Drawing on the support of Yale students and the Democratic Party, Gregory Morehead won an overwhelming victory in Monday’s four-way Ward 22 special aldermanic election, vowing to bring the community together and heal its wounds.
Morehead received 243 votes, defeating his opponents by a margin of more than 2-to-1. Ward 22 co-chair Cordelia Thorpe followed with 108 votes. Lisa Hopkins came in third place with 57 votes, and Reggie Lytle earned 31 tallies in his favor. All four candidates vowed to run again for the aldermanic seat in the Democratic primary to be held in September, and Thorpe said she is protesting yesterday’s election because of possible legal missteps in the Democratic Party’s endorsement of Morehead.
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“Time to work as a team,” Morehead said after the results were announced to a crowd of nearly 50. “Let’s bring unity back.”
Hopkins and Lytle both called the unusually divisive election a “learning experience” and said they would seek to run better campaigns in the future, trying harder to pierce what they described as the closed-to-outsider gates of the University. Thorpe, who refused to shake Morehead’s hand when he approached her outside the polling center to call a truce, said the election was evidence that “plantation politics” has prevailed in New Haven and that “democracy does not work.”
More than 100 Yale students came to vote at Wexler-Grant School throughout the day, according to the Yale College Democrats. Most students voted for Morehead, backing him because of what they called the energy he exhibited during his canvassing efforts on the Yale campus.
But a handful of ward residents at the polls expressed concern that Yalies and Democratic Party elites played too significant a part in determining the outcome of the election.
“Too many people [outside Dixwell] had their hands on this,” said ward resident Joe Roach, a Lytle supporter who is unaffiliated with Yale. “They have a legal right to vote, but they have to ask whether they should cast their vote if they’re not helping in other ways in the community.”
Roach suggested that DeStefano may have drawn special attention to the election because of his desire to see Yale build two new residential colleges in Dixwell.
Thorpe said she overheard Yale students saying how “fun” it was to cast a ballot. Many students do not understand how much their vote affects tax-paying residents of Dixwell, she said.
But most bystanders were supportive of Morehead and Yale students’ heavy participation in the race. Town Democratic Party chair Susie Voigt said minutes after the results were announced that it “was great to have four people running in this race.”
“We’re going to all get together now to work as a team,” she said.
The last vote of the night was cast by Alaina Varvaloucas ’09 just four seconds before the polls officially closed. Dozens watched in anticipation as she voted — for Morehead, she said later — and then as the ballots were counted and the results announced.
“He just seemed to me like he was really passionate about helping the community,” Varvaloucas said.
Morehead said his first move would be to take a vacation, but that he would then begin reaching out to the entire community. He declined to elaborate on the details of his plans.
Yale College Democrats Registrar of Voters Rachel Plattus ’09, who is also currently the uncontested candidate for Ward 1 alderwoman, said that the organization believes that it met its goal of attracting more than 100 students to the polls. She said Yale student participation should be embraced as a unique feature of Ward 22.
“It’s really exciting to see that the Yale students can be engaged in New Haven politics in this way and can have a stake in what’s going on in the city,” Plattus said. “I think that one of the really interesting things about Ward 22 is that it’s a shared community and that both Dixwell community residents and Yale students are stakeholders, and they share leaders and they share a community.”
Former Ward 22 Alderman Rev. Drew King’s resignation last month — in response to charges of assault and violation of a protective order — prompted Monday’s special election.