GOP fields candidate in New Haven mayor’s race for first time in nearly 15 years

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The last Republican to hold the job of Mayor of New Haven was 70 years ago when Mayor Bill Celentano held the seat. He was the first Italian-American Mayor of New Haven and a funeral director.

Now, for the first time in 14 years, New Haven Republicans have a candidate running for mayor of the Elm City. Fourth-grade teacher John Carlson is running for the seat.

Charles Spears of New Haven is his biggest fan, and he’s a Democrat.

“That’s my friend, we stick to each other through the thick and the thin,” Spears said.

Carlson’s slogan — “From New Haven For New Haven.”

Carlson is a proud Republican.

News 8’s Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina asked Spears what he thought about Carlson running.

“It’s a good thing. He [has] been a political cat since I’ve known him,” answered Spears. “He knows the surroundings. He knows the problems. It’s not a bad neighborhood but we got some problems. He can help straighten it out maybe.”

Why hasn’t the grand old party put someone on the ballot in New Haven for more than a decade?

“I think in New Haven a lot of it is perception. Republicans have let Democrats deliver their message which isn’t going to be good,” Carlson said.

RELATED: 13 unions back Mayor Elicker for reelection bid in New Haven

He added, for instance, a lot of people think because he’s a Republican, he’s anti-environment. He said that isn’t true.

“As you can see, I have rain barrels at my house. I plant fruit trees.”

This father of two worked in construction, managed a national department store division, and worked with incarcerated youth.

He has also supervised after-school programs, created budgets, and supervised employees.

As a 50-year resident of the Elm City, Carlson says crime is out of control.

“We’ve had more people under the age of 30 die from gunshots than die from COVID. We need to protect our kids so if we need a cop on every corner, I’ll put one there,” Carlson said.

He fought to get permit parking for Ward 6 residents and funding to repair sidewalks in the Hill.

This educator is also concerned about education.

“One in five kids in New Haven are on grade-level math, 30% or so are on grade-level reading. Money needs to be in the classroom. Teachers know what they need, what they want, and what works.”

Incumbent Mayor Justin Elicker has the endorsement of 13-city unions and his party.

His primary Democratic opponent decided to suspend her campaign.

RELATED: New Haven mayoral candidate Dubois-Walton suspends campaign; Dem. committee endorses incumbent Elicker

Elicker says a new class of 20 officers is being hired. They are adding more surveillance cameras and shot spotter technology too.

“It’s easy for people not in the seat of the mayor’s office to say things about how they would magically fix things. We’ve got more work to do. We have increased walking beats, reinstituted the task force,” said Mayor Elicker.

Fundraising is always an uphill battle. Carlson says he is trying to get a $20,000 Democracy Fund Grant. He needs 200 people from the city to donate and help him qualify.

The election is this November.

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