No seasoned political watcher in New Haven will be much surprised by the gaggle of 14 karat Democrats who showed up at St. Luke’s Parish Hall to lend their support to state Senator Toni Harp in her bid to replace John DeStefano as the Elm City’s mayor.
Everyone who is anyone in Democratic Party politics showed up to row the Harp boat successfully ashore, although former Mayor of New Haven John DeStefano, notably absent, did not on this occasion join the chorus of prominent Democrats pledging their support to Mrs. Harp.
A New Haven paper reported: “Harp, a Democrat, employed a VIP lineup of top politicians in her party to pump up a room of over 120 supporters at St. Luke’s Parish Hall at 111 Whalley Ave. Among those who appeared on her behalf: U.S. Sens. Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, state Sens. Martin Looney and Don Williams, and state Reps. Pat Dillon, Gary Holder-Winfield, and Roland Lemar.”
Encomiums sweetened the air. The ubiquitous Governor Dannel Malloy was on hand. Noting the array of fellow Democrats prepared to support Mrs. Harp, Mr. Malloy said the presence of so many twinkling stars “tells you how important in our minds New Haven is.” City votes were crucial in launching Mr. Malloy into the governor’s office, and for many years Democrats have “owned” most of the larger cities in Connecticut. It is commonly acknowledged that whoever wins a Democratic primary in New Haven will carry the election.
U.S. Senator Chis Murphy -- on his way to Europe in an attempt to salvage the sagging reputation of the star spangled administration of President Barrack Obama following disclosures that American spooks had tapped the cell phone of Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel – called Mrs. Harp a champion of the disenfranchised at the state Capitol and encouraged the crowd to “work your butts off” on election day for the wife of the recently departed Wendell Harp.
According to several news reports, the late Mr. Harp was one of the city’s most egregious tax scofflaws.
Upon his demise, Mr. Harp’s business, Renaissance Management, was taken over by Mrs. Harp’s son, who now faces a $1.1 million sales tax liability resulting from a long standing dispute with the state Department of Revenue Services settled in the department’s favor through a 2003 ruling by the state Supreme Court. Mr. Harp’s settlement payments were laconic and sporadic. Accrued interest over the years has “pushed Renaissance Management to the number one slot on a list of 100 delinquent businesses,” according to one news account.
Mr. Blumenthal has come a long way baby since as a crusading Attorney General the quick to sue Blumenthal hounded in-state businesses that for one reason or another had strayed from the path of righteousness. As a U.S. Senator Mr. Blumenthal now not only winks at tax scofflaws in his own state; he unblushingly campaigns for them on their behalf.
But Mr. Blumenthal is not alone. When Mrs. Harp was elected the first woman mayor of New Haven – “New Haven needs a woman Mayor,” said Mr. Malloy on the primary campaign stump -- the lights of the Democratic Party in Connecticut were greatly responsible for hoisting her petard. When all the votes had been counted in New Haven’s 30 wards, Mrs. Harp had overcome a challenge by Justin Elicker by a fairly narrow margin, considering the political circumstances: Having lost to Mrs. Harp in a Democratic primary, Mr. Elicker mounted a challenge as a petitioning candidate. Petitioning candidates running against political party insiders generally do not do as well.
The Republican Party in Connecticut, which has little or no presence in the state’s larger cities, would have been delighted with Mr. Elicker’s figures: The final tally was 11,353 votes for Mrs. Harp and 9,416 votes for Mr. Elicker -- 54.66 percent to 45.34 percent, not a bad showing for a politician campaigning outside the political party box.
But no cigar.