Ella Wood ’15 has decided to drop out of the race for the Ward 7 seat on the New Haven Board of Aldermen, she told the News Monday evening, opting not to run as an Independent in the general election following her loss in September’s Democratic primary.
Wood’s decision effectively hands the election to incumbent Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04, who fended off Wood’s primary challenge by winning 331 votes to Wood’s 232. The erstwhile candidate moved to the ward this summer in order to challenge Hausladen in what was previously an uncontested race. Pitching a message of broader community engagement and equitable economic development in New Haven’s downtown district, Wood drew the support of a contingent of progressive students on campus as well as organizers under the auspices of Yale’s Unite Here unions, Locals 34 and 35.
“I spent the past couple of weeks talking to lots of the supporters and volunteers who were involved in this campaign,” she said. “And emerging from that conversations was a very strong sense that this incredible team of people is ready and excited about moving forward and continuing the fight, and that everyone was on board, but that the best way to continue the project that came out of this campaign was through me not running in the general election.”
Rumors of Wood’s decision to withdraw from the race surfaced Monday afternoon following a Sunday meeting of the Yale Political Union’s Independent Party, which Wood chairs. A member of the Independent Party told the News that Wood had confided in the party’s executive board that she would be dropping out of the race.
As of Monday afternoon, Deputy City Clerk Sally Brown said she had received no documentation of Wood’s plans to drop out. Wood clarified her intentions Monday evening, releasing a letter addressed to City Clerk Ron Smith asking her name be removed from the ballot.
Wood said the campaign taught her how to build connections and how to mobilize the “power” that comes from connecting to one’s neighbors. She said she does not know whether she will seek elected office in the city in the years to come, but added that she hopes to remain involved in community organizing in the ward and to convert energy from her campaign into a number of projects geared toward community building in the city.
Hausladen said he is waiting for formal confirmation from the city clerk’s office before he assumes victory.
“If this is the case, then I’m extremely proud to have earned one more turn at the Board of Aldermen,” he said. “The next phase of the campaign will shift from what would have been an opposed campaign to an information and get-out-the-vote effort.”
He said he would still be canvassing the ward to make sure his constituents vote and understand the two charter revision questions on the ballot: a hybrid Board of Education with some elected and some mayoral-appointed members and a omnibus question including changing the title “alderman” to “alder.”
There are “a ton of positive takeaways” from the primary, Hausladen said, praising Wood’s campaign and her political ambitions.
“Ella showed herself to be a truly competent and good campaigner,” he said. “She’s an excellent public speaker with good ideas and when she has made roots in a community, they will be lucky to have her if she decides to run again for elected office.”
He said the primary was a “learning process” for him, as his campaign for alderman in 2011 was unopposed.
Hausladen said his one regret of the primary was the way in which support for unions became a divisive issue in the ward. He said his involvement in Take Back New Haven — a slate of aldermanic candidates seeking to counter the supermajority of union-backed candidates on the Board — was misinterpreted as an anti-union stance.
“I heard from some constituents that they were no longer supporters of mine due to my supposed bashing of unions,” he said. “To me, supporting unions is supporting good jobs and contracts and worrying about fiscal health and pension funds.”
Wood said her campaign was never about Doug, adding that she felt he was a hard worker for the city.
“I hope that he will continue to put that kind of work into the projects he chooses to take on and I certainly hope that he has been listening to the concerns and vision that my supporters have been talking about,” she said.
Brown said the city clerk’s office has not received news about developments in Ward 19, where Maureen Gardner lost to Mike Stratton but, like Wood, also filed to run as an Independent in the general election.