At its last meeting before Election Day, the Elm City’s Republican Town Committee gathered to ready its slate of candidates who will go head-to-head with Democrats in four aldermanic races.
Ward 1 hopeful Paul Chandler ’14, who is running to unseat incumbent Democrat Sarah Eidelson ’12, was joined at Thursday’s meeting by two other Republican candidates and one Independent. All are backed by the RTC and, if elected, would join a 30-member Board of Aldermen currently made up entirely of Democrats. In 2011, not a single Republican ran in an aldermanic race.
In addition to Chandler, Wooster Square activist and registered Independent Andy Ross is running in Ward 8 against Democrat Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18. In neighboring Ward 6, Republican Frank Lobo MED ’92 is challenging incumbent Dolores Colon. Both attended Thursday’s meeting and reported positive engagement with voters in their neighborhoods.
“People know me,” Lobo said. “I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 23 years.”
The fourth candidate — Republican Ward 10 hopeful William Wynn — did not attend the meeting. He is squaring off against Anne Festa, a lifelong East Rock resident who has the backing of the Ward’s incumbent alderman: Independent mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10.
Richter Elser ’81, the committee’s chairman and a prominent voice for Republicans in a city dominated by Democrats, was also not in attendance.
Chandler and his campaign manager, Ben Mallet ’16, said initial canvassing efforts have been successful and added that students have been responsive to face-to-face contact in the residential colleges.
Mallet said the campaign was heartened by Elicker’s success among Yale students in Ward 1. In the Democratic primary, Elicker took the ward with 108 of 223 total votes, more than double won by his Democratic opponent, Connecticut State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78.
“We see Elicker winning as a positive sign,” Mallet said at the meeting. “Even the Democrats on campus are moderates.”
Chandler said he has worked to engage students about the issues that matter to them on campus. He said those discussions have been dominated by concerns about public safety and the ability to “walk around the city at night.”
After the meeting, Ross said he has been surprised by the amount of voter contact he has been able to make, adding that many in Ward 8 — particularly less affluent voters — have been receptive to his canvassing efforts.
Ross said public safety, affordable housing and “quality of life issues” have dominated his discussions with ward residents. He said he does not see his party affiliation as particularly relevant in addressing those issues.
“I consider myself a centrist,” he said. “I’m socially compassionate and fiscally conservative. I have an accounting background, and I think we need to stop borrowing more money to pay back old money.”
Eidelson said Thursday that issues before the Board of Aldermen do not necessarily split down the same ideological lines as they do on the state or national level. Still, she said a Republican faces an uphill battle in Ward 1 — and in the city as a whole.
“I think that the vast majority of students share a more progressive vision of our neighborhood,” she said. “I definitely am proud to be a Democrat and always have been, but it doesn’t feel like my role on the Board is about party politics.”
Still, she said New Haven’s role as a “leader on big national issues like immigration reform” means “if you have to label New Haven, it’s a Democratic city.”
William Curran, a Republican and Ward 1 resident, said the city’s heavily Democratic leaning is what makes a Republican candidate attractive.
“We need a different opinion,” he said at Thursday’s meeting.
In Elser’s absence, the meeting was led by Republican Deputy Registrar of Voters Marlene Napolitano, who offered advice to candidates on Election Day strategy and get-out-the-vote efforts.
The current balance of the Republican Town Committee is $6,581.16.