Ward 1 committee will not endorse a candidate

In a break from tradition, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee will not endorse a candidate for alderman in the election this November.

At a meeting of the committee Sunday night, 15 members voted for non-endorsement, while eight voted to hold an endorsement vote open to all Ward 1 Democrats. The outcome reverses the committee’s November decision to endorse a candidate by a vote closed to all but committee members. Non-endorsement means that no candidate in the November general election will appear on the ballot with a star next to his or her name.

In the past, one of the primary functions of the committee has been to endorse a Democrat in aldermanic elections.

While committee co-chairs Amalia Skilton ’13 and Mac Herring ’12 expressed support for a closed committee endorsement vote in a Nov. 18 editorial in the News, both said they have since changed their minds and now support non-endorsement. Herring said that the most significant advantage of non-endorsement over an open endorsement vote is that it increases likelihood of a contested general election in November. This means the incoming Class of 2015 would have a greater voice in deciding the next alderman, Herring said.

“The freshmen that will get to vote are several hundred reasons to favor non-endorsement,” Herring said.

If an open endorsement vote were held, most likely in April, Ward 1 Democrats will have already gone to the polls to support a candidate before freshmen arrive, thus reducing the chances that the November general election will be seriously contested, Herring said. The open endorsement vote was first implemented in 2009, when Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11 defeated Katie Harrison ’11 and Minh Tran ’09 in an April vote. The Ward 1 Committee created the vote in order to allow students to decide whom the committee will endorse in the September primary before summer break.

Many committee members expressed support for an open endorsement vote at a forum last Sunday, citing the excitement about city politics it sparked in 2009. But Skilton said she feels it had the opposite effect on freshmen who were yet to arrive, depriving them of an opportunity to engage in the political process.

“I think one of the reasons the Class of 2013 is not as politically engaged as it could be is that we didn’t have a real general election when we were freshmen,” Skilton said.

A major concern raised at the meeting Sunday night was whether the Democratic Town Committee, of which the Ward 1 Democratic Committee is a part, would endorse a candidate over the wishes of Ward 1 Democrats. Skilton said she and Herring met this week with town committee chair Susie Voigt, who Skilton said was not likely to defy the ward committee’s wishes by endorsing a candidate.

In an interview after last Sunday’s forum, Voigt said non-endorsement would be “regrettable” and “weaken the party.”

The non-endorsement option, which is new to Ward 1, leaves many questions open.

Because non-endorsement would likely result in a more competitive general election, it also has the advantage of lending more influence to registered Independents in the ward, who would have been excluded from an April endorsement vote, Herring said.

While Skilton and Herring said they hope no Democrat decides to run in the Sept. 13 primary, it is not impossible for a candidate to do so. The lack of a committee endorsement, which means no candidate’s name will appear with a star next to it on the ballot, may increase the likelihood that other campus organizations will endorse candidates.

Ben Stango ’11, former president of the Yale College Democrats and a member of the committee, said he was pleased that the committee chose non-endorsement, which he said is the “simplest, cleanest process.”

In 2009, Stango was one of five members of the Ward 1 Democratic Endorsement Board, which administered the April open endorsement vote.

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