Ward 22 candidates court Eli votes

While Ward 1 may have been the contest du jour for Yale students last spring, many students returning to campus this fall found themselves deluged with messages from the aldermanic candidates of Ward 22.

Since April, Lisa Hopkins, Cordelia Thorpe and incumbent Greg Morehead have been campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the Ward 22 seat on the Board of Aldermen. But this time around, two of the candidates — Morehead and Thorpe — have been putting an increased focus on winning over Yale students, who make up roughly one-third of the ward. The two have sent e-mails to Yale panlists, distributed flyers on campus and canvassed in the four residential colleges within the ward ­— Morse, Ezra Stiles, Silliman and Timothy Dwight.

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Hopkins, Morehead and Thorpe have faced one other before: All three have run against one another for the last two Ward 22 aldermanic elections. In the 2007 Democratic primary, Morehead was widely considered the candidate who most aggressively campaigned in the Yale community. But this time around, Hopkins is hoping to cultivate that same support base on campus.

“When I ran in 2007, I hadn’t had the access or resources to reach out to Yale,” Hopkins said. “Since then, I’ve been able to get to know more people at Yale and been involved in more activities here and around the city.”

Mathematically, the move to snag the Yale vote makes sense. Ward 22, along with each of the rest of New Haven’s 30 wards, encompasses about 4,100 residents. So the aggregate population of the four Ward 22 colleges — about 1,400 students — comprises a considerable portion of the ward. Support from all residents of those colleges could easily make the difference in each candidate’s success in the upcoming primary.

To that end, Morehead and Thorpe have been tailoring their appeal to Yalies. Hopkins and her daughter, Heaven, canvassed Silliman last Tuesday, chatting up students and explaining her vision for better relations between Yale and the rest of the Ward 22 residents. Thursday night, Morehead walked through freshman dorms in Timothy Dwight, highlighting his achievements as an alderman.

“I want to expose Yale students to the ward, and I’m looking for as much support as I can get,” Morehead told a group of freshman girls in a suite’s common room in Timothy Dwight.

Plus, both Morehead and Hopkins have Yale students heading up their efforts in the Yale community. Ben Shaffer ’09, a former president of the Yale College Democrats, is volunteering with Morehead’s campaign. And Hopkins’ outings at Yale are headed up by Sochie Nnaemeka ’10, a Stiles history major whom Hopkins met at the Civic Leadership Institute, a series of leadership seminars sponsored by the Connecticut Center for a New Economy.

But whether their efforts will result in tangible results remains unclear

Even in his victory speech after the Democratic primary in 2007, Morehead acknowledged that he had not needed the support of Yale students to win the election. He won the election by 131 votes — there were 245 votes for him, 114 for Hopkins and 31 for Thorpe — and he said he did not need to depend solely on the 45 Yalies who had voted for him.

Yale College Democrats Electoral Campaigns Coordinator Chris Chen ’11 said the organization does not have statistics about what percentage of Yale students in Ward 22 vote in the aldermanic primaries, but he acknowledged that the organization often comes into contact with students, especially freshmen, who are not informed about the aldermanic elections or registered to vote in the ward. In order to increase the number of Yalies voting in Ward 22, Chen said, the College Democrats will table in front of dining halls Sunday in order to register students in the ward.

Thorpe said apathy among Yale students can be a hard obstacle to overcome, which is why she is not putting a concerted effort into courting Yale students. Though she has distributed some flyers throughout the community, she said she has not spent any time canvassing, and she has not contacted the College Democrats.

In February, Thorpe told the News that she believed Yalies and non-Yale students have fundamentally distinct needs. “I have senior citizens and people working two jobs to keep their property,” Thorpe said.

Part of the reason why students do not vote in the Ward 22 elections might have to do with the perception that the alderman for Ward 1, the so-called “Yale ward,” is the sole alderman looking out for the interests of Yale students. Mike Jones ’11, who won last April’s Ward 1 pre-primary and gained the endorsement vote by the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, said that while the Ward 1 alderman should be a resource for all Yale students, Elis living in Ward 22 often face challenges that are distinct from the problems experienced by Ward 1 residents.

Especially when it comes to crime and public safety, Jones said, the concerns of Ward 1 residents and Ward 22 residents are quite different. And that difference, he said, will only become more prominent when the two new residential colleges are built.

“As you go further from central campus, the landscape begins to change a little bit,” Jones said. “I think it’s a very different relationship with the city.”

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