On the ground: Dems bring out the vote

Even as Yale students dive into the chaos of shopping period, the Yale College Democrats want Yalies to know that there is life outside the Yale bubble. More importantly, they want to spread the word about the upcoming Ward 22 primary.

At the Yale Dems’ inaugural meeting Monday night, dozens of students gathered in the Pierson Dining Hall to hear about the group’s plans for the coming semester, from weekend happy hours to big-name speakers like Howard Dean. But Ward 22 aldermanic incumbent Greg Morehead and challenger Lisa Hopkins were also on hand to raise awareness about the upcoming primary. The third candidate, Cordelia Thorpe, did not attend.

Although the Yale Dems don’t endorse aldermanic candidates before the general election, the Dems did emphasize the importance of student participation in the primaries for those residing in Ward 22 — Yalies living in Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Ezra Stiles and Swing Space. “Yale students should be involved in their community,” Dems President Sarah Turbow ’10 explained. “Voting is one way to do that.”

Turbow’s message was a common theme at the meeting. While Hopkins urged students to understand the significance of getting involved in New Haven, Morehead touted his record of engaging Yale students with Ward 22’s Dixwell neighborhood.

“I’ve made it my mission to make sure that Yale is involved with what goes on in the community,” he said.

The message seemed to strike a chord with the students attending the Dems’ meeting. “Lots of students would like to get involved in New Haven issues,” according to Anya Van Wagtendonk ’12, a Timothy Dwight student. “But there aren’t many opportunities to do that, besides tutoring.”

Both candidates emphasized the opportunities for engagement with Ward 22. “My motivation for running for alderperson for Ward 22 is to work as a conduit between Yale students and community members at large,” Hopkins said at the meeting. Because Ward 22 comprises both Yalies and other Dixwell residents, “we have a unique opportunity to forge a partnership that works for everyone,” she added.

Morehead also emphasized the value he places on “bringing unity back to Dixwell” by connecting Yalies to the neighborhood, and vice-versa. “I’ve been taking Yale students on tours around Ward 22, talking to them about the ward’s history and making sure they’re involved in what goes on in the ward,” Morehead said. He has also worked to recruit Yalies as tutors for New Haven Reads and has collaborated with the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s community outreach efforts.

To their frustration, many students commented on just how similar the contenders’ platforms seemed. The only difference Van Wagtendonk said she noticed between the e-mails she’s received from the candidates was Morehead highlighting his coup of bringing Ludacris to Dixwell. “That’s cool,” she said, “but that says nothing about his political abilities.”

To increase awareness, Turbow encouraged Ward 22 voters to attend a candidates’ forum on Sept. 10. At the event, students will have the opportunity to hear about the candidates’ respective platforms and their plans for addressing issues like public safety, economic development and Yale-New Haven relations in greater depth, Turbow said.

Ultimately, “it’s important that Yale students pay attention to Ward 22,” said Yale Dems member Reid Magdanz ’12.

The Ward 22 primary is scheduled for Sept. 15.

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