Ward 1 is not the only New Haven district to feature a Yale student as a candidate in the aldermanic race. Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 said Tuesday that he will challenge Ward 10 Alderman Allan Brison for his seat, which represents many graduate students who live in the East Rock neighborhood.
Although he moved to New Haven just two years ago to pursue a joint master’s degree program at Yale, Elicker, 33, said has become intimately attached to the city in a short period of time. But Brison, the Board of Aldermen’s lone Green Party member, said he believes that Elicker’s inexperience and Democratic Party affiliation will be detrimental to the city.
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In an interview Tuesday, Elicker said he plans to pursue a three-pronged platform during his campaign: environmental issues, governmental transparency and neighborhood issues, such as crime and traffic safety. Recently, Elicker’s has been a co-leader of Friends of East Rock Park, a neighborhood organization that organizes community get-togethers and park clean-up projects, and he has worked to pass several pieces of environment-friendly legislation, such as the new ordinance that requires city janitors to use natural, healthy cleaning products.
Elicker, a native of New Canaan, Conn., and a graduate of Middlebury College, said he also wants to encourage more Yale students to become involved in the city’s political processes. Because graduate students living in the East Rock area often stay in New Haven for only a few years, they usually do not know who their alderman is or where to go to vote, Elicker said.
That, Elicker said, should change.
“Getting more citizens involved in local politics — it’s pretty easy to do,” he said. “It’s a simple matter of getting the word out to them.”
Although Elicker said he plans to remain in New Haven after he graduates and is currently looking to buy a house, he has only spent two New Haven, which may prove an obstacle in his quest for the aldermanic seat. But Elicker maintained that he is committed to learning as much as he can as quickly as possible.
“I’m deeply dedicated to staying here,” he said. “There’s so much that I have to learn, a lot that I have to understand, but the issues fascinate me, and I have a huge drive to understand the issues.”
Brison, who is in his first term as the Ward 10 alderman, said Tuesday that Elicker’s commitment to running as a Democratic candidate will not add anything to the Board of Aldermen. Brison said it is important that there continues to be a third-party alderman on the board because it allows a degree of autonomy in suggesting legislation and representing constituents.
“I have an independence that a lot of other Democrats don’t have,” Brison said. “More than many other aldermen, I am able to exert that independence, and being a Green Party candidate underscores that.”
Elicker would likely become a pawn of Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Brison argued, and would have a difficult time challenging the opinions of other members of the board.
But Elicker maintained that his choice to run as a Democrat was a pragmatic decision that will allow him to create more relationships with other aldermen and help to pass meaningful legislation. But, although Elicker is running as a Democrat in a city with primarily Democratic representatives, has the backing that fact would not prevent him from expressing views that run contrary to those his party, he said.
“I’m an independent thinker, and I’m confident that I can stand up for myself and for my beliefs,” Elicker said.
Elicker said he has already been in contact with several members on the Board of Aldermen, including Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield and Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale about the seat. Sturgis-Pascale, who has worked previously with Elicker on the Safe Streets campaign, said Elicker has the political finesse to build coalitions on the board and pass meaningful legislation.
“It takes a while to figure out how things work on the board, and I think some people are more inclined than others to step into that role more readily,” Sturgis-Pascale said. “Justin has a high capacity to deliver and aggressively push an agenda.”
So far, Elicker is running unopposed for the Ward 10 Democratic nomination. The general election will be held on November 3.