Herring and Skilton: No primary for a fairer election

Current Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones’ ’11 recent decision not to run for a second term means that the race for his seat on the Board of Aldermen will soon begin. Before 2011’s aldermanic candidates begin to campaign, we wish to communicate with all potential Ward 1 voters about what is expected to occur in this race. This information is relevant to all students, since the upcoming race will be very different from the election that occurred in the spring of 2009. Our position as stated here represents our opinion both as individuals and as co-chairs of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee, the only official Democratic Party division in Ward 1.

Our committee voted on Jan. 30 to not endorse a Democratic candidate in the party primary to be held in September. Because the Democratic primary occurs only a few short weeks after Yale students arrive on campus, true competition between candidates cannot occur before this election. We feel that without a competitive primary like those in the other 29 wards of the city, an endorsement by the committee would have been tantamount to a mere 50 students choosing the Democratic candidate for a ward of over 4,000.

For these reasons and others, a Democratic primary should not occur in Ward 1. The Ward 1 Committee will not endorse a primary candidate and will strongly oppose any Democratic candidate who attempts to run in the primary, as a primary would weaken rather than lend legitimacy to the putative winner. With the Sept. 6 voter registration deadline for the primary coming just six days after the beginning of Yale classes, the vast majority of new students and other first-time New Haven voters would not have the opportunity to register in time for the primary. Few Ward 1 residents of any age would vote, and even fewer would have time to familiarize themselves with the candidates and issues. The Committee therefore hopes that all candidates seeking to represent Ward 1, whatever their political affiliations, will submit general nominating petitions to run as independent candidates in the Nov. 8 general election.

Holding the only race for Jones’ current seat in November, well after students have settled into the semester, will give candidates substantial time to campaign — especially among newly arrived freshmen who are just getting to know New Haven and may not have even registered to vote. (The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 8 general election is Nov. 1, 2011.) This also means that the election will be necessarily nonpartisan, unless a Republican chooses to run in his or her party primary. We trust that the voters of our ward do not need party labels stamped next to candidates’ names on their ballots to vote in line with our Democratic values.

Current juniors and seniors may remember the pre-primary open endorsement vote held by the Ward 1 Committee in the spring of 2009. This race led to the endorsement of Mike Jones as the unopposed Democratic nominee (and unopposed general election candidate). It is already too late to hold such a pre-primary this year. We also feel that such a process, held in the spring semester before a fall election, unfairly disenfranchises freshmen that will arrive in the fall and be represented by an alderperson that they did not elect. The class of 2013 has been on campus for two years, and this will be their first competitive aldermanic election cycle, a fact which we deplore.

We hope that any student considering running for the office of Ward 1 alderperson will approach us. Potential candidates should plan to consult both of us, as Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chairs, and to discuss their interest with current Ward 1 Alderman Jones. Along with Mike, we look forward to advising potential candidates about the responsibilities of serving as alderman and the demands of creating and waging a campaign for elected office.

Mac Herring is a junior in Berkeley College and Amalia Skilton is a sophomore in Calhoun College.

Comments

  • Leah

    Doesn’t it make more sense to disenfranchise the freshmen (who have only recently arrived on campus and who don’t know New Haven politics well) than the upperclassmen who have had four years experience with city politics?