Nayak, Eidelson square off at polls

Ward 1 aldermanic candidates Sarah Eidelson '12 and Vinay Nayak '14 face off Nov. 8 in what appears a tight race.
Ward 1 aldermanic candidates Sarah Eidelson '12 and Vinay Nayak '14 face off Nov. 8 in what appears a tight race. Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

After countless fliers, extensive canvassing and many debates, it’s Election Day in Ward 1.

Both candidates are doing all they can to ensure victory in today’s election, with teams of volunteers for Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Vinay Nayak ’14 rising before polls open at 6:00 a.m. The election comes one day after a News survey showed the two candidates to be in a statistical dead heat, meaning, as Nayak said, that each campaign’s last-minute efforts to turn out voters will be “critical” to victory.

“We’re going to be having an event at Dwight Hall all day, so we’ll have supporters come there,” Nayak said. “We’ll be calling some of our supporters, rallying them and making sure supporters come out to the polls.”

Eidelson and Zak Newman ’13, Nayak’s campaign manager, said teams of volunteers from each of their campaigns will be going from door to door in Ward 1 encouraging students to vote. Eidelson said she believes that many students will turn out to vote based on conversations she has had with them over the past few months.

But Eidelson may have her work cut out for her, as the News survey showed that Nayak holds a 2 percent edge among students who say they will “probably” or “definitely” vote today. More older voters favor Eidelson, though they indicated in the survey they were less interested and less likely to vote in New Haven elections.

Although the candidates have only been campaigning in earnest since students returned to campus for the start of the school year, the race has seen several new developments in the past month. Each campaign released a finance report in October, revealing that Nayak raised more than twice the amount that Eidelson did, but a larger percentage of Eidelson’s funds came from New Haven-based donors.

Each candidate has also picked up a slew of endorsements. Last Friday, Daniel Hornung ’12, president of the Roosevelt Institute and founder of the Board of Aldermen’s policy assistant program (in which Nayak participated) and Black Student Alliance President Joshua Penny ’13 both expressed their support for Nayak in the News’ opinion page.

“Being a student next year will enable Nayak to connect with his constituents in a manner with which Eidelson will struggle,” Hornung wrote, arguing that Eidelson’s upcoming graduation in the spring will make it difficult for her to remain a part of Ward 1. Penny added that Nayak’s policy-oriented approach will make him a practical alderman with goals he will be able to accomplish during a two-year term on the Board.

Eidelson, meanwhile, counts among her student endorsements Amalia Skilton ’13, one of two Ward 1 Democratic Ward Committee co-chairs, and Joshua Revesz ’13, the chair of the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Left. She has also received endorsements from the likely future aldermen in all the wards surrounding Ward 1 — Doug Hausladen ’04, Jeanette Morrison and Frank Douglass, of wards 7, 22 and 2, respectively.

“I think Vinay’s a fine candidate and a fine person and in a different year I likely would’ve endorsed him,” Hausladen said in an interview last week. “But between the two of them I thought Sarah was a much more mature candidate, ready to take action and lead on day one.”

Even at this final hour, the race is still generating controversy. Last Friday, Skilton filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Committee alleging that Nayak’s campaign finance reports incorrectly documented the donations he received by stating the gross instead of the net amount . She also said that Nayak failed to include his website as a campaign expense, incorrectly reported how expenses were reimbursed and filed his report late, and called on the SEEC to investigate.

These mistakes, Skilton said, undermine the purpose of the report by distorting the funds Nayak has received and making it difficult to trace precisely how he has used his campaign money. Skilton added that if the SEEC decides to investigate the complaint, which it would not do until after the election has been decided, Nayak’s campaign could face a fine.

Newman said the campaign was not aware of the mistakes on its finance reports, which he described as a clerical error, when Skilton filed the complaint. He added that Nayak filed amended reports Monday morning after learning of Skilton’s actions. Skilton’s complaint, he said, is a last-minute attempt by an Eidelson supporter to bring negative press to Nayak’s campaign.

“It’s disappointing to see these kinds of petty tactics,” Nayak said. “From day one, I told all of my supporters I was committed to running a positive campaign, focused on the issues. I’m incredibly proud of the campaign that we’ve run and the tone of our supporters throughout.”

Nayak, who worked as an aide on the Board’s community development committee his freshman year, declared his candidacy for alderman in April. Eidelson, meanwhile, has worked in New Haven for three years in various organizational capacities, including the summer after her sophomore year with the Community Voter Project, a voter outreach initiative. She announced she would run for the position in August on the filing deadline for all candidates.

While both candidates said the campaign trail has had its bumps, citing frustrations with voter apathy and some of the insults they have faced over the course of the race, they each said they will remain involved in New Haven politics in some way whether or not they are victorious today.

Residents of Ward 1, which consists of Old Campus and all residential colleges besides Morse, Silliman, Ezra Stiles and Timothy Dwight, can vote at the New Haven Public Library located at 133 Elm St. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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