When Ward 1 residents go to the polls in November, they will have an opportunity they have lacked for 20 years — the option to vote for a Republican candidate in the aldermanic election.
The Yale College Republicans announced Thursday that they will field Paul Chandler ’14 as a Ward 1 Republican candidate — the first since 1993 and the first official candidate in this fall’s race. Chandler, a Westport, Conn., native and a member of the varsity track and field team, said he will bring a new perspective to debates traditionally dominated by Democrats. Meanwhile, the ward has yet to see a Democratic candidate, and current Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12 has not announced whether she is going to run for re-election.
“I intend to win, and I’m not here to run a campaign that’s going to lose. I’m here because I think I’m best suited for the job,” Chandler said. “If you looked at the last aldermanic election, a lot of it was just Sarah and [Vinay Nayak ’14] agreeing with each other over and over again, and it was just about who ran the best campaign. But I think that with a Republican running, we can now attack the issues more seriously.”
Eidelson told the News in an email that “it would be an honor to continue to lead the Board of Aldermen on the issues that are most important to students” but declined in follow-up interviews to indicate whether she is planning on running or not, saying only that she “[looks] forward to making an announcement soon.”
THE RACE BEGINS
Chandler’s decision to enter the race officially starts the aldermanic campaign season. Both he and his campaign manager, YCR Political Director Ben Mallet ’16, said that they will assemble a full campaign staff before the end of the school year.
Eidelson’s reticence to say whether she will run leaves campus Democrats unsure of the party’s aldermanic prospects. Drew Morrison ’14, a Ward 1 committee member, told the News in February that he was considering a run but that if Eidelson were to seek re-election, he would defer to her. Morrison told the News Thursday, however, that he has decided against running.
“I think at this point it has become frustrating that [Eidelson] has not said anything,” Morrison said. “She really needs to let people know: If Democrats are all organizing around her, they can do so, but if it’s someone who’s maybe less experienced, they could then have the time over the summer to get to know people in New Haven and get lead time to know the city.”
Nicole Hobbs ’14, president of the Yale College Democrats, said it is hard to know how the race will shape up so early in the year.
“Literally no one knows what [Eidelson] is going to do right now,” Hobbs said.
Still, Ward 1 Co-Chair Nia Holston ’14 said Eidelson deserves the opportunity to make a decision when she is ready. Fellow Co-Chair Ben Crosby ’14 could not be reached for comment Thursday. In February, rumors circulated that Crosby was considering an aldermanic candidacy, but he has refused to comment on his plans.
Though former Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11 said that Eidelson has the “right to take her time,” the lack of an announcement from her means that a Democratic candidate will be unlikely to form a coherent campaign before the school year is over.
“If she does decide not to run again, the other candidates would probably need to know so they can prepare over the summer, because they’re going to want to have people there as soon as the freshmen get on campus, which is before everyone else returns,” Jones said. “They need to be able to plan.”
But Mac Herring ’12, Eidelson’s campaign manager, said that Eidelson was able to pull off a campaign despite declaring in August, and that the late start was “not a particularly large setback.”
THE DECISION TO ENTER
According to Mallet, YCR initially heard from six students interested in running for Ward 1 alderman. They then narrowed the pool of viable candidates down to four individuals and chose Chandler after a series of interviews.
“We wanted someone who was really passionate about New Haven, someone who has concrete ideas about how they want to improve the city and the relationship between Yale and the city, and ultimately someone who seemed a lot like a people person,” said YCR President Austin Schaefer ’15. “This is absolutely, emphatically not a statement campaign: We think we have a very good shot at this, and we intend to make this a very full and dedicated campaign.”
It was also in April when Nayak, who ran against Eidelson in 2011, declared his candidacy and ran unopposed until Eidelson declared her entry in August. Chandler said that his friendship with Nayak first sparked his interest in running for alderman, and that he had been contemplating running for the past several months.
Chandler cited his passion for improving New Haven public education as the primary motivating factor for his entry into the race. After enrolling in a seminar on education reform in New Haven this past fall, he found the issue to be “one of the more important ones” on his mind.
Chandler praised Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s education reform efforts, including a rating system to evaluate teachers, Parent University and the Boost! initiative, a program meant to provide social and emotional support for students and families.
In addition to education, Chandler said he hopes to focus on youth services and improve public safety in the city.
It is unclear exactly who, if anyone, will oppose Chandler this fall. In addition to Morrison, Jon Silverstone ’15, who had previously expressed interest in running, told the News in February he will not run. None of those interviewed in this article volunteered names of people who are interested in joining the race.
Sarah Cox ’14, who helps lead the activist group Students Unite Now, said the group, which campaigned actively for Eidelson in 2011, has not yet considered fielding a candidate.
“A lot of us really support Sarah,” Cox said. “It’s not really something that has come up [because] we don’t know whether she is running or not.”
RUNNING AS A REPUBLICAN
Should he win, Chandler would join a Board of Aldermen dominated by the Democratic Party. Currently, all 30 aldermen are registered Democrats. In 2011, not a single Republican even ran in an aldermanic election. Former Yale Dems President Zak Newman ’13 said Chandler will need to define a Republican vision in a city in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 24 to 1.
“A serious challenge is to articulate what it means to be a Republican on a Board of Aldermen full of Democrats,” Newman said. “How is he going to cooperate with other members of the board?”
Chandler said he is not committed to one “dogmatic opinion” or another and will attempt to develop ideas along with other aldermen. He added that defining a role for Republicans on the board is “a matter of conversation among the entire group.”
Chandler is currently registered as an independent but said he will make whatever registration changes are necessary in order to run for alderman as a Republican. He described himself as “generally pretty moderate,” while Mallet said Chandler “leans more to the left” on social issues and is “more traditionally conservative” on fiscal issues.
Chandler might not be the only Republican running for a seat on the Board of Aldermen in November. Republican Town Committee Chairman Richter Elser ’81 said he has already been in contact with “three people who’ve indicated interest in running in various wards.” He declined to provide their names, saying they have not yet formalized their candidacies. Elser added that his goal is to run a total of about six or seven Republican candidates for board seats.
Elser said he is optimistic about the potential of a Republican victory in Ward 1, adding that this year’s YCR activity marks a stark contrast from the group’s lack of organizing in the past.
“It’s been frustrating working with the campus Republicans in the past because they would go into hibernation for periods of four years until the next big-ticket election,” he said. “They need to get in the same cycle as the Yale Democrats of fielding candidates in each election.”
Mallet said their aim will be to snag votes from across party lines, which he said depends on emphasizing “vision” and “character.” He added that while the campaign will be an “uphill battle,” he believes people will focus on the issues and think beyond party lines.
Jones said he thinks that the lower turnout of Ward 1 races could make it possible for Chandler to take the election with a “coalition of like-minded folks and friends.”
The filing deadline for aldermanic candidacies is Aug. 10.