Two Democrats who were locked in one of the most memorable exchanges of the 2013 campaign season failed to receive any votes this week for mayor in New Haven.
Hillhouse High School principal Kermit Carolina and plumber Sundiata Keitazulu were not nominated at the Democratic Town Committee’s meeting in the Elm City. State Sen. Toni Harp won the nomination, but the local political world was stunned upon learning that New Haven Democrats failed to file the proper paperwork for Harp and 30 endorsed candidates for the Board of Aldermen.
As a result, Harp now must collect more than 2,400 signatures to gain her place on the ballot. That places her on equal footing with her four opponents, including Yale Law School graduate Henry Fernandez and city alderman Justin Elicker.
Harp had soundly defeated Carolina and Keitazulu, who had engaged in a highly personal clash at the most recent debate. The dust-up started when Keitazulu, a 55-year-old convicted felon and first-time political candidate who served 10 years in prison until 2005 after being convicted of selling cocaine, publicly charged that Carolina did not do a good job in stopping truancy at Hillhouse. He charged that too many students were hanging out on Dixwell Avenue, adding that some students missed as many as 45 school days per year.
As the July 16 debate progressed, the gloves came off in a high-octane battle.
“I never knew that Mr. Carolina implemented a program called ‘Don’t come to school. I got you covered,’ ” Keitazulu said as some members of the crowd murmured and started to laugh. Harp smiled and looked surprised by the comments, but did not say anything.
Carolina then grabbed his microphone and ripped into Keitazulu.
“I hope they’re paying you well, brother, for selling out like this,” Carolina responded. “I really hope they’re paying you well, brother. I really do. Because brother, I’ve been very respectful of you up until this point. But all I’m going to say is this, real plain and simple. I know your daughter went to Hillhouse. I don’t know when was the last time I saw you there, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
“You know my daughter went to Hillhouse, but she was taught she could go to school when she want,” Keitazulu countered. ”Nobody sold me out. I’m not saying nothing that hasn’t been said by yourself, but at the same time we cannot keep telling our kids to be irresponsible.”
“I thought you were her parent,” Carolina responded again as he turned to Keitazulu and the rhetoric increased. “I thought you were her parent. When did you shift the responsibility for your daughter? I hope they paid you well, brother.”
Later in the debate, Carolina said, “Brother, I was more of a parent to your child than you were.”
The original question had actually been on a completely different subject. The seemingly innocuous question had been: what is your favorite street in New Haven? That led to the clash when Keitazulu said that Dixwell Avenue was his favorite street but that Hillhouse students were truants along the road. The charge about Hillhouse truancy then led to Carolina’s response.
Earlier, Carolina said that he remembers the days when there were thriving small businesses on Dixwell Avenue “before people were bought off in the community to support crooked politicians.”