Ward 1 Committee discusses endorsement options

The process by which Ward 1 Democrats choose their candidate for alderman looks set to change.

At an open meeting of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee on Sunday night, members discussed options for how the committee would endorse — or not endorse — a candidate for this year’s aldermanic election. Although the committee voted last November to endorse a candidate by a closed committee vote, it will hold another vote on the question to allow greater participation in the decision, Co-Chairs Amalia Skilton ’13 and Mac Herring ’12 said.

Eight committee members voted by secret ballot at the Nov. 14 meeting.

In November, Skilton and Herring said they favored a closed committee endorsement vote, open only to members of the committee. But now, a closed vote looks to be the least likely outcome.

“I think there are benefits to the committee process, but at least for this year, the consensus on campus is against it,” Skilton said, adding that she and Herring are now in favor of the committee not endorsing any candidate in the Democratic primary, which will be in September.

The third option under consideration is holding an open endorsement vote in April, open to all Ward 1 Democrats, similar to the one Michael Jones ’11 won in 2009. Several members at the meeting Sunday night expressed excitement at the prospect of an open endorsement vote, citing what they called a surge of student interest in New Haven politics during the weeks preceding the April 2009 vote.

“It was extremely exciting that the election introduced people to issues in New Haven,” committee member Julia Knight ’11 said. “I’ve never seen so many people knowledgeable about terms such as ‘mill rate.’”

Knight added that the same sort of excitement might result from the committee not endorsing any candidate, which could mean a November general election with multiple non-endorsed Democrats.

A major concern at the ward committee meeting was whether the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, of which the ward committee is a part, would endorse a candidate over the wishes of the ward committee.

Reached Sunday night, Susan Voigt, the chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee, said she would be disappointed if the ward committee decides not to endorse a candidate.

“Not endorsing would weaken our party as a whole, and I think it would be a regrettable solution,” Voigt said. She added, however, that if the ward committee decided not to deliver an endorsement, the town committee would be unlikely to override it by picking a candidate to endorse.

Among the approximately 20 members present at the meeting on Sunday, the non-endorsement and open endorsement vote options appeared to have the most support.

Ben Stango ’11, a committee member and former president of the Yale College Democrats, said the committee should try to limit the influence it has on the process.

“No single group represents all Democrats in the ward, and I think no matter what our decision, we should always err on the side of democracy,” he said.

After the meeting, Herring said she and Skilton favor non-endorsement over an open endorsement vote in part because it would result in a November general election in which incoming freshmen could have more influence than if Ward 1 voters had already cast their ballots in April.

Skilton said the committee is currently focusing only on the 2011 election, and that future co-chairs of the Ward 1 Committee may decide to switch back to a different endorsement process.

The Ward 1 Committee will meet to vote on its endorsement process Jan. 31.

Comments