Yalies looking forward to a competitive election season in New Haven this fall may have to look elsewhere for political drama.
The Ward 1 election, traditionally the focal point of campus political life, became a non-contest when current Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek made an 11th-hour decision not to run for reelection earlier this month. As a result, Rachel Plattus ’09 will begin to represent the majority of undergraduates in January as alderwoman.
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“It was really a choice based on personal feelings about what I want to focus on in New Haven and how I can make the biggest difference at this stage in my life,” said Shalek, who said he plans to stay involved by advocating for education reform and encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation. “I’m excited about some important matters that will come before the Board in the last few months of my term, and look forward to working with Rachel.”
Historically, aldermen in New Haven have needed time to settle in before being able to aggressively shepherd a legislative agenda. Plattus, who says she is above all concerned with education and increasing student involvement in the political process, said she plans to start work right away with the time she otherwise would have spent campaigning.
“A huge part of my job between now and January will be to have conversations with Ward 1 residents, from new freshmen to campus leaders, and just to have conversations with them and see what’s important, see what’s on their mind, talk about the issues that have been going on this summer,” Plattus said this week. “I think it’s a really exciting opportunity, although I am surprised that no one else decided to run.”
Plattus said she does not yet have a concrete plan for reaching out to freshmen, who normally would have been introduced to New Haven politics primarily through the clash of candidates and the bombardment of literature that generally characterizes competitive Ward 1 contests. As a start, she hopes to reach those students through the political bazaar that will be held next Wednesday for freshmen hoping to get involved in the city.
Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-Chair Hugh Baran ’09, who worked with other ward activists to hold an April primary in order to encourage more student involvement in the Democratic endorsement process, said Plattus’ candidacy reflects that “there is a lot of consensus in the ward about the issues Rachel has been talking about and around Rachel as a person who represents students issues.”
“No, it’s not what I envisioned,” Baran said, referring to the lack of a contest, “but it is what people wanted.”
On a citywide scale, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is likely to become the second eight-term mayor in New Haven history after James Newton fell more than 500 signatures short of the number required to run. Although the mayor will not face a Democratic challenger, Green Party candidate Ralph Ferruci and Republican H. Richter Elser ’81 are squaring off against him in the November general election.
But students living in Swing Space or in Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Morse or Ezra Stiles colleges, on the other hand, can look forward to a three-way race in their ward. Ward 22 incumbent Greg Morehead, who was first elected last spring in a special election called when Rev. Drew King resigned, will be challenged by retired city worker Cordelia Thorpe and housing developer Lisa Hopkins.
In neighboring Ward 2, the outspoken Joyce Chen ’01, who first took office in 2001, is stepping down in order to pursue a federal court clerkship. Gina Calder, 26, who was endorsed by the Democratic Town Council, will face Frank Douglass, 54, a Yale dining hall employee.
The Democratic primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 11. The general election is November 4.