Sarah Eidelson ’12 will be Ward 1’s next alderman.
Eidelson’s well-organized campaign helped propel her to victory in the race to represent the ward on the Board of Aldermen, with the final tally giving her 563 votes to Vinay Nayak’s ’14 399. Ward 1, which includes Old Campus and eight residential colleges, and has traditionally seen low voter turnout, reported 963 total voters Tuesday, shattering 2005’s record of 800 voters.
“[My supporters] are amazing,” Eidelson said after learning of the election results. “Tonight is just the beginning. I’m excited to work to give students a better place to call home.”
Her victory came after a day of frenetic campaigning, during which many of her supporters woke up before 5:00 a.m. to help put up posters and prepare for Election Day, and began to canvass in earnest at 10:00 a.m. Mac Herring ’12, Eidelson’s campaign manager, attributed the campaign’s success to the number of volunteers who spent 10 hours canvassing Tuesday, which she estimated to be around 50.
Amalia Skilton ’12, the co-chair of the Ward 1 Democratic Ward Committee and an Eidelson supporter, said voter turnout was “unheard of” in the city, with over a third of eligible Ward 1 voters showing up at the polls. She and both candidates agreed that the campaigns had done an excellent job at encouraging students to vote.
“[Both campaigns] had a big presence on campus, so much so that I was annoyed,” said Davynn Brown ’14. “I had friends working for both campaigns.”
Wait times at the New Haven Public Library, the Ward 1 polling location, reflected this increased student interest in Ward 1 politics. Some voters had to wait in line over half an hour to vote.
“The enthusiasm’s been awesome,” Nayak said at 4:30 p.m., by which time more than 600 ballots had been cast in ward 1.“Regardless of what happens today there will be a lot more people [in Ward 1] involved in the city.”
Nayak’s volunteers spent the day at a makeshift headquarters in Dwight Hall, eating pizza and sushi while they called supporters who had not yet voted.
Of 28 students interviewed at the polls between 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., 10 said they were supporting Eidelson and 18 were in favor of Nayak.
Those in favor of Nayak said they were impressed with the organization of Nayak’s campaign, demonstrated by his strong presence on campus Tuesday.
“It came down to the fact that Vinay ran a really excellent campaign — I met and talked to him personally three times,” said Austin Carder ’15, who said he voted for Nayak. “That was really the only thing because I feel like they could both do good jobs.”
Kyle Tramonte ’15, who also cast his vote for Nayak, said he thought the most important quality of a Ward 1 alderman is the relationships he or she forms with students in the ward, namely the residents of Old Campus and all colleges except Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Morse and Stiles. He said he was concerned that Sarah would not be able to achieve that after she graduates in the spring.
Students favoring Eidelson said they were moved to support her by her experiences in the city over her three years in New Haven as well as the fact that, as Caroline Rizzo ’15 said, she seemed “more genuine” than Nayak.
Eidelson has worked as an activist in various capacities in the Elm City for the past three years. She participated in the Community Voter Project — an organization that aims to register voters and encourage political participation — after her sophomore year, and on Sarah Saiano’s unsuccessful campaign for Ward 18 alderman last summer. Nayak, meanwhile, spent his freshman year working on policy with the Board of Aldermen’s community development committee through the Board’s policy assistant program.
Chris Tokita ’14, who said he voted for Eidelson, also said he chose to support her because of the endorsements she received from other future aldermen. The winners of aldermanic races in Wards 2, 7 and 22 — which together encircle Ward 1 — endorsed Eidelson in October.
“The discerning factor was that Sarah has experience in New Haven, more grassroots movement stuff,” Tokita said. “New Haven residents are also supporting her — she knows a lot of residents and seems politically and emotionally invested in this city.”
Election Day itself was not without controversy. Nayak’s campaign manager Zak Newman ’13 said he spotted a Yale employee helping to put up signs for Eidelson’s campaign while driving a university vehicle, an act prohibited by Yale’s tax-exempt status. He added that this support demonstrates where Sarah’s support had come from over the course of the race.
A statement by John Bollier, associate vice president for Yale University Facilities, said that Facilities management has been notified about the employee’s actions and that the employee has been suspended pending a University investigation.
Eidelson, though, said she was unaware of this incident, adding that her campaign team for the morning was comprised of only undergraduates.
Mayoral candidate Jeffrey Kerekes and Mayor John DeStefano Jr. stopped by the New Haven Public Library Tuesday morning. Ward 1, with its record turnout, played a larger-than-expected role in the mayoral race — in the end, 460 Ward 1 votes went to DeStefano and 268 to Kerekes, with 245 voters either abstaining or voting for a write-in candidate. As the margin of DeStefano’s victory was less than 1,600, the substantial number of Yalies who cast votes could have helped swing the election.
In the final minutes before the vote tally was released, Nayak said he was proud of the work his campaign volunteers had done, adding that he believed his campaign did the best it could.
“I feel so much pride and love for the people working in the campaign — I’m proud to be a student, proud to be a New Haven resident,” Nayak said. “No matter the outcome, we did something really special here.”
After her victory was announced, Eidelson thanked her supporters in a speech at the library, pledging to work even harder as alderman than she had during the campaign. After delivering a speech to his supporters at the Women’s Table, Nayak called Eidelson to congratulate her.
Eidelson’s term will start on Jan. 1, 2012.