Whether he is flanked by hordes of Democrats, homeless people or beer cans, Lex Paulson ’02 is at ease. Surrounded by the remains of what he called a “relatively tame” Lawrance annex party, Paulson pulled his sweater sleeves over his hands and discussed his political platform.
Paulson, the former president of the Yale College Democrats, is running for alderman in Ward 1, which includes eight residential colleges and Old Campus. The position would require him to be a liaison between his constituents and the city and to work with local politicians to improve New Haven.
Paulson said he possesses a love for the city and a passion for voting, workers’ rights and homelessness.
Paulson, who became involved with the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project during his sophomore year, cited the most important issues in homeless rights as adequate social services, respect from the police and women’s beds in shelters.
“If given the tools, the homeless community can advocate on its own behalf, but we who are lucky enough to have the education and time can help them get those tools,” he said.
Concerning workers’ rights, Paulson thinks it is crucial for Yale students to be educated about union issues and to take part in the struggle for fairness.
He added that passion for issues keeps him focused.
“Voting is one of the most important and most ignored rights in our democracy,” Paulson said. “It’s a power that people have and often don’t take.”
Alderwoman Esther Armmand, who represents Ward 7, which includes Pierson and Davenport colleges, worked with Paulson in voter registration efforts.
“He’s definitely very energetic and interested in the city,” Armmand said. “I was impressed with his involvement and his encouraging students to exercise their civic responsibility as it relates to the voting process.”
Paulson was campaign co-manager for Ward 9 Alderman Gerry Garcia ’94 SOM ’01. Garcia said he feels Paulson has shown his commitment to the city by making the sacrifice of not living in his residential college his senior year. He added that while Paulson has many strengths as a candidate, he can be overeager.
“Lex is strong on issues. He invested himself long ago in knowing people who can teach him the issues and has thought critically about them,” Garcia said. “However, Lex sometimes needs to relax a little. He listens well, but he could listen more. Fortunately, he’s surrounded by a process with people who will be eager to teach him if and when they choose him.”
Although Paulson gets along well with many city officials, it has become apparent that his relationship with Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99 has grown strained in recent months.
“Frankly, I’m not sure where Julio stands. He has not been forthcoming with me either way,” Paulson has said. “No matter what the alderman’s feelings may be, I trust that the ward committee members and the voters of Ward 1 are the true stewards of this process.”
Gonzalez said this week he did not want to discuss his relationship with Paulson.
As alderman, Paulson’s job would be to keep in close contact with all of his constituents. Paulson has worked on city campaigns before and said he feels he “can build relationships that will bring the communities closer together.”
But some students said that as a junior, Paulson may lose touch with his constituents. He will be a senior when the election is held.
“My big concern is that he’s a junior, because I think it’s important to stay connected to the undergrads,” said Abby Levine ’02, who worked with Paulson through the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project. “It will be challenging to do that when he’s a couple of years out of school.”
Paulson, a Washington, D.C., native, said his high school community service work in local public schools motivated him to become involved in politics.
“It forced me to look at larger problems in D.C., and how the decisions of people in power could affect the lives of kids and their happiness,” he said.
Last summer, Paulson combined politics and his interest in child advocacy in an internship with Connecticut Voices for Children, a non-profit child advocacy group. His job was to research the legislative background of different social policy issues and bills proposed in the past year to see how Connecticut Voices for Children could lobby legislators to supply reform.
Paulson said he consistently tries to model his actions after those of his grandfather.
“My grandfather was born on a farm in North Dakota, and his family never had very much money,” he said. “He lobbied for farmers in D.C. and ended up spending approximately 40 years on Capitol Hill. The lesson he taught me is that what you stand for is more important than where you come from.”
Paulson says that his involvement with intramural tennis, the Alley Cats singing group and jazz piano help calm him down after the “frustrations of politics.”
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