In the days after Ben Healey ’04 beat out Lex Paulson ’01 and Michael Montano ’03 to win the endorsement of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee as its aldermanic candidate, Paulson and committee members continued their criticisms of the fairness of the endorsement process. Meanwhile, Montano and other members of the committee said that controversy and allegations of wrongdoing in the weeks leading up to the convention were harmful.
Healey defeated his older and more experienced opponents despite admitting numerous times that he could not answer questions because he was unfamiliar with the issues. Several on the committee have said Healey’s stated willingness to learn was a positive attribute, but others said there may have been other factors.
“I think the fact that a lot of ward committee members were similarly uneducated on the issues played in the favor of someone who was able to admit his own shortcomings,” Paulson said.
Paulson’s criticisms of the process extended further. He said his concern about politically motivated activities by major figures in the process were the cause of his decision Friday night to temporarily drop out of the race. Although he returned Sunday after his unopposed renomination in the committee restored some of his confidence in the committee, he said he would support a change in the law ending party conventions if the alternative was a process like this year’s.
Ward 9 Alderman Gerald Garcia ’94 SOM ’01, a Paulson supporter, said that parts of the process seemed unusual, particularly the fact that full ward committee lists were not turned in until just weeks before the convention — a step Garcia said usually would have been taken in spring 2000. Garcia stressed that while he did not think any rules were broken, the lack of availability of a complete committee list to the candidates was irregular.
Rob Smuts ’01, who organized the ward committee, said a list was turned in at the appropriate time and vacancies were later filled by the committee co-chairs.
Montano said Healey, as a relative political outsider, benefited from a negative atmosphere created by criticims of the process made by committee members and others in the weeks leading up to the convention.
“It certainly cast a shadow over the activities,” Montano said. “It may have created biases beforehand.”
Candace McKinley ’03, who supported Montano in the first round of voting, agreed that a contentious process was a factor. She said Montano lost because of the personal feelings of individual committee members rather than because of any clear superiority on Healey’s part.
Montano said one reason the pre-endorsement criticisms were harmful was because they diminished the validity of the endorsement process.
But Abbey Hudson ’03, Paulson’s successor as president of the Yale College Democrats, said it was good that people were able to think critically about the process.
“I think what the controversy did was to ensure that no one walked out of that room thinking that it was a coronation,” Hudson said.
Jacob Remes ’02, a Healey supporter, said he thought Healey won because a majority of people on the committee thought he would be the best alderman. He said the endorsement would only carry weight in a possible primary election in September if the members of the committee rally behind Healey.
Healey said he thought he won because he showed an openness and willingness to work with others, and said the endorsement should be taken at face value.
“I think the weight of the endorsement is that 50 very smart, very political and very involved Yale students decided that I was the best candidate for this job,” Healey said. “I’m not taking for granted that that means the rest of Ward 1 will do the same.”