Toni Harp’s campaign manager, Jason Bartlett, admits he has had better days than Thursday.
In a stunning development that shook the local political world, Harp was forced to gather petitions to run for New Haven mayor after local Democrats missed a key paperwork deadline.
The mistake represented an embarrassing blunder for the Democratic Party that had delivered the endorsement in blowout fashion Tuesday night to Harp with 52 out of 58 votes cast. Two candidates split the other six votes, while another two candidates did not receive any votes at all.
As such, the Harp campaign scrambled quickly to summon supporters to the Whalley Avenue headquarters for an emergency meeting about collecting more than 2,400 signatures from registered Democrats in New Haven.
“We’re not filing a lawsuit,” Bartlett said in a telephone interview after the meeting ended at campaign headquarters. “We just had about 300 people here. People are still coming in, and they’re getting petitions. We’re going to get the senator on the ballot.”
A former state legislator, Bartlett has managed campaigns in the past and understands the detailed rules about collecting signatures, which in this case can be collected and signed only by registered Democrats in the city.
“Petitions can be very tricky,” Bartlett told Capitol Watch. “I’ve done some in my day. We weren’t expecting to petition. We haven’t thought about it. Nobody was trained. That is my biggest concern.’’
“I had a couple of volunteers who weren’t registered,” Bartlett said of the would-be supporters. “It can be tricky if people aren’t trained properly.’’
Bartlett is fully aware that the other candidates will be carefully scrutinizing every name on the petitions. But he said, “I’m not worried about it. They can check all they want.’’
He rejected statements by Democratic candidate Henry Fernandez, who said that the town committee and the Harp campaign are one in the same – and the mistake was a sign of incompetence.
“The town committee took full responsibility. They are not one in the same,” Bartlett responded. “That’s the end of it. I’m not going to point fingers. The fact is that Henry got two votes at the convention. It’s pretty easy for him to throw grenades when he got two votes.’’
With the volunteers at the headquarters on Thursday night and the previous endorsement two nights earlier, Bartlett said the campaign still has momentum.
“We had such positive energy at that convention,” he said. “We’re going to embrace the obstacle in front of us. This is a mechanism for us to reach out to all the groups. We have huge support. There is no other campaign that has the deep support that we have.’’