April 7, 2007
By Andy Hart • Courtesy of the Hartford News • 2:20 PM EST
When Raul De Jesus was 18, he walked into the office of a local realtor and said he wanted to buy a house. The realtor laughed and said he was too young.
About a year later, De Jesus became the proud owner of a two-family home on Carpenter Street in Hartford's Parkville neighborhood.
When De Jesus said he was serious about running for Mayor of Hartford, many people laughed and said he was too young. But De Jesus, now 20, is hoping to prove those people wrong, just as he did the doubting realtor.
He doesn't have far to go to find a role model. Republican Ryan Bingham was elected Mayor of Torrington last year at the ripe old age of 22.
De Jesus announced his candidacy Wednesday, March 14, at 6:30 pm in the Gershon Fox Room at 960 Main Street in Downtown Hartford.
De Jesus is the sixth person to enter the race for Mayor. He joins former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Matthews, former State Senator Frank Barrows, State Representatives Minnie Gonzalez and Art Feltman and cable TV personality Stan McCauley, a Republican.
Mayor Eddie Perez will formally announce that he is seeking re-election Monday, April 9 it is widely believed that he will. Former Mayor Thirman Milner is also exploring the possibility of trying to get his old job back.
Despite his youth, De Jesus already has experience in the Mayor's office. While still a senior at Hartford Public High School, he worked part time for the Mayor's Department of Constituent Services.
"It was an eye-opening experience," he said, "you get to see what goes on behind the scenes...it's very different from how things are portrayed in the media."
De Jesus left his job at City Hall shortly after graduating from Hartford Public and took on his current job as a Hartford Police Cadet. As a cadet, De Jesus primarily works with HPD's Juvenile Investigation Division. He plans on becoming a Hartford Police officer after he turns 21 – unless he's elected Mayor, of course.
Although De Jesus said he's holding off on announcing the specifics of his platform until his formal announcement next Wednesday, he did say that moving the Police Station from Jennings Road in the North Meadows to a more central location would be one of his top priorities.
"Having Police Headquarters located way up there is an inconvenience for many people," he said. "and police officers spend too much time driving back and forth, particularly at rush hour...It also puts more wear-and-tear on their vehicles."
De Jesus also believes the police department should make more use of its various sub-stations, such as those located on Albany Avenue and at the corner of Ward and Affleck Streets.
"We've got to run the Police Department out of the community. It would increase the police presence where it's needed most and would also be more welcoming and convenient for residents," he said.
In addition to his experience at City Hall and the Police Department, De Jesus has also seen a lot of the Hartford Public School system. As a student, he attended seven schools (Mary Hooker, Burns, M.D. Fox, Parkville, South Middle, Quirk, Bulkeley and Hartford Public) due to his family's frequent relocations.
He acknowledged that the Hartford Schools are far from perfect, but added, "If you really want a good education in the Hartford School system, you can get one...personally, I can't complain. My teachers were great."
He did say that, "The problem is that so many things take the teachers away from teaching...they can barely get through a class without someone talking back, or a fight or some other distraction. That means there's less time to teach."
Although De Jesus will be campaigning against veteran politicians, he sees his relative inexperience as a plus.
"The city needs someone fresh out of the box, someone who's not been contaminated by all the politics," he said. "I have no one telling me what to. I'm not going to be anyone's puppet...Some people seem to think they can write the script for Hartford politics. Well, I'm definitely not in their script."