The last time a Yalie ran for political office in Ward 22, he did not have much luck.
In 1999, Pete Stein ’99, decided to challenge Democratic incumbent Grace Gibbs in a race for alderman in Ward 22, which is primarily made up of the Dixwell neighborhood. Stein, who lived and worked in Dixwell, ran an active campaign as an independent, but he lost by a more than two-to-one margin on Election Day and was labeled a “carpetbagger” in campaign literature.
“They had a better organization than I did,” Stein said. “I had supporters around the neighborhood, and I had a couple of people working for me — but they had a very well-greased machine to get people out to the polls that day.”
Almost five years later, Ward 22 has changed significantly since Stein ran, adding Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges as well as Swing Space. While Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges have long been in the ward, they have seldom been active in Ward 22 races — a sharp contrast from Yale-dominated Ward 1.
But today, about a quarter of active voters in Ward 22 are Yale students. Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, who is running with Dixwell resident Shaneane Ragin for co-chair of the Ward 22 Democratic Committee, believes she can prove in Tuesday’s Democratic primary that Yale students can play a role in Ward 22 politics.
“The ward is changing, and this is what the population looks like,” said Rosenberg. “I’d like to build enough of a neighborhood that anyone could represent everybody.”
Rosenberg is a staff columnist for the Yale Daily News.
In a race that is as local as it gets — determining who will run the neighborhood’s arm of the Democratic Party — Rosenberg and Ragin will be challenged on the ballot by the team of former alderwoman Mae Ola Riddick and Douglas Bethea as well as Cordelia Thorpe, who is running alone.
New Haven Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Suzie Voigt, who is supporting Rosenberg and Ragin, said ward committee races are often hard-fought when multiple slates run.
“They tend to be the most hotly-contested races, because they are so intensely personal,” Voigt said. “It’s so much about who is closest to the ground, so this type of intense campaigning is not surprising at all.”
In Ward 22, the race has become personal because of lingering feelings from last year, when Riddick was not endorsed by the neighborhood’s Democratic committee in her bid to earn a third term as alderwoman. Instead, the committee endorsed one of its own co-chairs, Rev. Drew King, who won the Democratic primary and went on to earn a place on the Board of Aldermen.
Yet while Rosenberg and Ragin have created a Web site for their campaign, spent hours phone-banking and canvassing, and registered over 50 new voters, Riddick said she did not need to campaign actively because she was already well-known in the ward she represented as alderwoman for two terms.
But Riddick said she thought Rosenberg was misleading Ward 22 voters by failing to publicize her role as founder of Project Orange, a group that has lobbied for recognition of same-sex partnerships in New Haven. Riddick voted for the domestic partnership initiative while on the Board of Aldermen last year, a move she said was unpopular among her constituents.
“She organized for domestic partnerships at Yale, but she’s not telling the neighborhood that,” Riddick said. “I got killed in my ward about that because people didn’t like it. But I thought it was right.”
But Rosenberg said she has been honest about her record and her experience, even if she has not wanted to focus her campaign on domestic partnerships.
“I don’t think that running a single-issue campaign is what this is about,” Rosenberg said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever hid anything.”
While Democrats throughout the city will vote in the presidential primary on Tuesday, Ward 22 is only one of five of the city’s 30 wards with a contested race for its Democratic committee.