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Connecticut Primary Wrap Up: Elicker Bests Harp In New Haven Upset

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Carmen Baskauf
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Connecticut Public Radio
Justin Elicker claims victory in the New Haven Democratic primary

Former New Haven alder Justin Elicker pulled off a huge upset in that city's Democratic mayoral primary, ousting incumbent Mayor Toni Harp. It was a rematch for the two. Six years ago it was Harp who bested Elicker to lead the city. This time, the challenger won a comfortable victory, with an unofficial total of 6,825 machine votes to 4,841.

Harp has not confirmed whether she will consider a run against Elicker in the general election in November. She would have the opportunity to get on the ballot as a Working Families Party candidate.

"There's so many people in New Haven that feel the city needs to be more accessible to all, particularly the people who do not have economic resources," Elicker told Connecticut Public Radio after his victory.

Asked about his vision for the future he said, "it's a city hall that answers people's calls and works to address every single issue."

He also pledged to invest in struggling communities, saying his priorties will be affordable housing, youth programs, improved job opportunities, and an improved fiscal track for the city.

Watch Connecticut Public's coverage of Primary Night 2019.

The Elm City result represented the biggest surprise in a busy night of results across the state.

In Hartford, Mayor Luke Bronin handily won his contest against two challengers -- former mayor Eddie Perez and state representative Brandon McGee. Bronin garnered 55 percent of the vote, to Perez' 32 percent with McGee trailing at 12 percent.

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Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio
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Connecticut Public Radio
Bronin addresses the crowd after his primary victory in Hartford

"We look forward to moving the city forward," Bronin said afterward. "I don't think there is any finished business, we have so much work to do."

He named economic development and job creation as his top priorities, along with his youth service corps and continuing to improve neighborhood schools.

In Bridgeport, despite a strong showing by state senator Marilyn Moore, incumbent Joe Ganim remains in charge.

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Credit Melanie Stengel / Connecticut Public Radio
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Connecticut Public Radio
Mayor Joe Ganim retains his spot on the ballot for November

Moore sounded a note of defiance as she led the incumbent after the count of the machine votes. But Ganim greatly outpaced her in absentee ballots, securing his victory.

“There’s going to be people sitting back, talking about we lost," said Moore. "But we didn’t lose, because the people who voted at the machines -- those people, we won. And we have to know that this is just the first step in showing people what’s possible.”

Ganim said the experience was humbling, and he recognized what he said was an “enormous obligation.”

"The challenges that face our city and cities like us are difficult," he said in his victory speech. "Progress sometimes is slow, but when we come together as a city that says, we are a great city and we’re going to work to make our city better."

Moore had said she intended to go on to challenge again in the general election, but there appears to be doubt over whether she can petition her way onto the November ballot.

In the biggest open contest of the night, Ben Florsheim became the Democratic mayoral candidate in Middletown. Incumbent Dan Drew did not run for a fourth term, creating a four-way contest to replace him. The victorious Florsheim is currently an aide to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.

Hamden Mayor Curt Leng beat back a primary challenge by Lauren Garrett Tuesday, with a commanding 61 percent of the vote. 

West Haven Democrat Nancy Rossi fender off a challenger to win her city's primary for mayor.

There were several Republican races, too ... with former pro wrestler "Big" Steve Tracey securing more than 60% of votes to secure a ballot spot for East Haven mayor in November.

And in Southbury, incumbent Jeff Manville will appear on the ballot in November as the Republican candidate for first selectman.

Additional reporting by Patrick Skahill, Vanessa De La Torre, Lori Mack, Frankie Graziano, Ryan Lindsay and Nicole Leonard.

This story has been updated.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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