Just days after Arunan Arulampalam picked up the Hartford Democrats’ endorsement, he scored another key victory in his bid to be the next mayor — the backing of the man currently in office.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin joined Arulampalam at Parkville Market Thursday to offer up his own endorsement to Arulampalam and other party-endorsed candidates.
“I care so deeply about the future of this city and about protecting the progress that we’ve made and about building on that progres and staying committed to the things we know will help build a stronger, fairer Hartford,” Bronin said. “I think this is the team to do it and I think Arulampalam’s going to be the mayor to do it.”
Arulampalam easily won the endorsement, securing 49 of the 80 votes at Monday’s Hartford Democrats convention.
He beat out Sen. John Fonfara, former Sen. and Judge Eric Coleman and other candidates to lock up the top line for the Sept. 12 primary in a city dominated by Democrats.
“We’ve been hearing for months that this was going to be a hung convention, nobody was going to be able to make a decision on Monday night,” Arulampalam said.
He was joined at Thursday’s event by City Council President Maly Rosado, Council members Amilcar Hernandez and T.J. Clarke and Treasurer Carmen Sierra, among other candidates. Bronin offered his endorsement for all of them.
“I believe that this is the team to continue that work, I believe that this is the team to build on the progress that we’ve made,” Bronin said.
Like Bronin, who was 36 when he first won election back in 2014, Arulampalam, 37, is making his first run for an elected office. But he’s not a newcomer to government, politics, or community work.
He previously worked for the Lamont administration as a deputy commissioner with the Department of Consumer Protection and failed to secure the Democratic endorsement for state treasurer in 2018.
He’s currently the CEO of the Hartford Land Bank, a nonprofit that buys vacant and abandoned lots in the city and rehabilitates them.
But if he’s going to win the September primary and secure the Democratic nomination for the November election, he’s going to have to beat candidates who have won elections in Hartford before.
The list includes Fonfara, Coleman and Councilman Nick Lebrun.
Fonfara’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Coleman, meanwhile, said he was “befuddled” by the party’s decision to endorse Arumpalam.
“I’ve been connected to Hartford for much longer, I’ve paid my dues,” Coleman, 72, said. He served nine years in the state House of Representative and 22 in the Senate before retiring to become a judge.
Coleman is trying to petition his way onto the primary ballot and is confident that he can beat Arulampalam among the voters.
Coleman, who is Black, said he was surprised the party did not endorse a Black or Latino candidate in a majority-minority city. He said voters shouldn’t pick him for his race, but he also said he can do a better job connecting with residents across the city.
“I think it will not be too long from now when people will begin to make the correlation that the reason that there’s inaction as far as flooding in North End neighborhoods is concerned is because the leadership of the city does not reflect the people who reside in the neighborhoods,” he said.
He also said gun violence, quality of education, and economic development through the city have not improved under Bronin.
Bronin, though, said Arulampalam has shown a commitment to improving all corners of Hartford.
“I’ve seen him working month after month, year after year to try to lift neighborhoods up,” Bronin said of Arulampalam.
Coleman’s not the only candidate with name recognition.
Fonfara, 67, has been in the state Senate since 1996, and has been chairman of the legislature’s tax-writing committee since 2017. Prior to his time in the Senate, he served 10 years in the House of Representatives.
Lebrun, 44, was elected to the city council in 2019.
Turnout can be low in primaries — only roughly one-fourth of registered Democrats participated in the last mayoral primary in 2019.
That low turnout can open an opportunity for a candidate with name recognition, but Arulampalam is confident he will prevail. He said his campaign has been focused on door-knocking and other efforts to talk with voters.
“People want a mayor who they can see and touch and feel in their community and this campaign, from the start, has been engaging people one-on-one,” he said.
Bronin announced last November that he would not seek a third term in office, making this the first time since 2001 that Hartford’s race for mayor is open.
“It’s a strange thing to pass the baton,” he said. “I don’t know that there are many jobs that are consuming, that you devote yourself to more than being the mayor of a city that you love.”