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New Haven mayoral race
grows crowded with Yalies

In New Haven, just like at Yale, the chief executive is stepping down after 20 years at the helm. But unlike at Yale—where the governing Corporation swiftly and secretly tapped then-provost Peter Salovey ’86PhD to succeed President Rick Levin ’74PhD—New Haven voters have no obvious favorite to replace Mayor John DeStefano.

Or had none, until yesterday. That's when Toni Nathaniel Harp ’78MEnvD, a prominent state senator, shook up the race by reversing her earlier position and deciding to run.

Harp, long considered a favorite to challenge or succeed Mayor John DeStefano, told the New Haven Independent in January that she wouldn't run "unless I’m struck by lightning." Now she says she can "bring a different perspective to the political discussion about the city" and "bring the city together, to make it a more positive place."

Harp joins a crowded field of six Democrats (so far) vying to replace DeStefano, who announced in January that he won't run for reelection after his record 10th term. She is the fourth Yale alum in the race, and the one with the longest record in elected office and the broadest name recognition. She co-chairs the legislature's powerful Appropriations Committee and has represented her state senate district, which covers roughly half of New Haven, since 1993.

The four Yalies in the race represent four different professional schools: architecture (Harp), law (Henry Fernandez ’94JD), environment (Justin Elicker ’10MEM), and management (Matthew Nemerson ’81MPPM and, again, Elicker ’10MBA).

Although Harp's Yale degree is in environmental design, her professional and political focus has included public health, including mental health, as well as poverty and homelessness.

Elicker, with dual masters in environmental management and business administration, is an environmental consultant and a member of the New Haven Board of Aldermen.

Fernandez, also a consultant, worked in DeStefano's City Hall and focuses on policy issues of immigration, education, and civil rights. While a law student, he cofounded a youth organization called LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership) with the help of Yale faculty and alumni.

Nemerson is president and CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, a trade organization. He previously worked for Science Park, a Yale-affiliated business incubator, and for the regional Chamber of Commerce. A business publication once called him New Haven's "wonk in chief."

Democrats dominate New Haven so thoroughly that the party primary on September 10 is considered the real election, although Elicker says he'll run in the general election as an independent if he fails to get the Democratic nomination.

Filed under Toni Harp, Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez, Matthew Nemerson
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