Friends, family and supporters of incumbent Democratic alderman Greg Morehead stood outside the Wexler/Grant Community School in Ward 22 yesterday, cheering incoming voters and encouraging them to cast a ballot. Meanwhile, at the Dwight School in Ward 2, three men and three women handed out brochures in a last-minute effort to convince those arriving at the polls to vote for Democratic candidate Gina Calder ’03 EPH ’08.
But before the polls closed Tuesday night, most New Haven residents interviewed said they knew the extra campaigning was not necessary — not because Calder’s and Morehead’s victories were clear, but because no one bothered to vote.
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In the Ward 22 election, Morehead, whose name was the only one on the ballot, defeated write-in candidate Cordelia Thorpe 222-13 — a winning ratio eight times larger than that in his special-election victory seven months ago. Thorpe ran as an outspoken opponent of Mayor John DeStefano’s leadership, while Morehead’s victory came with the full backing of City Hall.
Calder won the uncontested Ward 2 election with 232 votes.
Despite the lack of competition, some Democratic voters at both sites said they were satisfied with the candidates available to them.
But Tuesday’s voters may not be representative of the entire population.
Of over five dozen Ward 22 and Ward 2 residents interviewed by the News on Tuesday at least one block away from their respective polling places, only four said they had voted. At least half of those interviewed — including Democrats — said New Haven citizens have been “disenfranchised” by an unexciting election season in what they called a “single-party town.”
Morehead said after the results were announced that he is impressed by his constituents’ commitment to the civic process, especially given that yesterday marked the third election in seven months.
“I didn’t campaign much,” he said. “But they still turned out to vote in spite of that.”
Tuesday’s vote came on the heels of a Ward 22 special election to select a replacement to Rev. Drew King, who resigned in March after being arrested for assault. Morehead, Thorpe, prison lieutenant Reggie Lytle and home developer Lisa Hopkins all ran for the aldermanic seat in April’s special election.
But when Morehead beat out all the other candidates by a margin of at least 135 votes, the other three lost their election steam — Thorpe was the only one who sought votes as a write-in candidate in November.
In Ward 22, Calder ran unopposed after winning the Democratic primary against Trumbull dining hall worker Frank Douglass Jr., 277-249.
Among other objectives, Morehead plans to create community centers and provide opportunities for youth to feel more empowered by bringing in performance artists and holding community-wide events. Calder says she will focus increasing public safety and adding blue-collar jobs for her largely impoverished neighborhood during her tenure as alderwoman.
Calder said she expected the low turnout because she thinks most voters considered the primary elections to be important than yesterday’s contest.
Citywide turnout for the election was about 20 percent, Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susan Voigt said.
Calder said she thinks that number is low for the city but “not out of the ordinary” for her ward.
Some residents said they were happy that Democrats control the Ward 2 and 22 seats because the party has a record of achieving tangible results for the community.
Denise Clark — a worker at Edith Johnson Tower, a senior center for which Morehead helped secure renovations through his work on the board — said she encouraged residents of the senior center to vote for Morehead because he has done excellent work.
“He’s a loving, strong person who’s not just for old people … he’s also for you young people,” she said. “He’s just out there doing his best, and that’s all I need.”
But many residents — and some poll workers — said some people did not vote because they no longer think their opinions matter.
Ward 22 election moderator Fred Gardner said he was surprised by the number of voters. He said he expected the turnout to be lower because he thinks many community members are apathetic.
“People have been disenfranchised for a long time,” he said. “People think nothing will change, and when that happens, people don’t come out [to vote].”
Lorenzo Vincent, a 46-year resident of Ward 22, said he thinks the election was “quiet” because the city is no longer looking out for the public. He said he chose not to vote.
Jeremy Martin, who has lived in Ward 2 for three years and is registered with the Green Party, said that although he voted in the mayoral contest, he chose not to vote for Calder. He said he worries about the lack of options available to voters in this “one-party” Democratic city.
“There was a big push for the Democratic primary but none for the election because she’s unopposed, so why would there be any campaign?” he said.
Green Party candidate Allan Brison won the Ward 10 aldermanic election, ousting Democratic incumbent Edward Mattison. Ward 18 alderwoman Arlene DePino, the sole Republican incumbent, successfully defended her seat against Democrat Larry Morico.
The new Board of Aldermen will feature 28 Democrats, one Republican and one Green Party representative.