Toni Harp to Run for New Haven Mayor; Has Powerful Ally in Sen. Looney

It wasn’t long after state Sen. Harp announced Monday she would file papers to run for mayor of New Haven that a powerful ally emerged. Senate Majority Marty Looney, who represents the parts of New Haven that Harp does not, is putting his considerable political weight behind her.

Sen. Toni Harp

Sen. Toni Harp

Looney was effusive in his praise of Harp and her decision to run. “I’m thrilled, extraordinarily pleased. I’ve been advocating for her to run,” Looney said. “She is by far the strongest candidate in the field. She’s represented half of New Haven for the last 20 years and as a legislator, she’s been very wise, extremely talented and insightful.”

Looney also said Harp is exactly the type of person the city need. “She’d be a great unifying force for the city in a somewhat fractured [Democratic] field—the first African-American woman who is clearly the best choice.” Looney recognizes that other candidates have their quarters of support. “They have at least some constituencies but not the unifying support [Harp will have],” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney

Ten-term Mayor John DeStefano is retiring resulting in a wide-open race. Harp joins former economic development official Henry Fernandez; Matt Nemerson, a former president of the New Haven chamber of commerce; city alderman Justin Elicker; and state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield. It will be interesting to see if Harp’s entering the race clears anyone from the field.

Harp is a proven vote getter in New Haven and would be the first female mayor in the city’s history if she’s successful. She currently is senate chair of powerful, budget-writing appropriations committee. Just last week the committee announced a frame for a new, two-year state budget so she has a lot on her plate in her current position.

The Shad worked with Sen. Harp for years when I was on staff for the Senate Democratic caucus in the legislature. I always found her engaging, smart and very focused. I also know Holder-Winfield. He too, will be a formidable candidate. I don’t have any personal connection to the others.

With Harp in the race, it’s sure to be an interesting summer and fall.