J Stan McCauley, in crowded Hartford mayoral race, says focus is on residents not fundraising


By STEPHEN UNDERWOOD | [email protected] | Hartford Courant
PUBLISHED: April 26, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | UPDATED: April 29, 2023 at 10:22 a.m.

Hartford’s J. Stan McCauley is well known as a perennial candidate for Hartford mayor. But after several losses, the public access TV director and clergyman says this election is different.

“What’s unique is that (Mayor Luke) Bronin is no longer running,” McCauley said. “Him leaving now levels the playing field for whoever comes next. I now have the best chance of any time I’ve ever run. I have matured a lot since my first time I ran and have learned a lot since.”

Bronin announced he was stepping down last November after his term after eight years on the job, citing his decision after talking with members of his family.

“Some people say I’ve never won a race, but nobody who ran against Bronin won,” McCauley said. “This is the absolute best time to run and the main reason is because of my level of disappointment over the current crop of candidates. If Bronin was running for re-election, I would not be running.”

McCauley, who acknowledges he’s running as an underdog, faces stiff competition from a growing list of candidates including Eric Coleman, Nick Lebron, Arunan Arulampalam, John Fonfara, Renardo Dunn, Tracy Funnye and Giselle Jacobs.

John Kennelly, a longtime friend of McCauley, said McCauley’s tenacity and optimism despite his constant presence in Hartford politics make him unique.

“I have such great respect for him, his optimism and commitment to the city no matter what,” Kennelly said. “It will be challenging for him, but one of the things I love about Stan is he doesn’t care. He’s not discouraged about anything. That sense of optimism is crucial for a city to move forward and not just let the status quo dictate decisions.”

McCauley moved to Hartford at 19 for his first job as a jet engine mechanic at Pratt & Whitney. He later became a minister and then COO and founder of AccessTV.org, the city’s public access TV program.

“I am a free speech guy,” McCauley said. “I really believe that if people are to make decisions, they need to be informed. Government is not reaching out to inform people, so we give people that voice. We come to meetings and that’s critical. I would use that mechanism to empower the city to ask questions and understand how the government works.”

McCauley’s well known for his shows and as a champion of Hartford. He also heads of the Greater Hartford African American Alliance.

McCauley said if elected mayor, he would use his public access TV channel to communicate with residents, invest in the city’s neighborhoods and empower residents to improve the city.

“To me, Hartford is the greatest city on Earth, it’s been very good to me. My kids were born here and I love the city. But the problem with the city government is that its residents are always put last. All the answers Hartford needs are in the residents but nobody listens to them. I’m running to actually listen to the residents of Hartford,” McCauley said.

McCauley said that his campaign centers around dedicated supporters knocking on doors and making phone calls, as well as a campaign bus with McCauley’s image. While his strategy is mainly to build a grassroots movement, he acknowledges that fundraising is not a focus of the campaign. His wife, Nyesha McCauley, is his campaign manager.

“Most of our contributions are between $25 and $200,” McCauley said. “For our first few campaigns, raising money was like an anathema. But I’ve made a commitment to raise $50,000 this time around. As much as I don’t want to, I realize I have to prove to people I can.”

McCauley said that his campaign has so far raised just $1,500, but acknowledged that he’s just started fundraising.

McCauley said that he is frustrated with the amount of outside dollars and lobbyist money being spent on the mayoral race, money he says is tainting what he said should be a local race decided by city residents.

“Some of my opponents will contend that the only people in the race should be the top three money-getters, to which I say if money was the only thing in the race than there should only be one candidate and that’s John Fonfara. Because if money runs the race, then everyone else has lost. We’ve all already lost.”

State Sen. John Fonfara raised $340,223 by March 31, according to the city clerk’s office. While Fonfara is leading the fundraising race, Hartford Land Bank CEO Arunan Arulampalam comes in second place, with nearly $225,000 raised.

“So why even play around,” McCauley said. “We cannot play the money game against John. He’s going to raise half a million. We have a semi-tactical advantage in that all the people in my orbit are good at what they do, in terms of communications, outreach, and marketing. We don’t have to pay people for that level of expertise. We can do that ourselves. We’re not going after big corporate donors or outside spenders.”

Other mayoral candidates, including city council member Nick Lebron, have also denounced outside money and corporate lobbyists as part of the race. Lebron, who held a press conference Thursday, announced his campaign would not take money from outside donors, pointing especially to MDC lobbyists.

“I’m running to become the next mayor of Hartford to serve the interest of the people for the betterment of our communities. I’m not running to serve the whims of special interest groups,” Lebron said. “The for sale sign is coming down. I have the will and the courage to forge a new path and I’m waving the flag, the bandera, calling on everyone who is sick and tired of being sick and tired to join me in this fight for Hartford’s future.”

Stephen Underwood can be reached at [email protected]