James Larson

Supporters of Mayor Toni Harp shut down Dixwell Avenue and marched to City Hall on Saturday, chanting “one city, 1C” and calling for the reelection of the three-term incumbent and Working Families Party candidate.

New Haven resident Neil Richardson organized the event, dubbed the People’s March for Toni Harp. Emma Jones and Alex Taubes LAW ’15 from the People’s Campaign, a grassroots movement that formed after Harp suspended her now-reignited bid for the mayor’s office, promoted and spoke at the rally. Harp, who suffered a resounding 16-point loss in the Democratic primary even after earning the Democratic Town Committee’s primary endorsement, hopes to best challenger and Democratic nominee Justin Elicker SOM ’10 FES ’10 in Tuesday’s general election. She is now running as the candidate of the Working Families Party — a progressive, pro-labor organization. On Sunday, Harp and her supporters railed against “unfair” DTC practices and urged Elm City residents to vote her back into office.

“For too long, the Democratic Party has taken many of us for granted. They said that they represented the people. But in this case, they have not,” Harp told Saturday’s cheering crowd. “I am so pleased that the people have decided to support my candidacy. It means more to me than a party that will absolutely desert you when you’re doing the right thing.”

In July, New Haven’s DTC endorsed Harp by a 34–16 vote. However, since the primary, the party — including several longtime Harp supporters — has thrown its support behind Elicker, the Democratic nominee. Chairman Vincent Mauro has publicly backed Elicker, and a slew of prominent local, statewide and federal Democrats have stumped on Elicker’s behalf.

In a Friday interview on WNHH’s “LoveBabz LoveTalk” program, Harp said that while she may have initially earned the DTC’s endorsement, the party leadership has “absolutely worked against [her].” On Saturday, she specifically thanked two alders — Ward 6 Alder Dolores Colon and Ward 2 Alder Frank E. Douglass Jr. — for their “courage” in attending the event given that many of their colleagues have turned to Elicker in the weeks since the primary.

“Are we going to elect these Democratic backstabbers?” Colon asked attendees. “We’ve got to get out there and keep bringing the people to their senses.”

Mauro told the New Haven Independent that these accusations “serve no purpose and had no effect on the outcome of the primary or the convention.” He further highlighted his respect for the mayor and the office she holds.

In an interview with the News, Jones, one of the lead organizers of the People’s Campaign, expressed her hope that Saturday’s march and rally would remind Elm City residents that Tuesday’s election remains contested. The race has been a confusing one for many New Haveners — after her primary loss, Harp, a lifelong Democrat, suspended and then unsuspended her campaign, which started under the party establishment and is now affiliated with a third party.

In addition to electoral politics, Saturday’s event also touched on race. Local pastor Jose Champagne likened Harp’s fight against giving up her seat to that of Rosa Parks. Other speakers noted Harp’s personal history of growing up in segregation and becoming New Haven’s first black female mayor, her most recent accomplishment in a successful, three decades-long stint in electoral politics representing New Haven in various capacities.

In an interview with the News, former Wilbur Cross basketball coach Bob Saulsbury told the News that Harp is a “tremendous role model” to young women of color. On the steps of City Hall, he told the crowd that because of Harp, “one little girl might say, ‘I don’t want to be just the mayor. I want to be the president of the United States.’”

The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters who are in line before 8 p.m. will be able to vote even after the deadline passes.

 

Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu