Hamden mayoral candidate promises improved relationship with Quinnipiac


Katie Langley

Hamden mayoral candidate Walter Morton IV will challenge incumbent Lauren Garrett in a Democratic primary later this year.

Katie Langley and Cat Murphy

A week after announcing his intention to run for mayor of Hamden, Democrat Walter Morton IV kickstarted his primary campaign with a fundraiser at the Playwright Irish Pub in Hamden on March 31.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Morton spoke about reforming the relationship between the town of Hamden and Quinnipiac University, his pride in being a lifelong Hamdenite and how he hopes to improve public safety and town finances if elected mayor.

Morton, who has served as the finance and personnel chair of the Hamden Public School Board of Education for almost seven years, said his current role has given him an appreciation for budgeting that will help him tackle the town’s debt crisis, if elected.

The 31-year-old newcomer will face incumbent Mayor Lauren Garrett in the upcoming 2023 Democratic primary this fall.

“I’ve got a vision for Hamden,” Morton said. “I know what I want Hamden to be in the next decade. I know the steps that we need to take and also I’m very good at bringing people to the table to set aside their petty differences or politics.”

Morton currently works as the director of government and community affairs at Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, in addition to serving in the Army National Guard and on the Hamden School Board.

Morton, who graduated from Hamden High School in 2009 before attending Pennsylvania State University, drew on his Hamden background during the event.

“I can connect and relate with (Hamden’s) folks on a different level and get what their concerns are and their issues and let them know that when they reach out to the town, they’re heard, they’re understood,” Morton said. “Regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, or things like gender, race, sexuality, there’s a place for them here.”

As part of his vision for the town, Morton said he hopes to lower Hamden property taxes, which are among the highest in the state of Connecticut.

Morton also plans to direct attention to economic development and public safety in Hamden, he said.

The Hamden Police Department reported five murders, 15 non-fatal shootings, nearly 240 motor vehicle thefts and more than 1,200 larcenies in 2022.

“At the end of the day, people, businesses, families — they want to live in a safe community,” Morton said of his goal to create a strong relationship with Hamden law enforcement.

Morton also discussed his aim to improve the relationship between the town of Hamden and the university. Notably, some residents publicly disapproved of Quinnipiac’s South Quad project over concerns that it would cause environmental damage and unwanted development.

“I look at a lot of other municipalities around the state that have a college within their boundaries, and they tend to have a much healthier relationship,” Morton said. “(Town residents) kind of look at QU as a place that doesn’t pay taxes … but I know that Quinnipiac has a lot more value to offer than that.”

Hamden native Walter Morton IV, the finance and personnel chair of the Hamden Board of Education, spoke about his plans to strengthen the town’s relationship with Quinnipiac University at a campaign event on March 31. (Katie Langley)

Morton added that he hopes to empower Hamden businesses to engage with Quinnipiac students and graduates seeking employment prior to or following graduation.

“I need a lot of good people around me, and I need young folks,” Morton said. “I need bright folks, hard-working folks looking to cut their teeth and tap into some of that intellectual capital that’s there.”

Some Quinnipiac students who attended the fundraiser said they were hopeful about Morton’s plans to foster a better relationship between the university and the town.

“The town is generally frowning on the university,” said Paul Cappuzzo, a senior economics and political science double major and the president of the Quinnipiac Democrats. “It’s vitally important that we finally have an advocate.”

Nick Fizzano, a first-year political science major and the president-elect of the Quinnipiac Democrats, said he was also eager to see “more communication and more cooperation” from Hamden officials.

“I think we should be more involved in the town,” Fizzano said, noting that Quinnipiac students often feel disconnected from the town of Hamden. “I think the town, on that same page, should be more involved in Quinnipiac.”

Fizzano also expressed his enthusiasm about the prospect of a competitive Democratic primary in Hamden.

“Anytime there’s a competitive primary, we should all be really excited about that,” Fizzano said. “The more that we can confront our elected officials, and really give them an opportunity to show why they’re still best for our town for a community, that’s going to be an incredible thing.”

The town of Hamden, which had more debt per capita than any other Connecticut town in 2019, retained more than $1.2 billion in debt in fiscal year 2021-2022, per the town’s most recent financial audit report.

Although Hamden’s total debt decreased by nearly $60 million between FY 2020-2021 and FY 2021-2022, the town’s total liabilities exceeded its assets by more than $960 million last year, according to the audit report.

“(It) isn’t so much that we have a spending problem, but we have a revenue problem,” Morton said. “We’ve got to bring new people into town to live here and we’ve got to bring new businesses in.