By a razor-thin margin in Ward 2 and a lopsided count in Ward 22, both mayor-backed candidates running for aldermanic office prevailed in Tuesday night’s city-wide Democratic primary, promising to increase opportunities for youth and bridge the gap between the University and the Dwight and Dixwell communities.
Despite the highest Ward 2 turnout in years, Gina Calder ’03 EPH ’08 barely edged out union-backed Trumbull dining hall worker Frank Douglass Jr. by 277 votes to 249 — a margin of only 28 votes. Since the approximately 20 absentee ballots were expected to be cast in Calder’s favor, Douglass immediately conceded defeat as dozens of supporters screamed with joy and congratulated Calder, who lost by a similarly narrow margin in 2005 against Joyce Chen ’01.
The three-way race in Ward 22 between Greg Morehead, Lisa Hopkins and Cordelia Thorpe was not as much of a cliffhanger, with incumbent Morehead coasting to reelection after the city’s new electronic voting machines counted 245 votes for him compared to Hopkins’ 114 and Thorpe’s 31.
Since New Haven is dominated by Democrats, the victories all but assured that Calder and Morehead will be voted into office in November’s general election.
After winning, Morehead stood on stage downtown with the rest of the Democratic Party to thank his City-Hall-backed colleagues and a higher power.
“Thank God, thank God,” he said, standing several feet from Mayor John DeStefano Jr. “Especially in Ward 22. We really need God over there.”
Calder left the same post-election headquarters — Caffe Bottega — around 9:30 p.m. surrounded by a group that included both students and non-Yale residents.
“I feel elated,” Calder said. “I feel great, I really do. … This can only lead to great things.”
For Calder, “great things” include forging a closer relationship between the Yale and New Haven police departments and finding jobs for blue-collar workers at the construction site of the new Shartenberg tower, she said. Calder’s victory was a surprise to some — and a cause of extra pride for Calder — because she defeated Douglass despite his support from the local union’s aggressive canvassing efforts, which have traditionally brought its candidates to victory in Ward 2.
Calder had her own source of establishment support, which was itself an issue in the election. Douglass had criticized her for rubbing elbows with two sources of city power — the mayor, who endorsed her, and Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she had an internship over the summer. At Caffe Bottega on Tuesday night, both the mayor and Democratic Town Chairwoman Susie Voigt congratulated her heartily.
Following his concession, Douglass seemed ready to work with Calder, denying any ill feelings between the two and promising to “tuck my tail in and back up” for the time being. His campaign coordinators tried to cast as positive a light as they could on the election, softening the campaign’s original claim that Calder would not support the local union trying to organize at the hospital.
Douglass campaign co-coordinator Abraham Hossen said the election “shows that democracy works” and has likely taught Calder about the plight of local workers. And Douglass’ other co-coordinator, Gwen Mils, said that “at the end of the day,” the candidates “both were talking about the needs of youth, they both were talking about economic disparity and the need for better jobs.”
Slightly north, on Foote Street in Ward 22, deafening applause broke out when poll workers announced Morehead’s victory. “Again! Again! Again!” one supporter shouted as Morehead cleared his throat to make a short statement. The 29-year-old businessman began in unusual form, asking anyone nearby to make a quick calculation to point out that he does not depend solely on the 45 Yalies who voted for him.
“People try to say I run from Yale, [but] you know, it was from the community,” Morehead said. “We have a lot of resources in our ward, and I’m going to tap into all of those resources.”
As DeStefano worked the room at the after-party — schmoozing with Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield, rising aldermanic star Sergio Rodriguez, Superintendent of Schools Reggie Mayo and Calder herself, among others — he stopped to hail the potential for increased legislative output now that most of the Democrats nominated for 2007 are incumbents already familiar with one another. He also pointed out the dreary weather, which made it a “tough day” for voters even though it was a “good day” for incumbents.
The general election, to be held Nov. 6, is when the aldermen are formally voted into office. DeStefano was previously expected to face Jim Newton in the primary, but Newton failed to collect the requisite number of signatures. In the general election, DeStefano will face Republican H. Richter Elser ’81 and Green Party candidate Ralph Ferrucci in a race he is widely expected to win.