Incumbent Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 overcame Republican challenger Paul Chandler ’14 on Tuesday evening to secure a second term on the Board of Aldermen.
Eidelson won 513 votes to Chandler’s 285 in a ward where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans eight-and-a-half to one. The race, which saw voter turnout diminish from the 2011 election, ignited a debate over the role of the Ward 1 representative. Defining himself in opposition to Eidelson, Chandler centered his pitch on his status as a current student and his commitment to immediate quality of life issues in the ward. In contrast, Eidelson said her long-term and citywide efforts to improve opportunities for New Haven youth represent more important priorities for the Ward 1 alderman.
“Thank you for believing in me and this city,” Eidelson said following the 8:30 p.m. announcement of election returns at the New Haven Free Public Library. “I feel so hopeful that we are going to keep fighting and that we are actually going to change things here.”
Eidelson’s volunteers — roughly 30 of whom erupted in cheers as news of their candidate’s victory was announced — said their superior vote-pulling operation on Election Day clinched a victory for the incumbent.
Both campaigns said throughout the day that they anticipated a close race, expectations belied by Chandler’s steep loss. Eidelson came away with 63 percent of the vote to Chandler’s 37.
Chandler and roughly 20 of his supporters awaited election returns in Trumbull College, falling into a hushed silence when news of the loss reached them.
Still, Chandler said he was proud of the amount of excitement and support his campaign generated.
“The fact that we did as well as we did is a testament to how hard you guys worked,” Chandler said. “We have to congratulate Sarah obviously … she’s a fantastic candidate. I hope she takes some of our suggestions and ideas into account in her next term in office.
“I still emphatically believe I’d be the best person for the job,” he added.
Chandler campaign spokesperson Amalia Halikias ’15 said Chandler came closer to victory than anyone expected given the dominance of Democratic voters in the ward.
Eidelson did not emphasize party affiliation on the campaign trail, nor did she comment on her opponent’s candidacy, instead focusing on what she hopes to accomplish in another term.
“There is an immense amount of work ahead, and I feel really hopeful knowing that the team will be there and that so many students are ready and really demonstrated a true choice to be New Haven residents and to contribute to making New Haven the city we want to live in,” Eidelson said following a brief victory speech delivered through tears.
Sterling Johnson ’15, Eidelson’s campaign treasurer, said the incumbent’s victory signals students’ willingness to look beyond Eidelson’s status as an alumnus rather than a current student and to consider the broader issues affecting permanent residents and Yale students alike.
Many students said they voted solely based on which candidate managed to reach them at their dorm-room door. Others emphasized Eidelson’s work on youth issues over the past two years or Chandler’s engagement on campus and promise to shake up a Board currently comprised exclusively of Democrats.
Chandler entered the race last spring at the urging of the Yale College Republicans, who selected him from a field of interested students to provide a Republican voice in local politics.
During the course of the campaign, Chandler sought to portray the election as a decision between a union-backed incumbent and an independent-minded challenger, rather than between a Democrat and a Republican. He accused Eidelson of voting in lockstep with a majority of aldermen who won election in 2011 with the backing of Yale’s Unite Here unions, Locals 34 and 35. But Eidelson said her employment as a graphic designer with Local 34 bears no influence on her voting decisions on the Board.
Eleanor Marshall ’16 said Eidelson’s work with the unions is one factor that motivated her to support the incumbent, adding that she appreciates Eidelson’s work with the entire city as opposed to a sole focus on Yale’s grounds.
Nneoma Ahuruonye ’15 said her choice came down to experience, praising the progress she said Eidelson has already made on youth violence prevention and youth spaces.
Ayanna Watande ’15 and Megan Murphy ’16 both said they were drawn to Chandler as an alternative to the Board’s predominance of Democratic — and union-backed — aldermen. Though she is a registered Democrat, Murphy said the Republican’s commitment to improved bike lanes and other constituent services made her cross party lines to support Chandler.
In advance of the election, Eidelson drew considerable support from her colleagues on the Board, including Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison in Ward 22, which neighbors Ward 1 and includes four of the 12 residential colleges. Eidelson was also backed by the Yale College Democrats.
In addition to chairing the Youth Services Committee, Eidelson also sits on the Human Services and Legislation Committees.