Co-chair races draw Yalies

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Students who haven’t had their fill of municipal elections can head to the polls once again in March.

Three Yale sophomores have filed to run for seats on the Democratic Town Committee (DTC), New Haven’s arm of the Democratic Party. Ariana Shapiro ’16 and Jacob Wasserman ’16 are running as a slate for co-chair in Ward 1, which comprises Old Campus and eight of the 12 residential colleges. Eshe Sherley ’16 is teaming up with Vicky Dancy, a Dixwell resident, to run in Ward 22, which neighbors Ward 1 and includes Dixwell and four residential colleges.

As members of the DTC, all 60 co-chairs — two in each ward — vote for Democratic endorsements in municipal elections. They also lead the neighborhood’s Democratic Ward Committee and assist their alderman with constituent services and legislative work. Co-chair races will be held across the city on March 4.

Shapiro and Wasserman, who are unopposed as of Thursday night, emphasized their diverse backgrounds yet common commitment to bridging the divide between Yale and the surrounding city.

Wasserman said that he sees the race as a continuation of discussions of Yale students’ place in the city that emerged in the race for the Ward 1 seat on the Board of Alders last autumn.

“I see it as a way to get students a voice in New Haven,” Wasserman said. “The aldermanic election last fall showed us that the issue of students’ involvement in the city is a contested one. There are people who think students shouldn’t have a role in the city.”

Wasserman, a history major in Saybrook College, said he first became involved in politics outside Yale’s gates as a volunteer for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. Both he and Shapiro canvassed for Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 during her re-election campaign last November. Shapiro also supported Ella Wood ’15 in her unsuccessful bid for the Ward 7 seat on the Board of Aldermen.

An American Studies major in Branford College, Shapiro said she has typically sought political change from the outside — she was arrested in high school for environmental activism in her hometown of Ithaca, N.Y. — but that the unique and highly local nature of New Haven politics makes it an effective avenue for community engagement. She said she sees the co-chair position as a “small but tangible way to change the relationship between Yale students and the city of New Haven.”

Wasserman is a member of the Yale College Democrats; Shapiro is involved with Students Unite Now, a labor and student activism group on campus. The candidates said they decided to run in consultation with members of both groups as well as with Eidelson, who praised them as “dedicated campus leaders” capable of inspiring more students to participate in the Democratic process.

Shapiro and Wasserman said they are looking forward to helping Eidelson execute her agenda of working in particular on issues of youth services and the revitalization of the Dixwell Community “Q” House.

Nia Holson ’14, current Ward 1 co-chair along with Ben Crosby ’14, said a major part of the co-chairs’ job is to coordinate the efforts of diverse political groups on campus. She said co-chairs lead voter registration drives, organize the ward committee of roughly 50 residents and devise means of enhancing student awareness of city issues. She said she supports Shapiro and Wasserman as a slate.

Co-chair races do not feature a primary but instead require candidates to petition their way onto the ballot by collecting the signatures of 5 percent of the registered Democrats in their ward. Shapiro and Wasserman have to turn in 75 signatures to the city’s Registrar of Voters by Jan. 29.

Sherley and Dancy will have to collect 99 signatures. Sherley, who lives in Timothy Dwight College, is a member of the Black Student Alliance at Yale and plays for the women’s rugby team. After being frustrated by the lack of avenues for community engagement, she said she caught a glimpse of her potential place inlocal politics when she volunteered on the campaign of Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison.

“Running for co-chair is the next step,” Sherley said.

Morrison said her co-chairs have the unique opportunity to lead a ward committee that includes both Yale students and permanent residents. Current Ward 22 co-chair Josef Goodman ’14 said the mixed composition of the ward made it the “frontier for town-gown relations.”

Sherley and Dancy are not unopposed in Ward 22: they will compete against Cordelia Thorpe, a perennial candidate for alder in the ward.

DTC Chairwoman Jackie James said candidates have filed to run for co-chair in 25 of the 30 wards.

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