Effort to Narrow the Field Goes Nowhere as Candidates Focus Attacks on Hartford Front-Runner Arulampalam

Credit: Robin Breeding


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HARTFORD – With less than a week before Election Day, Hartford’s petitioning mayoral candidates are continuing their verbal attacks on Arunan Arulampalam – the front-runner and endorsed Democratic candidate – but have declined a recent proposal by former candidate Mark Stewart Greenstein to coalesce around Nick Lebron.

For weeks, Greenstein, who withdrew from the race Sunday, has pitched the idea of the petitioning candidates and Republican Michael McGarry uniting behind a single candidate to challenge Arulampalam, the favorite to succeed Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat.

On Tuesday morning, Greenstein sent out another email to the candidates asking them – this time –  to withdraw and specifically throw their support to Lebron, a city councilman, who Greenstein believes has the best chance to defeat Arulampalam. Greenstein asked the candidates to withdraw prior to a Thursday evening forum, saying that would send a strong message to those in power in the city. 

“I don’t like the Democratic establishment’s governance,” Greenstein told CT Examiner. “I don’t like the ways Democrats have run this city or the country…. Arunan is not a bad guy, but he’s part of a bad party.”

In his two-page Tuesday email, Greenstein wrote: “He’s [Lebron] a potential winner. Nobody else is… I, for one, will join Nick wherever he deploys me….”

Asked about the email, McGarry and petitioning candidates Stan McCauley and Gisele Jacobs told CT Examiner on Wednesday that they wouldn’t be dropping out of the race. And Lebron said that while he appreciates Greenstein’s support, he would not ask the other candidates to withdraw. He said he’d gladly take their support if offered, however.

McCauley, Jacobs and Lebron all said they were expecting to be victorious on Nov. 7; McGarry said he didn’t expect to win but said his campaign was about ideas and encouraging discussion of issues like the Grand List, economic growth and hiring more police.

With the candidates unlikely to unite behind a single challenger, McCauley, Jacobs and Lebron continued their verbal assaults on the front-runner.  

McGarry took a somewhat less critical tack, telling CT Examiner on Wednesday that Arulampalam would be “an acceptable mayor, although I think he’s got a lot of learning to do. I suspect he will have some rough patches, especially with the finances.”

Verbal assaults by most of Arulampalam’s challengers have been ongoing for months and were on full display at the Oct. 23 Hartford mayoral debate sponsored by CT Examiner. 

During the debate, Lebron and Jacobs took shots at Arulampalam’s handling of the Hartford Land Bank, where he serves as CEO. 

Arulampalam, for his part, declined to attend the debate, saying that he didn’t agree with how the debate was structured and expressed qualms that Lebron’s sister had a money interest in the venue where the debate was being held.’

At the debate, Lebron said the Hartford Land Bank was pushing aside other nonprofit developers, including Habitat for Humanity. 

Jacobs went even further at the debate, arguing that “by creating a separate entity for the Hartford Land Bank, the only ones who get rich are the executive director, possibly the board members and those rich developers.”

On Wednesday, Jacobs told CT Examiner that “He [Arulampalam] represents that wealthy machine that has been running our city forever.”

McCauley told CT Examiner that Arulampalam “is disconnected from the city on a granular level. He has no real substance to anything he is talking about and he’s manipulated the general public.”

Arulampalam’s campaign was asked to comment on both the criticism and Greenstein’s attempts to rally support behind Lebron.

In a statement sent via text to CT Examiner, Cristian Corza, Arulampalam’s campaign manager, wrote: “Our campaign has been out meeting voters where they are, and what is clear to us is that Hartford residents are tired of these desperate political attacks. We are focused on uniting this city, and moving towards a shared vision for Hartford’s future.”

The four candidates still challenging Arulampalam all claimed to offer the most viable alternative  for mayor.

McGarry, who works for the Hartford News and is running for Hartford mayor for the fifth time, said Wednesday that “I have the best qualifications by far than any other candidate.” McGarry has served on the City Council, the local zoning board and the Board of Assessment Appeals.

Jacobs, a self-employed contractor, said she has the “support of the people” and is confident of victory.

Lebron, director of Catholic Charities for community schools, said he has the experience as a council member for four years and as a long-time member of the Democratic Town Committee. “We felt confident going in that we’d be okay, that we would win,” he said.

And, McCauley, a freelance Public Access television producer, said: “I have the highest name recognition, I am known throughout the city as a trustworthy person.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950