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DeStefano Takes A Bow Fearing Voters' Push

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Let me put this in perspective for you.

Two days after John DeStefano was first sworn in as mayor of New Haven, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was whacked in the knee with a police baton in an assault planned by rival figure skater Tonya Harding's ex-husband. His name was Jeff Gillooly. You could use that bit of historical marginalia to win money in bars. Possibly from Tonya Harding.

When DeStefano was sworn in, the youngest member of One Direction (Harry Styles! Duh!) had not yet been born.

DeStefano's announcement last week — he is calling it quits after 20 years — was a triumph for socialism, at least in the way that Adrian Peterson's failure to break the NFL rushing record in 2012 was a triumph for Eric Dickerson.


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Jasper McLevy of Bridgeport still holds the record for longest-serving Connecticut city mayor. McLevy served from 1933 to 1957. He was a Socialist, but such a conservative Socialist that leaders such as the famous Norman Thomas questioned his commitment and genuineness. Called him a SINO, in effect. Maybe he was just claiming to be a Socialist to reap the tremendous political and social advantages. I don't know. I wasn't there.

Am I saying Eric Dickerson is a Socialist? Maybe I am. The point is, DeStefano is the longest-serving Connecticut city mayor not named Jasper.

Why is he quitting? DeStefano — whose Pequot name is John of the Many Angles — is no fool. In 2011, he won with 55 percent of the vote and by a margin of about 1,600 votes. That's a narrow victory considering that his opponent was Jeffrey Kerekes, a psychotherapist with terrific hipster-nerd glasses but no money, no party, no machine and no record.

Kerekes was an admirable candidate who attracted support from other bespectacled hipster-nerds, such as my friend Mark Oppenheimer whose letter of endorsement called DeStefano's City Hall a "smug patronage hack-o-cracy" whose departments are "patronage troughs." And those were the nice parts. The fact that Oppehenimer did not perish in a freakish reservoir dam accident, like the one in "The Parallax View," is proof of DeStefano's waning influence.

New Haven's politicos took notice. If someone even slightly more conventionally electable — say, Zach Galifianakis — had run, DeStefano might have gone down.

So this time, DeStefano was going to face some serious challengers, including Gary Holder-Winfield, an impressive state representative. Also in the mix was Sundiata Keitazulu, the religious Zulu name of a plumber formerly known as John Denby. Also probably a few aldermen. New Haven has aldermen the way Disneyworld has mice. They're hard to keep track of.

Do you know who is running now that DeStefano is out of the picture? Everybody. You think I am joking, but New Haven election officials have discussed not printing up ballots and simply handing each voter a copy of the phone book.

Several other members of the General Assembly are eyeing runs, as are at least 152 city aldermen. A probate judge, several former city officials, the list is endless, but all of them are Democrats, because New Haven does not have Republicans any more. I think there was some kind of blight, like the one that got the elms. They would have to recruit a candidate who was mostly theoretical and without actual Republican DNA, such as Janet Peckinpaugh.

A name to keep an eye on is Kermit Carolina, mainly because it is such a great name. He is the principal of Hillhouse High School and is discussing a mayoral campaign with his intimate advisers. There is, however, a blot on his escutcheon because last year he was suspended for three days. In my experience with high schools, principals are not usually the ones who get suspended, so that's an area of concern.

But we are, to quote the poet, "on the pulse of morning." There is so much more to come. There may be people running who don't even know it yet. Public health officials advise doing a self-exam. "Am I running for mayor of New Haven?" Ask yourself that.

I am not running. I am planning instead to watch the Super Bowl today with Eric Dickerson, Sundiata Keitazulu and a bunch of our Socialist friends.

Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.

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