grassroots” at its core, Scott said.
Looking ahead to the general election, both candidates plan to continue campaigning around the Elm City and encouraging New Haven residents to vote.
The general election will be on Nov. 5.
Mackenzie Hawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org