In a poster campaign that hit residential colleges last week, Republican Ward 1 candidate Paul Chandler ’14 leveled a series of attacks against his opponent, incumbent Democrat Sarah Eidelson ’12.
The signs, appearing in entryways across campus, aired grievances that have become the focus of Chandler’s campaign pitch: that Eidelson is not sufficiently connected to the student body and is beholden to union interests on the New Haven Board of Aldermen. The two candidates will square off on Nov. 5 to represent a ward of predominantly Yale students on the 30-member Board, currently made up entirely of Democrats.
“It’s part of our task to inform her constituency about her performance in office,” Chandler said.
Two of the signs claim that Eidelson has failed to be a voice for students in city government. One makes that argument by alleging that the incumbent alderman has spoken only once at Board of Aldermen meetings this year, citing minutes of Board meetings.
Eidelson denies that claim, saying she has spoken many more times than her opponent alleges.
“It’s just not true,” she told the News, saying she had spoken on the floor last Monday when the Board voted unanimously to sign a contract furthering a youth map initiative that Eidelson headed as chair of the youth services committee.
“I speak frequently at Board meetings, and I’ve really been a leader on a set of issues that relate to the youth. I chair many meetings and I speak frequently,” she said.
Chandler Campaign Manager Ben Mallet ’16 said the figure does not include committee meetings but only assemblies of the full Board. He said Eidelson’s voice has been absent from major discussions of the budget and that the sole time she spoke was on a national popular vote resolution — a statement in support of altering the national electoral college system — that the Board considered early this year.
Another Chandler campaign sign trumpets a quote from Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04 in a September News article that expressed dissatisfaction with Eidelson’s responsiveness to her constituents. The statement, that “when Eidelson’s constituents needed her, she was nowhere to be found,” was made in the wake of news that Eidelson had endorsed Hausladen’s opponent, Ella Wood ’15, in the Ward 7 Democratic primary. Two years ago, Hausladen endorsed Eidelson in her bid for Ward 1 alderwoman.
Hausladen was criticizing Eidelson for her alleged inaction with regard to a dangerous intersection at the corner of Temple and Wall Streets that he said posed a threat to a handicapped student in Timothy Dwight College. That intersection falls in Ward 22, under the jurisdiction of Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison.
Eidelson parried attacks of absenteeism by saying that she has made herself available to her constituents and actively seeks out meetings with student groups.
“I’ve never stopped being a part of the Yale community,” she said. “Like Paul, I was a senior when I ran. I was a student for a while when I was on the Board. I still live in the same apartment I lived in as a student. I’ve continued to be present, to meet with student groups, to hold office hours every week, to send out emails and be present on Facebook.”
A 2012 News poll, taken at the midpoint of Eidelson’s first term, found that 20 percent of nearly 100 freshmen on Old Campus could name Eidelson as their alderwoman. The figure was in the 60s for upperclassmen. Eidelson said the poll is outdated and was taken when freshmen had only been on campus for a few months.
The final poster asks, “Does Alderwoman Eidelson work for us?” It quotes the incumbent’s campaign website, which says that Eidelson works “full-time doing graphic design and communications work for the unions,” to argue that Eidelson acts as a steward of local labor unions on the Board.
“Alderwoman Eidelson has voted consistently with the ‘Local 34’ union block that employs her,” it reads.
Eidelson said her graphic design work for Local 34 — a Unite Here local that represents clerical and technical employees at Yale — does not compromise her ability to represent the interests of Ward 1 residents. She said her affiliation with the union is not political, adding that her current project is developing a video about members’ health care options.
Mallet defended the attack by saying that Eidelson has split commitments on the Board: to support student interests and to vote in line with the union that employs her.
Local 34 President Laurie Kennington ’01 did not return request for comment.
Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison, who represents students in four of the 12 residential colleges, said Eidelson’s employment does not hinder her ability to represent student constituents. Morrison took issue with the Chandler campaign’s attempt to “use the word ‘union’ in a condescending manner.” She said Eidelson is a “people person” whose primary concern is giving students a voice on the Board.
But Chandler said that Eidelson lost contact with the student body when she graduated.
“She’s no longer in touch with students on campus, and she’s no longer responsive to her constituency,” he said.
Eidelson declined to comment on Chandler or his campaign. Her campaign manager, Sarah Cox ’14, said the campaign will not be launching any sort of response to the signage.
“Our experience in talking to hundreds of students … actually has been that what [they] want to talk about are the issues,” Cox said.
Chandler said his campaign will be releasing a detailed policy platform in the near future.