Democrats set to stay in control

There’s no escaping statistics.

When the polls close on Tuesday night’s general election and the votes have been counted, all but a few of New Haven’s 30 voting wards will still pledge their allegiance to Democratic aldermen.

In a city like New Haven — where Democrats outnumber Republicans 13 to one and 27 aldermen are currently Democrats — the Democratic primary means almost everything. But the fallout from a spate of summer resignations and a newly reinvigorated Green Party adds just a bit of uncertainty to the city’s otherwise routine aldermanic contests.

This year’s general election comes after a highly divisive Democratic mayoral primary between four-term incumbent John DeStefano Jr. and state Sen. Martin Looney. Candidates in the Democratic aldermanic primary divided along DeStefano-Looney lines, some siding with the mayor and others with his challenger, leaving the fate of the party in the general election uncertain.

But six aldermen had resigned even before the Sept. 11 primary, leading to a summer shakedown of mayoral appointments and last-minute special elections. In all but one of the six wards affected by the resignations, Democrats face Republican or Green Party challengers.

Tuesday’s election thus holds great promise for the New Haven Green Party, which won its first-ever seat in Ward 9 this summer, breaking up New Haven’s two-party system for the first time in at least 75 years. The Greens are fielding candidates in four other wards on Tuesday, hoping to displace the GOP as the city’s new political minority.

A brief look at some of the aldermanic races — and non-races — illustrates these trends.



Ward 1

It has been a long, strange trip for Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04. At least tomorrow, he will be able to relax.

After winning a hard-fought endorsement from the Ward 1 Democratic Committee in February and then a special appointment to the post three months early on Aug. 3, Healey is running unopposed in his bid for a full two-year term on the Board of Aldermen.

The Yale College Republicans endorsed Brian Palmer ’03 to run against Healey earlier this year, but Palmer has since dropped out of the race.

Ward 1, which encompasses Old Campus and eight of Yale’s 12 residential colleges, is traditionally represented on the 30-member city council by a Yale student or recent alumnus.

DeStefano appointed Healey to the position in August after his Ward 1 predecessor, Julio Gonzalez ’99, resigned to manage the mayor’s reelection campaign.

Michelle Mayorga ’03, now president of the Yale College Democrats, sought the appointment but lost to Healey after she alleged that he made a deal with her and then reneged on it.

Although Healey ran unopposed in the Sept. 11 primary, he beat out a series of upperclassmen on Feb. 25 for the coveted Democratic ward committee endorsement, which usually paves the way to election in Ward 1.

Among the defeated were Lex Paulson ’02, a former president of the Yale College Democrats, and Michael Montano ’03, who has worked this fall as a paid campaign staffer for DeStefano.

Healey, like all students who hold the post, has faced a steep political learning curve.

Since he took office in August, Healey said he has tried to be as active as possible on the board, some of the 30 other members of which have more than six terms of experience.

“The best way to learn is to take action,” said Healey, who is from Washington, D.C. “You learn by taking a stake in the things you care about.”

Healey has been active in the fight against New Haven’s problem of homelessness and has helped to lead an inquiry into the operations of Empower New Haven, a city development agency.



Ward 2

Ward 2 is hosting a showdown between incumbent Democrat Linda Townsend-Maier, 53, and Green Party candidate Joyce Chen ’01, 22. Located in the Dwight neighborhood just east of Davenport and Pierson colleges, the ward has been the site of a debate over gang violence in the wake of a fatal Oct. 12 shooting.

After Jelani Lawson ’96 stepped down from the position this summer to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, DeStefano appointed Townsend-Maier, a longtime community activist, to fill out the remainder of Lawson’s term.

With DeStefano’s backing, Townsend-Maier then beat David Watts DIV ’03 in a highly contentious primary battle.

Townsend-Maier and Chen have sparred in recent weeks over how best to address gang violence in the neighborhood, which some believe is returning after years of relative calm and safety.

At a community meeting on the Tuesday after the incident, DeStefano assured Dwight residents that gang violence was not returning to the neighborhood, which has a history of such activity.



Ward 7

In Ward 7, which contains Pierson and Davenport colleges and much of downtown, Democratic incumbent Dolores Colon ’91 faces Republican challenger Clifford Templeton.

Colon, like Townsend-Maier, Healey and a host of other board members, has only had her seat for a few months.

Colon took the position last spring following the resignation of her predecessor, Esther Armmand.

A special election was scheduled for June, but Colon assumed the position by default when no one stepped forward to challenge her.



Ward 8

In Ward 8, which includes Wooster Square and parts of Fair Haven and the East Rock neighborhoods, Democratic incumbent Vincent Mauro Jr. is facing a challenge from Green Party candidate Bruce Crowder.

The proposed reopening of the coal-burning English Station power plant in Fair Haven sparked controversy between the two candidates this fall, after Mauro’s tough primary battle against Michael Howell.

Mauro, a law student at Quinnipiac University, signed a letter earlier this year with several other Fair Haven aldermen supporting the reopening of the plant.

After Crowder, a mechanical engineer who works for a company that makes renewable energy fuel cells, came out against the plant with the rest of the Green Party, Mauro apologized for his choice and now opposes reopening the plant.



Ward 9

Yale music professor John Halle became the first third-party elected official in New Haven in at least 75 years this summer. He defeated both a Democrat and a Republican in a special election called following the departure of Ward 9 Alderman Gerald Garcia ’94 SOM ’01.

Halle now faces two challengers in the general election: Democrat Alexander Marathas and Republican Robert W. Anderson.

In his brief tenure as alderman, Halle has brought several environmental and quality of life issues before the board.

He sided with the body’s two Republicans earlier this fall to oppose the stringing of a power cable across the New Haven harbor, and he supports greater bicycle and pedestrian access to New Haven’s city streets.



Ward 22

Ward 22, which contains Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges and the Dixwell neighborhood, was the site of a four-vote victory in a Democratic primary between two one-time alderwomen.

Mae Ola Riddick, a DeStefano supporter who had previously served on the board, won her seat back from Grace Gibbs, who supported DeStefano’s Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. Martin Looney.

Riddick is running unopposed in the general election.



Ward 25

In Westville’s Ward 25, Nancy Ahern, one of only two Republicans on the Board of Aldermen, is seeking to keep control of her seat against Democratic challenger Anthony Wallace and write-in candidate Damon A. Ortega.

Wallace has challenged Ahern and lost in the last two elections.

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