By Wayne Jebian
Connecticut’s third largest city could receive its first Latino mayor now that incumbent John DeStefano has announced he will not seek re-election.
Board of Aldermen president Jorge Perez, the city’s top elected Latino, is declining to comment about entering the race, but he may make an annoucement as early as tomorrow.
That according to Gerald “Gerry” Garcia, who served on New Haven’s board of Aldermen for five years, and ran unsuccessfully for the Secretary of the State nomination. Garcia said Perez told fellow attendees at DeStefano’s announcement on Tuesday night that he would make his decision later in the week. The race for the office became wide open with DeStefano’s unexpected announcement.
According to New Haven Independent.com, which closely monitors the city’s politics, labor unions in the city have been “for years been grooming … Perez … as almost a mayor-in-waiting. He has toyed with the idea of running but never gone ahead with it. In the face of DeStefano’s announcement, Perez faces a now-or-never decision.”
At DeStefano’s announcement, Perez handed out a printed statement, according to the New Haven Independent, that said, in part. “I have faithfully served the city for many years as the alderman of the 5th Ward, and have always intended to keep serving in some capacity. With the mayor’s surprise announcement, the opportunity for me (as well as others) to explore other opportunities to continue the serve the city has arisen. In the next week or so, I will be talking to my family, my colleagues, my constituents, and others, and only then will I make a decision concerning in what role will I continue to serve the city.”
Perez is the city’s longest serving alderman. He was previously board president from 2000 to 2005. He became president again in January 2012.
Other leading Latinos in New Haven, which is 28 percent Hispanic, are saying no to entering the race at this point. “It’s time for a mayor who represents the diverse community of New Haven,” said state Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven). “If that happens to be a Latino, that’s great. If it happens to be an African American candidate or an Anglo candidate, that would be great as well. What’s most important is their qualification and their desire to run.”
Candelaria said he had no plans to run and said that in addition to Perez, another obvious minority contender was popular state Rep. Gary Holder Winfield (D-New Haven), who is black.
Aldermen Migdalia Castro is not running but said, “The time is right. This is going to be a very diverse race.”
The transformation of New Haven through 20 years of DeStefano’s leadership creates two challenges for any would be successor. One is how stiff the competition will be for a job that has become far more desirable than it was when DeStefano first ran. The other challenge is that whoever wins will have some very large shoes to fill.
To sum up what DeStefano inherited when he first took office, Garcia said, “It was ugly, and there was just no sugar-coating it. At age 35, this mayor took the bull by the horns, and we have had 20 great years since.”
Image (c) WTNH
By Wayne Jebian