Rebecca Livengood ’07 secured the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s aldermanic endorsement last night, winning a majority of the 41-member committee’s votes to top opponent Dan Weeks ’06.
The vote count of the closed-doors secret ballot will not be released even to committee members, though Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chair Amia Srinivasan ’07 said the tally was not “extremely” close. The committee’s decision has historically been a reliable predictor of the ward’s general election outcome, but Weeks, or any other challenger, still has the option of running against Livengood in a Democratic primary or general election race.
Weeks said he has not yet made a decision about whether he will do so, though he did say that he would run only as a Democrat, not an Independent.
Livengood said she plans to work on voter registration for the rest of the year in addition to building ties with campus organizations like the cultural houses and the Yale College Democrats. She said she would be happy to have a challenger in either a Democratic primary or the general election.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to talk to a lot of folks and get students mobilized,” she said. “It’s nice to have a breather now, but I’m excited about the prospect of a campaign.”
In an opening statement and during a question-and-answer session prior to the vote, Livengood said she intended to work to create a “just and inclusive community” in the city if elected alderwoman.
“When Yale students embrace New Haven as their home, we all have tremendous potential,” she said.
In particular, she cited public education, homelessness, community benefits for new development, renewable energy sources and gay rights as issues she was interested in addressing on the Board of Aldermen.
Committee member Marissa Levendis ’07, who has worked with Livengood on the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said she voted for Livengood because of her emphasis on integrating Yale students with the city.
“I really think that community organizing is the basis of politics in New Haven,” Levendis said. “She has the ability to do that on campus and in the community at large.”
Committee member David Weil ’07, who voted for Weeks, said he was impressed with Weeks when he traveled to Hartford with him to lobby for public elections funding.
“I was just blown away by his incredible poise in front of the cameras,” Weil said. “That was just clarified today. I think he dominated [in the debate].”
During the race for the committee endorsement, several committee members and Weeks supporters alleged that the composition of the committee, which included a number of people with ties to the UOC, gave Livengood an advantage. Jeremy Ershow ’06, who worked on Weeks’ campaign, said he felt Weeks never had a chance.
“Today, Dan gave one of the most knowledgeable, articulate and passionate presentations I’ve seen made by any candidate at any level,” Ershow said. “But it was clear that nothing was going to sway this committee.”
Asked about the fairness of the committee procedure, Livengood said she understood the arguments for a more democratic process. She said that now, however, in the middle of the process, was not the time for change.
“I certainly worked hard to talk to members of the committee that I had never had interaction with before,” she said. “I really respect the committee a great deal and am honored to have their endorsement. Now that the process is over, I would be excited to see what ideas people have for reforming it in the future.”
Weeks, who has spent much of his time at Yale campaigning for elections reform, said he had no criticism for the committee’s members and that he respected their commitment to the process. However, he said the process itself could have been more democratic.
“It is impossible to create a 41-member committee that will perfectly represent the ward,” he said. “I think the value of a contested open competitive election is so great that whether or not I am a candidate next fall, I strongly urge others who are interested to step forward.”
Srinivasan said she felt the meeting ran smoothly, without the controversy that has overshadowed previous Ward 1 endorsements.
“Both candidates were very impressive and just really did a great job at the meeting itself, but I also think the members of the committee were really responsible,” Srinivasan said. “I couldn’t really be happier with how the meeting went.”
During opening statements at the beginning of yesterday’s meeting, Livengood spoke for roughly five minutes, outlining key issues she wished to address in the city. Weeks reached the 15-minute time limit, citing a number of specific proposals and statistics.
Committee members asked several contentious questions at the meeting. One member, reacting to a quote in the News from a Weeks supporter, asked whether Weeks thought Livengood was too liberal.
“I regret that I wasn’t called very liberal, because I am very liberal,” Weeks responded.
Another member asked Livengood about her involvement in Project Orange, which had been called into question in a letter published in the News. Livengood responded that she had always been truthful about her work for Project Orange, which she said took place in the second semester of her freshman year.
There was no sign of personal tension between the candidates during the meeting. While the committee was deliberating, both Livengood and Weeks, together with their supporters, relaxed and socialized together in the Branford game room.