Mayoral candidates seek support of Yale students

As 1,300 Yale freshmen moved into dorms on Old Campus, mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 attempted to draw students to his candidacy by speaking to students and registering voters as well as helping one freshman move belongings into her suite.

With less than two weeks left until the Sept. 10 democratic primary, Elicker and the three other remaining candidates — State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78, Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina and entrepreneur Henry Fernandez LAW ‘94 — are pushing to engage Yale students in New Haven politics. An off-year election and a primary early in Yale’s term have presented the candidates with an uphill battle in convincing students to vote, a challenge to which Elicker alluded as he posed for a photograph with the Trumbull bull and Stiles moose.

“People talk about eating locally; they should vote locally,” Elicker said while emphasizing his campaign’s roots in New Haven. “I’m in public financing, and Toni’s not. My contributions are 80 percent from New Haven residents, while Toni has 70 percent outside of the city.”

In tow behind Elicker was Drew Morrison ’15, who leads Yale for Elicker, registering students to vote as the mayoral hopeful spoke with students and parents. The group has made significant use of the Yale College Democrats’ extensive email list — on Monday, subscribers received an email from Morrison inviting them to join members of Yale for Elicker to bluebook and discuss the campaign. The group also plans to host a barbecue over Labor Day Weekend.

Elicker, however, is not the only candidate making an effort to gain the support of Yale students. Harp, who is currently considered the frontrunner in the race, enlisted 30 students to canvass over the summer, according to campaign manager Jason Bartlett.

Harp also enjoys significant institutional support from local political figures. On Wednesday, Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 publicly endorsed Harp and her legislative record in an email sent to constituents. According to Harp spokesman Michael Harris ’14, Eidelson and Harp plan to canvass together three times per week until the election.

“Personally, I will be voting for our State Senator Toni Harp,” Eidelson said in the email. “She’s been a staunch advocate for New Haven in Hartford for many years, particularly on youth issues, and I believe her to be the most qualified candidate for the job.”

Fernandez said that “about a dozen” Yale students helped with his campaign over the summer. He also claims to enjoy significant support among students at Yale Law School, his alma mater. Kadeem Yearwood ‘15, who leads Fernandez’s organizing efforts on campus, said that he plans to hold several events with the candidate before the upcoming primary, but did not provide any additional information.

“We’re talking to people and seeing the people we’d like to get involved, just telling them about Henry,” Yearwood said. “As far as I’m concerned it’s more getting people out to vote on Sept. 10. That means talking to people and having events.”

Like Elicker, Yearwood emphasized the importance of Yale students’ engagement in the Elm City. He said that Yale students frequently fail to consider events in New Haven beyond the University, and suggested that improvements to the city would benefit both current and future students.

Unlike his three rivals, Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina has maintained a lower profile on campus. The candidate said last week that he only has one Yale student staffer, although that staffer could not be reached for comment.

Outgoing Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is New Haven’s longest serving mayor, having held the job for 20 years.

Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed reporting.

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