As part of their final canvassing efforts before Tuesday’s Democratic primary, two mayoral hopefuls — Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina and Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 — made weekend stops at Yale, taking the opportunity to envision a more perfect relationship between the University and its home city and encourage students to vote.
Fernandez, former city economic development administrator, toured campus on Saturday with Kadeem Yearwood ’15, who leads the candidate’s Yale outreach efforts. Dropping in on an Old Campus barbecue sponsored by the Native American Cultural Center and the African-American Cultural House, Fernandez mingled with students and explained how the central issues facing the city intersect with the interests of the University, including job creation and crime prevention.
Fernandez said he is uniquely situated to address town-gown relations because he stayed in New Haven after attending Yale Law School, which gave him a sense of “what it means to be a student and a resident.” During his time at the law school, Fernandez helped found LEAP — a youth agency in New Haven that works with children age six to 23 through mentoring, after-school programs and other services — and served as its executive director for seven years.
Fernandez retains strong ties to the University, he said, including as a fellow of Ezra Stiles college. He told students gathered at the barbecue that they could tip the balance in the Democratic primary, scheduled for Sept. 10.
“This election is going to be close,” Fernandez said, asking Yale students to do their research and come out to vote.
Yearwood said Fernandez has been “extremely well-received on campus,” as Yearwood alleged the candidate has visited Yale the most of any of the candidates. He said the candidate also spoke to a number of Calhoun dining hall workers on Saturday afternoon, one of whom — previously a Harp supporter — changed her mind and said she would be voting for Fernandez.
Saturday’s canvass was the latest in a series of Yale appearances Fernandez has made in the past two weeks, his events on campus higher in profile than those of his three opponents: Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, Connecticut State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78 and Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina.
Fernandez appeared last week with actor and political activist Danny Glover, an event which drew over 100 students and city residents to the Af-Am House and afforded Fernandez an opportunity to broaden his message to audience members, encouraging students to become activists in their communities and join movements for change. Fernandez appeared later that same week at an Ezra Stiles master’s tea.
Carolina, who had previously made only scant appearances on campus, spoke to a crowd of about a dozen — Yale students and permanent residents both — at the Af-Am House on Friday night.
Carolina said he is the candidate with the deepest roots in New Haven, having grown up in the Ashmun Street housing project in a single-parent household. He recalled working as a shoe salesman on Broadway Avenue and talking to Yale students, a group of whom encouraged him to enroll at Southern Connecticut State University.
Like Fernandez, Carolina encouraged the student audience to become active in their communities and get involved in local politics. He said he was part of a coalition of college students who helped elect John C. Daniels, New Haven’s first black mayor.
“What we did was change the culture of the city,” Carolina said. “That’s something each and every one of you can be part of. Yale students are future leaders of cities like New Haven. That’s why so many candidates are coming here to talk to you.”
Carolina said Yale could do more to encourage its students to stay in New Haven after graduation — and, in particular, to take on leadership roles in the New Haven Public Schools system.
He praised the Yale-New Haven Hospital Homebuyer Program, which provides assistance to hospital employees wishing to purchase homes in New Haven, and said such programs should be expanded.
Kristin Horneffer ’14, who is volunteering for Carolina, said she first met the candidate when she attended a “stop the violence” meeting at Hillhouse. She said she appreciates that Carolina “sees the city from an on-the-ground level.”
“They all seem to have pretty much the same policies, but I can see his dedication,” she said.
Prior to serving as principal, Carolina was Hillhouse High School’s basketball coach.