As soon as I first met with Justin , it became immediately clear that he is not a politician, and this was no ordinary campaign. He’s a brilliant organizer, policy wonk and activist who knows exactly what this city needs to grow.
For the first time in twenty years, voters in this city have a meaningful decision to make when they vote for their next mayor on Nov. 5. Either they’ll chose a career politician beholden to special interests, or a community organizer who’s devoted every ounce of his being to finding solutions for his constituents.
Justin spent that first meeting elucidating policy position after policy position, each carefully thought out to address New Haven’s challenges. Even more impressive, I encountered a campaign that wasn’t just assisted by volunteers; they ran it. Not paid lobbyists, political contractors, or special interests, but ordinary citizens of New Haven. Some volunteered regularly to work on the campaign’s digital strategy, others helping with communications, and still, even more were aiding our fundraising efforts. Every volunteer in the office was acting like a senior campaign staffer, the true hallmark of a campaign rooted in everyday citizens taking action to elect someone they believe in.
Justin’s plan of attack on the three most important issues to New Haven residents—public safety, job growth and education—is firmly rooted in fact and evidence. On safety, Justin has been at the forefront of pushing data-driven, predictive policing, with community policing a top priority. This past summer, while working on the campaign, I witnessed Justin work with the New Haven Police Department to take illegal dirt bikers off our streets in a massive sting operation (catalyzed by a constituent complaint). On this note, Justin is considered one of the most responsive elected officials in this city—if someone tells him something he or she wants him to work on, he will do everything in his power to make that happen. I’ve seen him interrupt meetings to take constituents’ calls (on his personal cell phone), and then find solutions to their problems.
On education and job growth, Justin has detailed policies laid out to ensure New Haven thrives. Standing outside the Wexler-Grant School this summer, Justin boldly announced the first of what were ultimately 75 detailed policy solutions released over the course of 75 days leading up to the primary. These solutions, again, are practical, evidence-based approaches to solving the city’s challenges. Throughout the entire campaign, no other candidate released such a detailed (and fact-based) platform. I remember seeing Justin in action at the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church during a mayoral debate on education, where he was the sole candidate prepared with a specific platform to address Elm City’s educational challenges. It was sad to see some of the other candidates go up to the microphone and say nothing more substantive than “we need to invest more in our children.” Each time Justin got up to speak, he brought up specific ideas: to reform early childhood education, implement a no-wrong door policy (parents can enroll their students in educational programs at any school in the district), cut out devastating bureaucracy, and reform the board of education by turning it into a hybrid committee (half appointed, half elected).
More than anything else, this election is a decision between two very different types of leaders. Spending so much time working in New Jersey politics has made me aware of the type of politician Justin Elicker is not: a career politician that is merely a figurehead for powerful special interests, a machine candidate at its finest. Justin is a 180-degree turn from the type of politician that has plagued New Haven politics for so long. Spend any time with Justin and the warmth and accessibility he exudes becomes clear. For him, being mayor isn’t about checking off a box on a political career resume, but about bringing innovative ideas to a city that desperately needs them.