Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

Karen DuBois-Walton, president of Elm City Communities — New Haven’s housing authority — will challenge Mayor Justin Elicker in the 2021 mayoral Democratic primary race. 

DuBois-Walton plans to announce the launch of an exploratory committee on Monday, the New Haven Independent reported. Her announcement comes after Elicker announced his own reelection campaign at the end of January, touting his administration’s efforts confronting the COVID-19 pandemic during his first term. DuBois-Walton told the Independent that her campaign’s vision includes dealing with the impact the pandemic has had on young people and on violent crime in New Haven. She also noted a desire to ramp up efforts she’s previously been involved with in housing in low-income communities.

“I’m [exploring a run] for a vision, which is a vision of equity and inclusion, a vision of bringing people together,” she told the Independent. “I don’t think any of these problems get solved in isolation. We [will] bring a team together that is energetic and excited about tackling problems.”

Since graduating from Yale in 1989, Dubois-Walton has served in various leadership positions in the city. She is a member of the Connecticut Board of Education, and once served as chief administrative officer and chief of staff for former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Prior to working in city government, she worked for the Yale Child Study Center and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Dubois-Walton has not yet named a campaign manager, but Donald McAulay Sr. is serving as her campaign treasurer and Robin Golden as her deputy campaign treasurer.

Like Elicker, Dubois-Walton intends to participate in the public-financing New Haven Democracy Fund once the formal campaign process begins. The Democracy Fund provides matching funds and public financing grants to mayoral candidates who agree to follow certain restrictions on campaign fundraising and expenditures, including limiting individual donations to $390.

Elicker issued a press release Friday afternoon in response to Dubois-Walton’s entry into the race.

In his statement, Elicker said he is “confident New Haven is heading in the right direction” under his leadership.

“I welcome Dr. DuBois-Walton to this campaign and look forward to a spirited exchange of ideas about the future of our city,” Elicker said in the release. “Over the past year my administration has worked around the clock to keep people safe, and that work continues. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in inoculating the spread of the coronavirus through initiatives like free testing, and now we’re leading the way with aggressive vaccination efforts in every part of our city.”

In his press release, Elicker included a statement of support from Pastor Kelcy Steele of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church.

“I support Mayor Justin Elicker because of his compassion, humility and commitment to all New Haven residents,” Steele said. “He has proven time and time again that he is the most ethical leader to lead us through these unprecedented times.”

A separate Friday email to campaign donors paid for by the Elicker 2021 campaign called on donors to “chip in” with a “newly declared candidate in the race” and said that support “is more critical now than ever before.”

Elicker won his first term in 2019, when he beat three-term incumbent Toni Harp with over 70 percent of the vote.

Owen Tucker-Smith | owen.tucker-smith@yale.edu

Correction, Mar. 5: An earlier version of this story said that Elicker received an endorsement from Steele. However, due to Varick’s 501(c)(3) status, Steele can not endorse a candidate. The language of the story has been updated.

Correction, Mar. 10: A quote from Dubois-Walton in which she said she was “running” for mayor has been corrected to say that she is “exploring” a run, in line with the launch of the exploratory committee.

Owen Tucker-Smith was managing editor of the Board of 2023. Before that, he covered the mayor as a City Hall reporter.