NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The primary election is not until Tuesday, but New Haven’s Democratic mayoral candidates, Mayor Tony Harp and Justin Elicker, were live tonight in New Haven to debate the issues important to citizens.
This debate was a rematch. Harp beat out Elicker in a very close general election back in 2013 when Elicker ran as an independent.
Harp is first woman to serve as New Haven Mayor, and served as a State Senator for 21 years. Elicker is a previous New Haven alder and teacher.
Highlights from the debate:
When asked about city finances, Elicker said his goal is to “correct a lot of fiscal mismanagement in the city” and plans to be an advocate for smart financial planning.
Harp responded by saying, “New Haven has been doing better and better and better” and “If we work with the Board of Alders, we can move forward together[…]We can make the hard decisions, and I have made them.”
When asked how residents will be personally impacted by a tax increase, Elicker criticized the Mayor and sited a list of lawsuits that he claims the city is using tax payer money to pay for.
Mayor Harp responded by saying that if she lowered taxes, “I would have to lay people off” and take away resources for New Haven citizens.
White Supremacist Rallies in the city:
Both candidates insist that White Supremacy is unwelcome in the city, but that they would support every citizen’s right to free speech.
Elicker went on to say that he would support everyone’s right to protest, but he would stand with counter-protesters.
Harp told about the NHPD’s social media watch dog program that is in place to stop violence before it happens in the city, and that we should not tolerate speech that “denigrates people.”
Elicker sited what he believes to be corruption in the Harp administration. He said he is adamant about creating transparency in City Hall finances.
Harp responded that there is an ethics standard in place in City Hall, and, “I believe in our workers; they work hard; he (Elicker) doesn’t.”
Poverty/Lack of Job Opportunity/Crime:
Elicker: “Community policing is about the relationship between the community and the police. We need to do more [of that]”
Harp: “We know there are too many guns on our street.”
Harp went on to cite youth community programs that have been successful in preventing youth deaths by gun violence in the city.
Both candidates have advocated for the expansion of services at Tweed Airport.
Elicker says he would make sure the airport is accessible to all citizen: “We need to make sure we’re not alienating our citizens.”
Harp says that the airport expansion is key to the city’s economic development: “Businesses will leave here if they can’t get in and out of the state.”
Harp said she has pride in language classes available and high rate of Latinx graduation in the city.
Elicker responded entirely in Spanish, saying that he felt it was important to make the effort to speak directly to those the issue was impacting.
Clean Election Program:
Harp, who is not in the CEP, said, “The current system is stacked against poor people who want to run for mayor.”
Elicker responded, “This is not about a rich or poor thing,” but that he wants to create a system where campaigns are funded “by the people, not contractors.”
Both candidates emphasized the need for schools to prepare students for real-world jobs.
Harper cited the “BioPath” program at SCSU in concert with the medical schools, and other programs that prepare students directly for real-world jobs.
Harper: “We are developing businesses from the ground up.”
Elicker: “It’s critical our citizens get [well-paying] jobs.”
Elicker said he would advocate for a more accessible and responsive administration: “New Haven is at a moment where it’s ready for a new stage. It’s time we look forward and take a step into the future.”
Harp: “My administration is a place that has given everyone room to participate. We, together, can move New Haven forward.”