Alicia Hernandez Strong is challenging four-term Republican incumbent Erin Stewart for mayor of New Britain this November. Other Democratic challengers include State Rep. Bobby Sanchez and Veronica DeLandro.
In 2019, Stewart won reelection handily, with 6,013 votes compared to Democrat Chris Porcher’s 3,592, and Independent Devione Tanksley’s 187.
The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Hernandez Strong about why she’s running, and what her priorities would be if elected.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired you to run for mayor of New Britain?
I grew up in New Britain and have been a long time activist in the city. I’ve come to find that even when good ideas have popular support among New Britain residents, oftentimes people at the top shut it down. For example, last summer, with my nonprofit, the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition, we fought to get the Columbus statue removed. We were able to flip some Republican council people to get it passed, only for the mayor to veto it. I learned that if we want change, we need to change the person at the top. I’m also running for mayor because I want to see working-class representation. New Britain needs somebody who understands and sees the struggles of people and is going to directly address them in a way that integrates everyone into the political process.
What’s something you would have handled differently from Mayor Stewart, had you been in office?
My response to the George Floyd protests would have been really different. With Mayor Stewart, we got performative rallies and Facebook statuses, but not policy change. I would have responded totally differently, establishing a civilian review board with subpoena powers and looking into the way the police department is operating and using funds. One of my biggest concerns is looking at military equipment acquisition, because I want to make sure taxpayer dollars are going into programs that will make people safer.
Do you think New Britain should raise taxes to increase education funding?
I graduated from New Britain High School in 2014, and spent my entire life in the New Britain public school system, and I experienced the overcrowded classes and old textbooks. We definitely need to increase funding for schools, but no, I don’t think the people of New Britain can afford taxes that are any higher than they already are. I think that we should cut the bloated parts of the city budget, especially in the police department, and redistribute that towards education and social services. We need to fund therapists, social workers, and counselors in schools to help support kids. I would love to see a significant amount of money going into recruiting minority teachers in our community. I also hope to see a divestment from the school-to-prison pipeline in New Britain, because the city pays to have two police officers stationed in the building, and there’s a holding cell in the building. We need to divest from that, and instead, support students’ needs.
What past experiences do you feel qualify you to run the city of New Britain?
I have a history of leadership in the city and statewide. I have a strong educational background, I have a degree in political science and religion from Wesleyan and a masters degree in international studies. I worked for Congresswoman Jahana Hayes on her first election, and as executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Connecticut taking civil rights cases during the Trump era.
What sets you apart from the other Democratic candidates challenging Mayor Stewart?
Being of a younger generation sets me apart. Erin Stewart was just a year older than me when she defeated a sitting incumbent mayor. My platform also sets me apart. I have a comprehensive platform with a long term vision for New Britain, and I don’t see that out of the other candidates. For example, over the last few years, City Hall has attempted to attract richer residents, rather than economically empowering the residents we already have. One of my policy ideas for economic development is to implement a seed program, so anybody who graduated from New Britain High in the last five years would be eligible for resources to start their own business in the city. It’s about making an investment in the people of New Britain, not just looking for outside talent, because we have the talent we need here.