Sunday, February 13, 2005

DeStefano: Yawn

New Haven mayor John DeStefano is running for governor next year. He already has a delightful website with cool graphics and an awful lot of money. He is the mayor of the state's second-largest city (Bridgeport is first, Hartford has fallen to third), and has survived several attempts to take him down, some from within his own party. He's visible, politically adept and a survivor.

So why don't I care?

A few reasons why DeStefano's campaign has failed to attract much interest:

1. The "Who?" factor: John DeStefano isn't very well-known outside of Greater New Haven, although he may become more so as the campaign wears on.

2. New Haven: Typical reaction of a Connecticut resident to "He's the mayor of New Haven": New Haven? Oh. I've been through there in my car/on the train. What a dump.

Before irate New Haven boosters start sending me nasty email, remember that this is just perception and not fact. For all that we know, New Haven may not, in fact, be a dump. It may just look like one from the highway. In any case, DeStefano is going to have to work hard to sell not only his message but his city. Recent labor problems and high-profile killings in the city aren't helping.

3. Corruption: This article in the Yale Daily News details some of the corruption that has tainted the DeStefano administration in New Haven. A brief snippet:

Bass believes that the LCI affair was not an aberration but rather one manifestation of the "climate of corruption that DeStefano encouraged." Indeed, incidents of corruption, or at least dubious legitimacy, characterize the DeStefano administration. Lowlights include the mayor's choice of a housing inspector who, within a year, was accused of larceny and accepting a bribe, a missing $2.3 million of city housing money that has never been accounted for, a salary paid to his ally, the Reverend Bosie Kimber, though there is no paperwork proving any work was ever completed, and a slew of shady loans to entities already owing the city money. The most shocking of these was the loan to Joe Nacca, a businessman to whom no bank would lend money because he was convicted of a felony and risked going to jail in the immediate future.
DePatris, Melissa. "Summer loan scandals tarnish city hall's reputation". Yale Daily News 4 September 1998.

This is ancient history to most, but a whiff of something rotten can still be scented near city hall in New Haven (and it isn't just the Quinnipiac River). Any hint of corruption is going to be a killer in this election cycle. Consider what happened to Malloy. I fully expect the other Democrats in the race to talk this up.

4. Negativity: So far all that DeStefano has done is make attempts to tear down Jodi Rell instead of building himself up. This is a marked contrast to the mostly positive campaign Susan Bysiewicz has run so far. He was on Bruce and Colin the other day, and he was quite nasty about the budget. Note to DeStefano webmaster: Maybe an article about whiny mayors isn't such a great thing for the front page of the site.

5. Bor-ring: So far I don't see much out of DeStefano that is exciting or new. I especially don't see anything that leads me to believe he has a chance in hell against Jodi Rell, should she run next year.

My money is still on Bysiewicz, if Blumenthal doesn't run. And let's not kid ourselves, Blumenthal is not going to run.


Anonymous said...

Johnny D is a pretty good manager and compared to most mayors of that city he's a downright angel.The 1988 story was fed to Paul Bass by a very good freind of mine and the mayor accually did the right thing when the scandal broke and distanced himself from alot of scummy people who were very politically conected(can you say Ed marcus).His campaign is trying to paint him as a grassroots guy which is halarious but keep your eyes open because he's no dummy and 1.5 million in the bank is a lot of lettuce.

Genghis Conn said...

True. But in the wake of the Rowland scandal I think DeStefano is going to have to work very hard to get beyond that scandal once the campaign starts in earnest next year. Without a clear Democratic frontrunner there's going to be a lot of mudslinging, and ethics are going to be a priority. He might be smart to get that story out there ahead of everyone else, and tout his handling of it as proof that he's an ethical guy. If he does, I'll re-think him.