As campaigning escalates in a U.S. presidential election featuring two prominent Yalies, Decision 2004 at Yale College has attracted students’ attention with innovative campaign strategies that make the national race look downright boring.
But like all other good things before it, the Yale College Council officer election must come to an end, as voting stops Thursday. After that, undergraduates will be left with nothing but memories of the candidates’ zany campaign tactics.
Drawing support from what he calls the “grassroots,” presidential candidate Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 has had his Web site up and running since last year’s election — when he ran for vice president only to lose to current YCC Vice President Nirupam Sinha ’05. In the past week, Kennedy-Shaffer said his site has gotten approximately 2,500 hits.
Kennedy-Shaffer said a worker in every dining hall was wearing one of his campaign pins Sunday.
“I walked with them on the picket lines, and now they’re willing to help me out in my campaign for YCC president,” he said.
Kennedy-Shaffer said both he and his campaign manager Brian Wayda ’07 worked on the Howard Dean campaign — an experience Kennedy-Shaffer said might give him an edge.
“We’re definitely running a Howard Dean-style campaign: grassroots organization, trying to mobilize students from the ground up,” he said. “Our hope is that we’re going to have enough hidden support that we’ll provide an undercurrent that will knock out the ‘Old Guard.'”
But running a populist, Dean-style campaign does not mean Kennedy-Shaffer is rolling up his sleeves. He has donned a signature three-piece suit every day of the election, changing only his shirt and tie, he said.
The campaign trail has taught some candidates a lesson in voters’ tastes, and not just their political preferences. Brian Ong ’07, a treasurer candidate who has campaigned by handing out lollipops along with his campaign cards, found that the most popular flavor is grape.
“[Voters] have been taking it well,” Ong said of the strategy.
Voters looking for a more substantial — but still sweet — snack might turn to vice-presidential candidate Chance Carlisle ’05, who said he will be passing out chocolate chip cookies Wednesday.
Carlisle said he does not believe in excessive postering and table tenting. Of the maximum 400 table tents allowed by Sinha and election rules, Carlisle estimated he has used 75. As for posters, Carlisle said he has used just 25 out of 300 allowable.
“I guess my campaigning strategy is not to be as intrusive or annoying to students,” Carlisle said.
Perhaps Carlisle is on to something. Sinha said this year’s election has prompted a slew of complaints from students annoyed by campaigning they see as overzealous.
“We’ve gotten many complaints, and we’ve investigated all of them,” Sinha said. “And we have handed out penalties and warnings to multiple campaigns.”
Penalties can range from limiting table tents and posters to deducting votes from a candidate’s total, Sinha said.
As for Sinha’s favorite campaign tactic, the election guru said he likes the “classic” food distribution.
While no YCC election would be complete without Rumpus candidates, the Party of the Rump ticket has stayed away from the stumps. Vice-presidential candidate and Rumpus executive editor Jason Sclar ’05 said his strategy is no strategy at all.
“I’m really not doing anything,” Sclar said.
Sclar said the YCC is simply “not worth the effort.”
Whether issues or antics win this year’s elections, barring a runoff, five people will become members of the 2004-2005 YCC executive board by Thursday evening.