Two challengers emerge for Dyson’s House seat

Yale students who wish to vote in this year’s contested Democratic primary for Connecticut’s 94th State House of Representatives district will have to plan ahead.

Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango and community activist Gary Holder-Winfield have both indicated their intentions to contest the legislative seat currently occupied by 32-year incumbent Rep. Bill Dyson — but on the day of the Aug. 12 election, most students will be elsewhere, meaning those interested will need to register to vote by absentee ballot.

Both Blango and Holder-Winfield expressed a desire to reach out to Elis, and student activists interviewed said they hope all three men on the ballot will be able to come to campus to speak.

Blango, who has the support of Ward 1 Alderwoman Rachel Plattus ’09, said he is “bridging the gap” between Yale’s campus and the rest of the district.

“I’m talking to Ms. Rachel Plattus, I’m talking to the president of the Dems, to two [Ward 1] co-chairs,” he noted. “I want to talk about what’s important to them, and I’m waiting for them to spearhead [an on-campus discussion].”

Blango offered a preview of his interests at the state level, noting that he does not want to be “an alderman for the rest of my life.” He said he thinks the state ought to look into expanded vocational training for students in the public schools and that more funding needs to be put into post-prison rehabilitation programs.

Added Blango, “We have over 44 million [people] without health care. Let’s invest — with what it costs to incarcerate someone for a year, you can insure about four families.”

But while Blango has years of local political experience behind him, Holder-Winfield said he has not always planned to enter politics.

“Activists often don’t think of themselves in politics, but they complain about politics,” he said. “I realized divorcing myself from politics was not the way to go.”

Holder-Winfield said he wants “to talk to everyone” and that the issues facing New Haven residents are the same ones that students care about. His focus, he said, is on putting the focus on “young people,” explaining that as a community activist, he brings to the table a very different perspective from someone who has been in the process longer.

“You can talk about schools as separate from prisons, but we know they are not,” he said. “How well the first one works affects the other.”

If Connecticut does not want to lose its tax base and edge in scientific and medical fields, he said, it must make sure everyone — especially minorities, who are an increasing percentage of the population, he said — can get a diploma.

Benjamin Shaffer ’09, president of the Yale College Democrats, said the group expects to host Blango in the upcoming two weeks. The organization has also been in contact with Dyson, he added, and while scheduling during the busy legislative session has been difficult, he remains hopeful the 16-term representative will be able to address students sometime soon. While the organization has not yet been in contact with Holder-Winfield, Shaffer said he would also like to see the community activist at Yale before the end of the year.

Dyson could not be reached for comment Thursday, but he has not yet decided whether to seek reelection, the New Haven Independent reported Wednesday.

“A contested election promotes important discussion — in Dixwell, in Newhallville, at Yale University,” Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susan Voight said. “Look at the run for president. I have not regretted the long primary because so many important ideas get articulated.”

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