By a whopping 2-to-1 margin, New Haven voters on Tuesday elected Democratic nominee, former alder and nonprofit executive Justin Elicker SOM ’10 FES ’10 as the Elm City’s next mayor, capping Mayor Toni Harp’s tenure at six years.
Polls closed across the Elm City’s 30 wards at 8 p.m., and results emerged shortly thereafter. Elicker is poised to take the reins in January and will succeed three-term incumbent Harp, who conceded by phone at 9:15 p.m. — taking an hour longer than she did in September’s primary. Elicker emerged victorious by a 40-point margin that follows his 16-point win in September. On Tuesday, he won 27 wards and increased his vote percentage in all 30 — flipping 11 wards between the primary and general elections.
The campaign was a heated one, with both candidates levying heavy charges and issuing public blows against each other’s backgrounds and platforms. In Elicker’s victory speech on Tuesday, he denounced the negative rhetoric that has characterized this year’s mayoral contest and expressed his gratitude to his supporters and campaign staff. He went on to thank Harp for her contributions to the city and her pledge to work with him going forward, and promised to serve all Elm City residents as mayor.
“I pledge to you tonight that I’m not going to be mayor just for the people in this room — I’m going to be mayor for every single person in this city,” Elicker told a cheering crowd at his victory party. “I’m going to be mayor for the supporters of the Elicker campaign, and I will be mayor for the supporters of the Harp campaign. I will be mayor no matter what you look like, where you came from, how much money you have, what kind of political connections you have — I will represent you and I pledge that here tonight.”
Elicker urged New Haveners of all stripes to join him throughout both the transition and his eventual tenure to ensure that the Elm City is a place of opportunity for all residents.
Harp suffered a decisive loss in the Democratic primary — marking her first defeat in a 32-year stint in electoral politics that culminated in her becoming the Elm City’s first black female mayor. She publicly suspended her campaign shortly after the primary loss, and it seemed that the race was all but over. But she ultimately chose to continue her mayoral bid as the candidate for the Working Families Party and with the support of the People’s Campaign, a grassroots organizing effort and PAC that sprang up when Harp announced her original suspension.
The campaign became particularly contentious in the run-up to Tuesday. Harp and her supporters charged Elicker with spreading misinformation and the Democratic Town Committee — which endorsed Harp in the primary but threw its support behind Elicker as the party nominee — with abandoning a longtime party member and turning its back on the people. For his part, Elicker stayed above the fray, refraining from mentioning Harp on the stump after his primary win. On Tuesday, DTC Chair Vincent Mauro told the News that New Haven is ready to move forward — elections are always divisive, he said, but people on both sides of the campaign recognize that the city is more important than the politics.
Throughout the general election cycle, People’s Campaign organizers Emma Jones and Alex Taubes LAW ’15 suggested that the primary election was not a referendum on Harp’s performance, but rather a reflection of her supporters’ complacency. They claimed that higher turnout in the general election would trigger a Harp victory. 15,345 voters went to the polls on Tuesday, an increase from the 11,666 who participated in the primary — reflecting both augmented interest in general elections as well as a greater number of eligible voters. The general election voter rolls included over 16,000 Independents and nearly 2,500 Republicans who were ineligible to vote in the Democratic primary.
Still, the voters’ message was clear, and Harp ultimately conceded, calling Elicker and addressing her supporters at the Elks Club, which has served as the locus of Harp’s general election
“In a word, today’s election didn’t produce the result that we would’ve preferred,” Harp told her supporters on Tuesday night. “I congratulate Justin Elicker and his team on their achievement — I wish them success going forward, just as I wish New Haven and its residents continuing success and prosperity.”
Harp thanked her supporters for their continued commitment to her campaign and emphasized her pledge to work with the incoming Elicker administration to ensure a smooth transition as he prepares to serve as New Haven’s 51st mayor.
Elicker will take office on Jan. 1, 2020.
Mackenzie Hawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org