Still no contest in Ward 1 race

Although only four days remain until the filing deadline for the newly established Ward 1 endorsement election — designed, in part, to increase the number and diversity of participants in the race — only one aldermanic candidate has entered the race so far.

As of Monday night, Rachel Plattus ’09 was the single declared candidate in a race that featured three candidates in 2005. But the new procedures governing the Apr. 11 contest were specifically designed to guard against the possibility that only one — or even just two — candidates would run. Current Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05 has not yet said whether or not he will seek re-election.

Rachel Plattus ’09 throws her hat into the Ward 1 alderman race as an unchallenged candidate.  A new filing process encourages a diverse candidacy.
Esther Quintana
Rachel Plattus ’09 throws her hat into the Ward 1 alderman race as an unchallenged candidate. A new filing process encourages a diverse candidacy.

Current Ward 1 co-chair Hugh Baran ’09 said he cannot explain the fact that only one person has filed. He does not think it is a problem, he said, both because there are several days left before the filing period ends and because of Plattus’ candidacy.

“I think there’s still time left,” Baran said. “We did see somebody brand-new step up and she stepped up quite early, and I think this shows that this process … made it possible for someone to run who might not have run before.”

The new rules, as established by the Democratic Ward 1 committee, are intended to make it easier to join the race. Campaign contributions, including personal contributions, of more than $100 are prohibited in order to level the playing field and allow candidates of all socioeconomic backgrounds to run. Only 80 signatures are required to file.

The overhaul of the original process — which left the decision for the Democratic nomination up to a vote of the Ward 1 committee — was spearheaded by former Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07, the Ward 1 co-chairs and Shalek, who ran and won as an independent candidate in 2005. In the past, some students have complained that the closed-door nature of the nomination and the timing of the primary and general elections, which take place soon after the fall term begins, provide little incentive for regular students to participate in the process.

Dan Weeks ’06, who lost a closed-door committee vote for the Democratic nomination in April 2005, supported the change when it was announced in December.

“The more open we can make this process, the more democratic a result,” Weeks said in a December interview.

The desire for the race to include more than one candidate is not limited to Ward 1 leaders who will likely remain neutral through the election. Plattus herself has said she would like the field of candidates to expand.

“It’s too bad that nobody else has joined the race,” said Ben Eidelson ’07, Plattus’ communications director. “It’s given us less of a chance to bring attention to important issues on campus and raise awareness of what we think are crucial things going on in New Haven.”

But with less than 60 days remaining until the April election, Plattus — who announced in early December — may already have an advantage regardless of who, if anyone, enters the race next. Her campaign has begun canvassing potential Ward 1 voters, launched a Web site and started a Facebook group that now has more than 100 members.

The individual most likely to join the race would be incumbent alderman Shalek. But on Sunday, Shalek, who works full time in the Yale Investments Office, said he needs to figure out how to best balance aldermanic duties and the time required to campaign before he makes a decision.

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