It’s almost election season again in New Haven — this time, for seats on the Democratic Town Committee.
The deadline to register to run for ward co-chair in each of New Haven’s 30 wards passed last week, with only Ben Crosby ’13 and Nia Holston ’14 entering the race together in Ward 1, which includes Old Campus and eight residential colleges. The two co-chairs form a ward committee to endorse aldermanic candidates and serve on the 60-person Democratic Town Committee, which elects delegates for state primary elections and endorses candidates in city races.
“I’m very excited about using my role as co-chair to involve Yale students more deeply in the civic and political life of this city,” Crosby said in a Wednesday email. “I believe that the Democratic Committee in our ward can and must be a forum for information and skill sharing amongst Yale progressives and an avenue for Ward 1 involvement in city politics as a whole.”
Amalia Skilton ’13, who has served as Ward 1 co-chair since 2010 with Rachel Payne ’12 and then Mac Herring ’12, said the ward co-chairs are also responsible for political organizing at the ward level: keeping voter files up to date, registering students to vote and making decisions at ward committee meetings that reflect what students want in their Board of Aldermen representative. The Ward 1 Democratic Committee, which is comprised of politically active ward residents, meets three or four times per year to determine how they wish to run elections in the ward.
Crosby and Holston said they would continue the policy Skilton and Herring began last year of not endorsing a candidate or holding a pre-primary endorsement vote during the 2013 aldermanic election. This was done, Herring said, because the pair were concerned that freshmen would not be able to vote for their alderman, which she said felt “undemocratic.”
With record-breaking voter turnout in last fall’s Ward 1 aldermanic election, Herring said she wants to see Holston and Crosby continue a trend of increasing political engagement among Yale students.
“I really hope that they use their official position to continue a lot of the exciting political participation that we got in November,” Herring said. “I think the Ward 1 co-chairs can really play a role in making sure that doesn’t die between elections.”
The two candidates for co-chair worked on competing aldermanic campaigns last fall, with Holston campaigning for Vinay Nayak ’14 and Crosby working for Sarah Eidelson ’12, who defeated Nayak by a vote of 563 to 399. But the pair said they think this will help them reach out to different communities on campus.
“Because we come from such diverse backgrounds and are affiliated with different networks on campus, we will be able to reach out to many students that have demonstrated interest in New Haven politics,” Holston said in a Wednesday email to the News. “This is absolutely vital in forming an engaged Ward 1 Democratic Committee that fulfills its purpose of voicing the opinions of our constituents and creating a climate on campus that is conducive to collective work.”
Crosby and Holston will also attend meetings of the Democratic Town Committee, comprised of all 30 wards’ co-chairs, which is a center of political power in overwhelmingly Democratic New Haven. There, they will vote to endorse candidates in city races — including mayoral and aldermanic campaigns — as well as to elect delegates in state elections.
The Democratic Town Committee also votes on a chair, who functions as the head of the Democratic Party in New Haven. In even-numbered years, Skilton said the chair is responsible for working with federal and statewide campaigns to manage voter turnout and run the “ground game” for the party in New Haven during elections.
But during odd-numbered years, when the focus returns to city politics, Skilton said the chair becomes New Haven’s “kingmaker,” convincing people to run in elections and keeping tabs on politics across the city. Current Democratic Town Committee chair Susie Voigt is rumored to step down this year — although she has not announced her plans — and four people, including Ward 3 Alderwoman Jackie James, have said they will or are considering running for the position.
In Ward 22, Josef Goodman ’14 and Jayuan Carter, a lab assistant at the School of Medicine, will run for co-chairs against Gina Phillips and former aldermanic challenger Cordelia Thorpe, who currently hold the seats.
Elections for ward co-chairs will take place March 6, with the races in 21 of the 30 wards uncontested.