Less than nine months before November’s mayoral election, Yale students are beginning to coalesce around two candidates vying for the mayor’s office.
Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Connecticut State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield have thus far won the support of a handful students, who say they will come together in the next couple of weeks to engage other members of the Yale community about the election and try to increase student awareness of New Haven politics. With a number of potential candidates still unclear about their intentions, politically active Yale students said they are waiting for the field to develop before they pick a candidate. In particular, the potential candidacy of Ward 5 Alderman and Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez may still shake up the race, as local city leadership is likely to support the labor-backed alderman.
On Feb. 3, Jon Silverstone ’15 sent an email to a number of students announcing his plans to form a group of students to work on behalf of Elicker. Citing the alderman’s youth and leadership as chair of the New Haven Board of Aldermen’s City Services Committee, Silverstone wrote in his email about Elicker’s ability to “lead the city in a fresh direction” in a period that he characterized as “open season at City Hall” following Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s announcement that he will not seek reelection after 19 years in office.
Silverstone told the News that he has not yet had a chance to meet with interested students and declined further comment.
Two days later, a group of students — including Michael Harris ’14, Rachel Miller ’15 and Tom Stanley-Becker ’13 — launched Yale for Gary Holder-Winfield, which now has a Facebook page that boasts 17 likes and includes a link to the candidate’s remarks in the State House on gun violence. The group organized seven Yale students to attend Holder-Winfield’s Saturday campaign kickoff event in Long Wharf, six of whom say they are officially supporting Holder-Winfield for mayor.
Miller, who said her support for Holder-Winfield is the result of his policy accomplishments in the State House, said students involved in Yale for Gary Holder-Winfield will be meeting with the candidate Monday evening for dinner in the Calhoun Fellows’ Lounge.
“It will be an opportunity to discuss ways we can be helpful moving forward,” Miller said. “We’re generally going to be canvassing and doing voter registration. A big push will be getting freshmen involved and aware of what’s going on next fall.”
Harris said he supports Holder-Winfield because the candidate has a “history of activism in New Haven” and a strong record in the State House, especially as chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
“He has the ability to rally people together instead of just being a managerial mayor,” Harris said. “Elicker is a two-term alderman. I don’t really know of anything he’s gotten passed.”
Yale students have yet to come out in support of Sundiata Keitazulu, a plumber and New Haven resident and the third Elm City resident rounding out the current candidates in the mayoral election.
Yale College Democrats Communications Director Tyler Blackmon ’16 said the Dems are “officially neutral” as of now — and will work on behalf of whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary this September — although he personally supports Holder-Winfield.
In their role as Ward 1 co-chairs, Ben Crosby ’14 and Nia Holston ’14 will cast votes to decide which mayoral candidate the New Haven Democratic Town Committee endorses. The DTC, which is made up of 60 ward co-chairs — two from each of the city’s 30 wards — elects delegates for state primary elections and endorses local candidates, and its endorsement typically carries significant weight in local elections.
Crosby said he does not yet know which candidate he would support, adding that he is “excited to see the field of candidates develop.” With a high concentration of labor-backed members, the DTC is expected to throw its weight behind Perez if he enters the race. Perez told the News Sunday that he will be “deciding in the next couple of weeks” whether he will run.
“Perez could be an exciting candidate,” Crosby said. He declined to share his opinion of either Elicker or Holder-Winfield.
Sarah Cox ’14, a member of the activist group Students Unite Now, also signaled interest in Perez’s potential candidacy, adding that she was impressed by his Board leadership on is jobs pipeline, which helps connect city residents to employment opportunities.
Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina, another possible mayoral candidate, told the News Sunday that he would have a decision regarding his plans by mid-March.