As the three candidates for the Ward 22 aldermanic seat continue to vie for Yale votes, one thing has become clear: This time, it’s personal.
The central tenets of two of the candidates’ respective campaigns are not starkly different. Both incumbent Greg Morehead and challenger Lisa Hopkins are advocating for safer streets, greater support for neighborhood youth and improved relations with Yale. The third candidate, Cordelia Thorpe, has yet to publicly canvass either on campus or elsewhere in New Haven.
Because Morehead and Hopkins cannot criticize each other’s largely similar policy goals, the two have found themselves instead criticizing each other’s character in an attempt to win next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
In the words of Hopkins, Morehead is idle and unresponsive. And according to Morehead, Hopkins is bitter and resentful of her past losses in Ward 22 elections.
“He just does not advocate for this community, and he doesn’t have a record fighting for his constituents,” Hopkins said of Morehead. “He uses a lot of Band-Aid solutions to address things.”
Morehead’s indictment against Hopkins was equally critical: “In the last elections, my opponents criticized me for reaching out to Yale, because Yale students are only here for four years,” he said. “Now, my opponent’s seen that tactic is successful and is doing it now, too.”
Although the candidates are working hard to prove their distinctiveness — through flyer distributions, campuswide e-mails and interviews — it has grown clear that there are few differences between their platforms. On his Web site, reelectgregmorehead.com, Morehead asserts that his quarterly community newsletter informs his constituents about the goings-on in City Hall; part of Hopkins’ platform for increased accountability includes creating an alternative newsletter that is more in-depth and thorough. Both candidates have also outlined plans to supply local youth with better educational opportunities, improve after-school programs and support the citywide Safe Streets campaign.
Thorpe, meanwhile, has been virtually silent. Thorpe, who ran unsuccessfully for Ward 22 alderman in the previous two races, has thus far been absent from Yale’s campus during the current election cycle. She did not return several telephone messages left in the past week.
In the past, Thorpe’s campaign platform focused on combating the city’s so-called Democratic political machine. Both Morehead and Thorpe said they have not heard about any recent campaign efforts from Thorpe. In the 2007 Democratic aldermanic primary, Thorpe received 8 percent of the vote.
The primary contention between Hopkins and Morehead centers on their support, or lack thereof, for Mayor John DeStefano Jr.: Morehead describes Hopkins as difficult to work with and staunchly anti-City Hall, while Hopkins called Morehead a rubber stamp, never opposing the mayor on important issues.
“That’s been her argument for the past two years, but I’m an independent voice,” Morehead said. “I do what matters most to the community and I stand up for the residents.”
Another focus of the debate lies in a relatively inconsequential blip on Yale’s radar last spring: Morehead, a professional drummer, brought the rapper Ludacris both to Branford College for a Master’s Tea and to a neighborhood talk with local children. In discussions with Yale students while canvassing on campus, Morehead said the event was proof of his commitment to better the lives of neighborhood children. But in Hopkins’ estimation, the event was just a one-time demonstration of star appeal, not an ongoing dedication to spending the time and resources necessary to keeping youngsters off the streets.
The ill feeling between the two candidates may be fueled by the fact that they were once good friends. They continue to live across the street from each other on Frances Hunter Drive. They both agree that their friendship lasted until about the time they first ran against each other in the April 2007 special election. Morehead said that, around that time, Hopkins became increasingly antagonistic and resentful of her loss; Hopkins maintained that she broke off the friendship because she began to realize that Morehead was not adequately serving his constituents.
Still, the candidates maintain that their attacks are meant to bring to light character flaws that would directly affect their opponent’s ability to be a good alderman.
“It’s not a matter of me running against Greg,” Hopkins said last week. “We just have not gotten a lot of our issues and concerns addressed.”