The question was posed at the outset of the debate by moderator Clifton Graves, Jr., of the NAACP. "Why should the citizens of New Haven vote for you," Graves asked, "when at best you might be a part-time mayor for the next year, and at worst" step down as mayor in the second year?
"There is a job that needs to be done," DeStefano "replied." "There is a job that needs to be done creating more jobs in Connecticut."
He continued that litany of jobs that need to be done, like reducing property taxes and improving school readiness among pre-kindergarten children.
"It's important to bring voice" to those issues, he concluded. And who better than the mayor a city to bring that voice?
"It's an opportunity to have our voice be heard" statewide, DeStefano said. "It's not just me who's running for governor. It's all that we've done together."
So New Haven's running for governor. (Bass)
Now, there's no love lost between Bass and DeStefano, but the issue raised is a good one. Is it ethical for a candidate to run for one office while actively seeking another, higher one?
This issue has been raised in Stamford, as well. Republican Christopher Munger's slogan is "Stamford First," and the latest entry on the Stamford Republicans' blog calls attention to the fact that Malloy is often out of the city.
Voters in both cities are expected to re-elect their mayors. But if either DeStefano or Dan Malloy win the election next year, the victor would obviously step down as mayor. Depending on how the city works, a deputy mayor would then step in and/or a special election would be held. In either case, citizens get someone they didn't vote for in the top office.
This was an issue (albeit a small one) in 2000, when Joe Lieberman was simultaneously running or both Senator and Vice President. It turned out not to matter, as we recall, but had Lieberman become Vice President his replacement would have been appointed by then-Gov. John Rowland, and would certainly have been a Republican.
In 1924, Hiram Bingham (a very cool guy who was the archaeologist who discovered Maccu Piccu) was running for governor of Connecticut as a Republican. In October of that year, Sen. Frank Brandegee committed suicide. Voters in November probably knew that Bingham was leaning towards running to fill the Senate seat (the special election was in December of that year), but elected him anyway. Bingham did run for Senate, and won. He served exactly one day as governor before resigning and going to Washington, the shortest term on record.
So should candidates devote themselves fully to a single campaign, and not run for two offices simultaneously? In the above cases, voters haven't seemed to mind one bit. It's likely that the voters of New Haven and Stamford won't mind, either.
So is there an issue? As long as voters keep approving candidates who do this, perhaps not. It's up to each candidate to decide whether or not it's ethical for him/her.
Bass, Paul. "DeStefano Ducks." New Haven Independent 21 October, 2005.