West Haven Mayoral Candidates Debate

The University of New Haven hosted the West Haven democratic mayoral debate between two of the three candidates, Mayor Nancy Rossi and former mayor Ed O’Brien. 

The third candidate, Debbie Collins, declined the university’s offer to attend. The debate was six days before the primary election on Sept. 10.

A post from the Facebook Page of Collins’ campaign states that she had already made plans for her campaign that would not allow her to attend. 

Chris Haynes, the coordinator of the political science program on campus, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for students to see democracy in action.”

The debate demonstrates the growing relationship between the university and the town of West Haven. Multiple times during the debate, both candidates referenced the importance of this relationship Rossi began her opening statement by thanking the university for hosting the debate and said, “West Haven has a strong working relationship with the university, and I look forward to continuing the good work we do together.”

Rossi also discussed how the university’s involvement has made the inner workings of the mayor’s office easier. She said student involvement has led to one student receiving a letter of recommendation from her to intern for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

O’Brien said he reached out early onto work with Haynes to create the university’s Mayor Advisory Commission, when he was mayor in 2015.

O’Brien said, “We want UNH students involved in the process, we want to know what it’s going to take to keep them in West Haven.”

During the debate, the candidates spoke about different directions they would like to take the city of West Haven. Rossi focused on upholding the financial stability of the city, and would like to continue in the direction that she has taken the city’s finances. O’Brien was vocal about turning West Haven into a city that is attractive to large businesses, so that its residents don’t feel that they have to leave West Haven to satisfy their wants and needs.

At the end of the debate, the floor was opened for questions from the audience, which included West Haven residents and university students. Two of the most-discussed topics were taxes on businesses and a general decline in the arts in town.

At the end of the event, both candidates, as well as  Haynes were asked to give comments to the Charger Bulletin.

Rossi said, “I believe that I am the best person for the mayoral position, my credentials as a certified public accountant, put me at an advantage.”

O’Brien said, “I think it was a great debate, I think it was a great opportunity for me to tell people my views and my vision for the city.”

Haynes said, “I was very proud of the way in which both of the candidates represented what democracy should be about.”