Despite Toni Harp’s ARC ’78 overwhelming victory in Tuesday’s Democratic mayoral primary, Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 decisively won over Ward 1’s Yale voters.
Elicker, who currently represents East Rock on the Board of Aldermen, won 108 of 223 votes within the Yale-dominated ward, also beating out former city economic development administrator Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 and Hillhouse High School principal Kermit Carolina. His victory follows high visibility and a sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort on campus, which featured teams of Yale for Elicker staffers passing out campaign literature on campus all day.
Following his second-place finish in Tuesday’s primary — and the withdrawals of Fernandez and Carolina — Elicker stands as the lone candidate to challenge Harp in November’s general election. Although Democratically endorsed candidates typically win general elections in New Haven, Drew Morrison ’14, the head of the Yale for Elicker group, said that his candidate stands a fighting chance, as he will likely gain many of Fernandez’s and Carolina’s voters along with the support of 20,000 unaffiliated and Republican voters in the city.
Given his candidate’s overwhelming victory within the Yale ward on Tuesday, Morrison said that Ward 1 will figure largely in Elicker’s election strategy for the next two months.
“I think it means a lot that we won Ward 1,” Morrison said. “We will have a lot higher turnout among Yale students [in the general election] because of the aldermanic election. So that will be a really crucial part of our strategy for November.”
But higher turnout on campus may not necessarily mean increased support for Elicker in November. Nailah Harper-Malveaux ’16 said she deliberated between Elicker and Harp, but ultimately voted for Harp in the primary.
“Toni Harp had the most experience and had done so much more for the state already,” Harper-Malveaux said, “I think it’ll be great if she is elected because she’ll be the first woman mayor of New Haven.”
Harp’s gender also influenced voter Stephen Marsh ’13, who was passing through New Haven this week and stopped by Ward 1 to vote. He voted for Harp, he said, because he “[doesn’t] vote for men.”
Former News editor Eli Markham ’13, who works for Harp’s campaign, declined to comment on whether the Democratic candidate would alter her Yale strategy in the general election. Harp campaign manager Michael Harris ’15 could not be reached for comment.
As the results for Ward 1 were announced at the Harp post-election party, one person in the crowd shouted, “That’s the Yale ward! We don’t need them! They’re not part of New Haven!”
In the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary, Elicker has made numerous appearances on campus, participating in debates and showing up at casual events such as the Slifka Center’s bagel brunch to introduce himself to students.
At 5:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, seven students — known as the “no sleep” team — met in Morrison’s suite to gather campaign literature and strategize for the day. Immediately afterward, Morrison said, they fanned out across campus, canvassing each of the 12 residential colleges, making phone calls, passing out literature and, in Ward 22, driving students to the polls. In all, he added, 14 Yale students participated in the get-out-the-vote effort on campus.
Rachel Miller ’15, a member of the “no-sleep” team, said energy and support for Elicker has been palpable on campus.
“Elicker is really visible on Yale’s campus. He’s a smart guy who likes data-driven solutions and keeps calling for more data and analysis when it comes to implementing policy, as opposed to just rhetoric,” she said. “That’s something that really resonates with Yale students who want sensible solutions.”
Throughout the day, Elicker supporters maintained a presence outside the New Haven Free Public Library — the polling place for Ward 1 — making it the only mayoral campaign to do so.
But not everyone on campus seeking a Harp alternative turned to Elicker. Jonathan Esty ’17, a Connecticut resident, called Harp a “vanilla liberal” who failed to define her views beyond a standard progressive agenda. Still, he voted for Fernandez over Elicker.
“Both Elicker and Fernandez bring interesting ideas and are more likely to be collaborative rather than combative with Yale as an institution,” he said. “That being said, between Elicker and Fernandez, while Elicker has more support, Fernandez has organizational experience that Elicker, despite his work in East Rock, lacks.”
Although he came in third in the city overall, Fernandez topped Harp in Ward 1, winning 61 votes to her 47. Elicker is expected to pick up a significant portion of Fernandez’s support throughout the city in the general election.
Still, Ward 1’s final makeup remains to be seen. Just 223 of 1,345 eligible Democratic voters cast ballots Tuesday, and Michael Hayden, a poll worker at the Public Library, said he expects many more voters to participate in November’s election, in large part due to the aldermanic race between Democrat Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Republican Paul Chandler ’14.
“It’s been a pretty slow day, but it’s a primary so not many people come out to vote for that,” Hayden said. “The general election will be much larger.”
On Tuesday night, Chandler said he was “pleased to hear” that Elicker will continue to the general so New Haven residents can “continue to be formally engaged about the issues that matter.”
The general election will take place on Nov. 5.
Matthew Lloyd-Thomas contributed reporting.