The day after the Ward 1 Democratic Committee nominated Ben Healey ’04 as its aldermanic candidate in a seven-hour meeting, committee members reflected on how Healey’s admitted lack of experience and a run-off voting system favored him over his older and more experienced opponents, Lex Paulson ’02 and Michael Montano ’03.
The committee, originally made up of 48 students, outgoing Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99 and co-chairmen Frederick Streets and Bruce Blair, gave Healey an automatic spot on the ballot for September’s primary election. Paulson, Montano or other interested candidates may run in September by gathering signatures. Paulson and Montano have not said whether they have decided to do so.
Throughout the meeting Sunday, Healey admitted his lack of experience in New Haven, and answered questions by saying he had a lot to learn. But several committee members said Monday that Healey’s openness helped him when it came to voting.
“The most important factor was Ben’s attitude towards the office of alderman,” Libby Smiley ’02 said. “He’s very open, he’s very willing to listen and talk to people and really give it his all.”
In a run-off election, Healey defeated Paulson 23 to 15, with four abstentions and one vote for Montano, who was technically eliminated in the first round of voting. That round saw Paulson receive 17 votes, Healey 13 and Montano 10, with two abstentions.
As the candidate widely believed to have the fewest enemies, Healey may have been helped by the run-off process reinstitued by the committee Sunday. Sources suggested that Paulson supporters voted for Healey in the first round to eliminate Montano, and that Montano supporters gave their votes to Healey in the run-off to prevent Paulson’s endorsement.
Several committee members said Paulson’s chances may have been hurt by his Saturday morning decision to withdraw from the endorsement process and his susbsequent re-emergence as a candidate after his name was placed in nomination Sunday. Paulson said he was disappointed with the tone of the process but reconsidered when his renomination showed him the committee would be able to act independently. Some on the committee questioned Paulson’s motives, and even his supporters admitted that his motives may have been misunderstood and that his waffling may have been politically damaging. Paulson could not be reached for comment Monday.
Anne Leone ’03 also withdrew Sunday, significantly changing the makeup of the field. Leone’s departure left the committee, which comprised overwhelmingly females, with a choice between three male candidates.
Smiley, Samantha Jay ’02 and Robert Smuts ’01 all said they and others were surprised Montano was eliminated in the first round. Montano said he was surprised at his early exit and raised concerns about the tone of the deliberations.
“I was certainly disappointed, and I’ve been hearing some unfortunate things about how the deliberations went,” Montano said. “The deliberations were less about the issues than they were about the candidates.”
Several sources said a series of critical questions of Montano before the first vote may have hurt his chances, although the sources varied in their opinions on the severity and appropriateness of the questions. Montano’s criticisms of the deliberations followed attacks of the process last week by committee members — complaints which were similar to those given by Paulson upon his withdrawal.
The deliberations were described by many as relatively calm, with a dual focus on issues and personal character. However, all agreed the calm was momentarily broken when Liana Chang ’02 stormed out after a heated argument.
Anika Singh ’01 criticized some on the committee for their lack of knowledge of New Haven issues. Chang responded by saying she thought committee members should have been educated more about the process and about issues. Chang said she felt she was chosen as a “token” Asian-American, not because she had any particular interest in New Haven affairs. Singh pointed out that there were at least seven Asian-Americans on the committee and many of her colleagues agreed a lack of diversity was not a problem on the committee.
Many committee members, including Smuts, who was influential in setting up the endorsement process, agreed with Chang that there could have been better education efforts. But Singh said all committee members had the opportunity to ask questions, and she had no sympathy for anyone who entered Sunday’s meeting with little knowledge of issues.
Abigail Levine ’02 volunteered to head a review board to consider the fairness of the endorsement process, a move praised across the board by committee members.
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