Local and state Democratic leaders gathered Wednesday morning to back Arunan Arulampalam’s bid to be the next mayor of Hartford.
“I love Arunan because I love the way that he looks at this city that he loves so much,” Gov. Ned Lamont said during a press conference outside City Hall.
Arulampalam won the Democratic primary earlier this month with 41% of the vote. He defeated retired lawmaker and judge Eric Coleman, who got 30% of the vote, and Sen. John Fonfara, at 29%.
Arulampalam, a political newcomer and CEO of the Hartford Land Bank, now shifts his focus to a crowded field in the November general election.
Republican Mike McGarry and petitioning candidates J. Stan McCauley, Nick Lebron and Giselle Jacobs are also on the ballot.
Coleman, who has said before the election that he was not sure if he’d endorse the Democratic nominee, did not respond to an inquiry about whether he plans to remain on the ballot.
Coleman did not submit a petition to appear on the ballot, but has until Oct. 24 to decide if he will run as a write-in candidate, according to the city clerk’s office.
Current Mayor Luke Bronin was among those at Tuesday’s press conference to back Arulampalam as the candidate to replace him. He offered his endorsement for the entire Democratic slate.
“Over the last eight years we’ve worked really hard to get this city moving in the right direction,” Bronin said. “We’ve gotten a lot of things done and there’s a lot of things we’ve yet to get done, but this is the team to keep that work moving forward.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Comptroller Sean Scanlon also attended the press conference to voice their support.
“I know that the future of Connecticut rests in the future of Hartford,” Scanlon said.
Arulampalam laid out three priorities: economic development, housing and schools.
He said he wants to continue to support development downtown as a way to bring visitors to the city, but he also wants to make sure that development spreads to the rest of the city.
“This is a city that’s had so much ingenuity and so much creativity and so much come much come out of it, and there’s no reason to believe that the folks living in our neighborhoods right now can’t build the same sort of businesses,” Arulampalam said.
He also wants to prioritize housing, both boosting the percentage of owner-occupied homes and providing affordable and safe housing for renters.
Lastly, he said he wants to see investments to improve the school system and to provide more support for children.
“We know, coming out of COVID, kids are hurting in our city,” he said.
Part of the challenge for any candidate, though, is getting voters to come out to the polls. Turn out was law in cities across the state, even when accounting for the fact that primaries typically draw fewer voters already.
In Hartford, only 14% of eligible Democratic voters made it to the polls. Arulampalam won his nomination comfortably, but his 2,121 votes were less than the totals garnered by losing candidates in mayoral primaries in Bridgeport and New Haven.
The tally was only 25 more than the losing candidate in Hamden’s mayoral primary.
Arulampalam said part of his team’s message when meeting with voters will be stressing the importance for residents to vote in the November election.
“It’s something that we’ll work on for this campaign cycle and hopefully for four years to come. It is a much larger problem and something that should concern all of us,” he said.