'I have matured': Shelton mayoral candidate apologizes for racist comments 30 years ago

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Eldridge

Eldridge

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

SHELTON — Democratic mayoral candidate David Eldridge apologized in a social media post this week after it was reported he had made racist remarks at a public meeting in the early 1990s.

Eldridge, in a Facebook post, apologized for the past statements at a Board of Aldermen meeting in April 1992 in which he called on city officials to explore ways to keep “the blacks, the Spanish … (and) the white trash” from moving into the city.

He stated he welcomes a diverse community.

“I hold myself accountable and own my mistakes and for that, I am sorry,” Eldridge stated in his post. “I have grown and matured a great deal since these comments and I am committed to deepen my understanding of people and how to make our community stronger.”

Eldridge, a former police officer, told Hearst Connecticut Media that in his 31 years on the Shelton police force not one complaint was filed claiming he was discriminatory in his work.

“The timing here is convenient, right before the election ... this just shows how desperate (incumbent Mayor Mark Lauretti) is about my candidacy,” Eldridge added.

Lauretti said there is “nothing to be nervous about when you’re dealing with someone who is reckless and will say anything.

“I have a record that has become the envy of the state,” Lauretti added. “(His opponents) talk about keeping taxes low ... they’ve never done it before. I’ve been doing it consistently for 30 years and it shows.”

The old comments were brought to light in a recent column on Kevin Rennie’s site The Daily Ructions. The site states Rennie is a political columnist for The Hartford Courant and former member of the state House and Senate.

“The remarks were made almost 30 years ago ... I think Dave has responded and taken responsibility for what he said,” Shelton Democratic Town Committee Chair David Gioiello told Hearst Connecticut Media.

“We all grow and learn as we progress through life,” Gioiello added. “What we say and believe changes over time. He is committed to a diverse community and we support him. He is our candidate and we will continue to work for his election.”

Eldridge, a police officer when he made the comments in 1992, was off duty when he made the statements, which were the focus of an article published in The Bridgeport Post on April 22, 1992. In that article, then-police Chief William Pittman stated, while "disappointed with the remarks,” Eldridge would not be punished.

As stated in the article, Eldridge was speaking about the 1992-93 budget proposal, specifically about the potential police layoffs.

“We have to let the blacks, the Spanish, anyone - the white trash - anyone could come into this town if they want to and there is nothing we can do about it,” Eldridge is reported as saying. “If our neighborhoods decay to the point where we can’t control that element from coming into town, then we’ll have a problem.”

Eldridge, in that same article, responded, saying his comments were taken out of context. He stated his point was to call on the aldermen to make sure downtown properties are fixed up so the area can attract better quality residents, whatever their ethnicity.

"The opposition has been circulating information on a situation from 30 years ago,” Eldridge stated this week. “I dealt with that situation then and I will deal with it head on again today.

“This situation occurred during the crack cocaine and gang epidemics plaguing our communities.” he added. “I was younger and was speaking specifically to the criminal element of these groups such as the Latin Kings. My efforts speaking at the Aldermen meeting was to address blight and the protection of our Shelton citizens as there were crack pipes and vials at children’s bus stops.”

Eldridge stated that he felt obligated to speak out but admitted that he should have been more sensitive in how he discussed the matter.

Eldridge further stated that his goal, as mayor, is to create welcoming place for everyone — young people, seniors, people of all races, ethnicities and nationalities.

“As mayor, I commit to being a part of and having a city diversity committee and bringing diversity to our staff, boards and commissions,” he stated in his post. “My door will always be open for thoughtful and sincere suggestions and feedback as this is our city and I will be a mayor for all of you.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com