Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer

On Monday, former Elm City Communities President Karen DuBois-Walton ’89 officially announced her run for mayor and filed her campaign papers on the same day.

DuBois-Walton is preparing to roll out her platform in the coming months. She will challenge one-term incumbent Mayor Justin Elicker in the Democratic primary this September. The primary election is typically decisive in New Haven, which has long been a Democratic stronghold.

While Elicker announced his reelection bid in January, DuBois-Walton’s campaign efforts began in March, when she launched an exploratory committee to investigate the possibility of her mayoral run. She raised $69,652 in the first 23 days of fundraising, more than either of the 2019 mayoral candidates had raised in their first month. On April 21, DuBois-Walton announced she would be stepping down from her 14-year tenure as president of Elm City Communities, the New Haven Housing Authority, effective last Friday. Her bid became official on Monday morning.

DuBois-Walton told the News that she will be sharing her platform in the next coming months, and that it will focus on policing, education and fiscal security.

“As she moves from an exploratory committee to a full campaign committee, she’ll continue to prioritize listening to and lifting up the voices of all New Haven residents, while stressing opportunities for bold leadership and real, substantive change,” DuBois-Walton’s spokesperson, Will Viederman, wrote in a Monday press release.

The difference between launching an exploratory committee and a mayoral campaign lies in the permission and documentation behind a race. DuBois noted in a phone interview with the News that the committee was intended to test out the “viability” and “ideas” behind a potential race. As soon as the documentation to become a mayoral candidate is filed on a city and state level, the candidate can actively campaign, request voter support and advertise a platform.

In April, DuBois-Walton released a video calling for investment in police accountability through the funds New Haven received via the American Rescue Act. She called for community investment and collaboration with local community organizations. DuBois-Walton also said that a team like Mayor Justin Elicker’s Crisis Response Team should have been “been up and running much, much sooner,” noting that some situations “don’t need a gun and a badge as a response.”

“We should be defining what [a] 2021 version of community policing looks like in this community and creating models that could be picked up in other places,” DuBois-Walton told the News. “It’s not something that that police would be expected to do by themselves, nor should they do that by themselves. But it would be a community and policing kind of partnership.”

Education and youth programs will also form part of her campaign platform, as DuBois-Walton said she aims to strengthen the public school system in the city and prepare young people for post-education work. To this end, DuBois-Walton said she would like to see more teachers of color so “young people can identify with and connect to [them]” in learning environments. She also cited the importance of bilingual resources and education to support the many immigrant students at New Haven Public Schools.

The mayoral candidate also emphasized her fiscal plans for the city — which include increased contributions from Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital, but also emphasize infrastructure and homeownership investment in the city.

“The city needs to have a very strong economic development plan, and I’m afraid we have not had that, and we as a city have suffered from that,” DuBois-Walton said in an interview. “That economic development plan has to be centered on our neighborhoods and our residents … through small business development … through investment in the infrastructure in our communities, through homeownership opportunities.”

DuBois-Walton arrived in New Haven in 1985 as a Yale student and chose to settle down in the city. She worked as chief of staff and chief administrative officer under Mayor John DeStefano Jr. before working in the housing authority. Calling herself a “New Havener by choice,” DuBois-Walton emphasized that the work she does for the city is out of “a love of this community.”

Incumbent mayor Elicker and DuBois-Walton will compete this September in the mayoral primary election to represent the Democratic Party in the November general election. 

“I welcome Dr. DuBois-Walton to the race and look forward to the conversation about the direction of the city,” Elicker told the Register on Monday. “We are confident that, after one of the most challenging years our community has seen, we are on the right track.”

DuBois-Walton noted that, because of her position in the housing authority, she and Elicker were in routine communication prior to her leave of absence.

She added that after her official campaign filing, she anticipates continuing to meet with residents and elected officials, adding that she has already met with nearly all 30 alders.

“The campaign –– door to door in the community. Holding events will happen as we bring our message to the voters and build … our base of voters who will get us over the finish line,” DuBois-Walton said.

DuBois-Walton will be hosting a launch event at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, at Quinnipiac River Park.

Ángela Pérez is City Editor of the YDN. She was a former beat reporter, covering City Hall and Women's Volleyball. She was a former editor and writer for the WKND desk. She is from Puerto Rico and plans to major in Architecture.