Nick Lebron
Hartford Councilman Nick Lebron listens to a question during a candidate forum hosted by the Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford on Aug. 10, 2023. Credit: Mike Savino / CTNewsJunkie

The Democratic Party primary for Hartford mayor is down to three candidates after City Councilman Nick Lebron’s petition fell short of the required number of certified signatures.

Sen. John Fonfara and former senator and judge Eric Coleman both had the required signatures, meaning they will contest Arunan Arulampalam, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate and CEO of the Hartford Land Bank in the Sept. 12 primary.

Lebron, meanwhile, is still in the race for mayor because he qualified to get on the November ballot, McGregor said.

“We’re shifting our focus to November, which gives us plenty of time to build what we’ve been doing already,” Lebron said Friday. 

Lebron said he submitted roughly 2,400 signatures, but Hartford Town Clerk Neal McGregor said only 1,075 of those were accepted. Democratic candidates needed 1,820 to qualify for the primary. 

Fonfara had 2,432 accepted signatures and Coleman had 2,032 signatures. 

Signatures can be rejected for several reasons, including because the person is not registered to vote or because the handwriting is not legible. In order to qualify for the Democratic primary, candidates can only get signatures from voters registered with the party. 

Lebron said he was still waiting to see why signatures were rejected. 

“We haven’t gotten an official list, we’re still waiting for that,” he said. McGregor said his office hadn’t yet compiled that information. 

Democrats dominate Hartford’s voter list, so being the party’s official nominee can give a candidate a big advantage. 

Lebron was hopeful Friday that he could still win over enough voters. 

“I am a Democrat, most of the people in Hartford are Democrats and they’re just waiting for the general election to show and prove that the Democrats are far beyond just the people speaking in the backrooms,” he said. 

November’s field is shaping up to be a crowded one. Republican Mike McGarry and petitioning candidates J. Stan McCauley and Giselle Jacobs are also vying to be mayor, and Coleman has also submitted paperwork seeking to be on the ballot even if he loses the Democratic primary. 

When asked if he’d be open to talking with the Working Families Party or another party about their nomination, Lebron said he’s “willing to talk to everyone.” 

“As a mayor, you have to be willing to talk to everyone: working families, unaffiliated, Republicans. You have to make sure you have a lens that’s focused on everyone,” he said.