In preparation for November’s election to replace Ward One Alderman Julio Gonzalez, Gonzalez and student leaders are conducting a search process for student candidates. The search precedes the Democratic Ward Committee’s endorsement of a candidate, which is seen as important, if not vital, to a candidate’s chances.

Ward One, which includes eight of Yale’s 12 residential colleges, is made up primarily of students and is overwhelmingly Democratic. Its alderman has traditionally been a Yale student or alumnus, and traditionally serves two terms. Several Democratic students, including Anne Leone ’02 and Ben Healey ’04, are considering running, and Michael Montano ’03, Irene Liu ’02 and Lex Paulson ’02 have already declared their candidacies. No Republicans have come forward.

By law, the Democratic Ward Committee endorses a candidate, whose name is then placed on the ballot. Other candidates may force a primary by gathering signatures of the ward’s registered Democrats, or they can run as independents in the general election — two options which Gonzalez characterized as being quite easy.

The committee’s endorsement of one candidate may discourage others from running. Paulson said if he does not win the committee’s endorsement, he will likely drop out of the race.

“My inclination would be to support the Democratic nominee,” he said.

Gonzalez said while the endorsement process, which is required by law, is not perfectly democratic, it is comparable to the methods political parties use to choose nominees for president and for Connecticut governor. In primary elections for those positions, electors choose delegates who then cast votes for candidates in a convention.

Paulson said it was his understanding that the endorsement would be made by Feb. 25, with an interview process the preceding week, but Gonzalez said the time frame is still not finalized.

The Ward Committee is co-chaired by the Rev. Frederick Streets, a Yale chaplain, and Bruce Blair, who works at the New Haven Zen Center. Streets was elected and Blair was reelected by the ward’s Democrat voters in March 2000, although both ran unopposed. Gonzalez said the lack of opposition reflected well on Streets and Blair.

“Bruce and Jerry are well respected party members and have deep roots in the city,” Gonzalez said.

The other members of the committee are chosen by the two co-chairs, but Streets said the process is open and excludes nobody with interest. The opportunity to be on the committee has not been widely advertised around campus.

Gonzalez and several candidates said the names of the committee members are not yet public, a precaution against lobbying by candidates.

But Streets said the membership is not in any way clandestine — adding that he could not remember the names of any of his colleagues.

Party leaders and candidates praised the endorsement process, saying that it was good for the party and for the ward.

“The process emphasizes grass roots constituency, as opposed to fund raising or popularity,” Gonzalez said. “It also promotes party-building and serves as a deterrent against frivolous candidates.”

Streets agreed, saying that the system implies that the Ward Committee is taking some responsibility and is therefore accountable to the voters.

Montano also was enthusiastic about the process, saying that it allows the progressive community to unite behind one candidate.

The endorsement is being preceded by the search process for candidates, performed primarily by a committee of students put together by Gonzalez last semester.

Liu said that she and Paulson had decided to be candidates prior to the formation of the committee, but thought a search committee was a good idea.

“In all of this we’re looking for the best candidate, the person who can serve the city and the school the best way they can,” Liu said. Paulson agreed, saying the search committee opened up the process to more potential candidates.