It was a summer of scuffles and possibly shady political deals for several new faces on the Board of Aldermen.
Early resignations by five aldermen brought on special elections and mayoral appointments across the city. New aldermen joined the board from Wards 1 and 7, which cover parts of the Yale campus, as well as from Wards 2, 18 and 9, where the Green Party won its first aldermanic seat in city history.
In Ward 2, which includes the Dwight neighborhood near campus, Linda Townsend-Maier was appointed interim alderman on Tuesday amid allegations of an unethical vote-exchange.
Interim aldermen serve until the end of December, when the winners of November’s citywide election will begin serving two-year terms. The primary Tuesday will be followed by a general election Nov. 6.
Townsend-Maier’s primary opponent, David Watts DIV ’03, accused her of agreeing to trade her vote in the Democratic Town Committee’s mayoral endorsement for Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s selection of her as interim alderman.
Townsend-Maier dismissed the accusations as “ludicrous.”
“I think he gives me too much credit,” she said Wednesday. “If my vote was that important, I would certainly have asked for more than an appointment to the Board of Aldermen.”
Julio Gonzalez ’99, DeStefano’s campaign manager, also scoffed at the allegations, saying the system set up in the city charter does not allow for such bargaining.
But Watts, a former DeStefano campaign worker, said he does not think anyone but Townsend-Maier had a chance because of her alleged deal with the mayor.
“When the three names got submitted to the mayor, she already had it locked up,” he said.
Townsend-Maier, who is also the Ward 2 Democratic co-chair, is filling the void left by Jelani Lawson ’96, who resigned in August to attend law school.
Earlier this summer, Ben Healey ’04 was appointed interim Ward 1 alderman in August after Gonzalez resigned to devote himself full-time to managing DeStefano’s re-election campaign.
Healey received the Ward 1 Democratic Committee endorsement — a formal vote of confidence which virtually paves a candidate’s way to the aldermanic seat — in a tense February meeting, but his appointment as interim alderman was not without controversy.
Under the city charter, the mayor selects replacements for aldermen who resign in the late stages of an election cycle. The ward committee of the resigning alderman’s party draws up a list of three names the mayor chooses from.
Healey was up against Michelle Mayorga ’03 in the quest for the interim appointment from the mayor.
Mayorga said that when she told Healey of her decision to challenge him, he offered her a deal: if she cancelled her primary run in September, he would not stand in the way of her appointment as interim alderman.
Just two days after she accepted the deal, however, Healey told her he had changed his mind, Mayorga said.
“I felt that we had an agreement that he then backed out of, whether he did that intentionally or not I couldn’t say,” Mayorga said, “but in that time I had lost the time to get my act together and organize myself.”
At the meeting where the list was drawn up, Gonzalez mentioned the deal and a “yelling match” ensued between several members of the committee, Mayorga said. Both Healey and Mayorga ended up on the list but the committee made it clear that Healey was their first choice, she added.
Healey did not divulge the details of his interaction with Mayorga.
“I’m not going to offer competing version of events,” Healey said. “There was confusion over what was going on with the fact that Julio stepped down suddenly, but I think we are coming together with this campaign.”
He stressed that he and Mayorga continue to work together on DeStefano’s re-election campaign.
Mayorga said she will follow through on her end of the bargain and not run in the primary.
Healey will likely face GOP candidate Brian Palmer ’03 in November.
In Ward 7, which includes Pierson and Davenport colleges, a June special election was called off after no one stepped forward to challenge labor activist Dolores Colon ’91. Colon is not facing any Democratic opponents.
The Board of Alderman welcomed a third-party candidate to its ranks when the Green Party’s John Halle won a special election in Ward 9.
Halle, an assistant professor in the Yale Department of Music, defeated Democrat Alexander Marathas and Republican Bill Lattanzi in the July special election. Former alderman Gerald Garcia ’94 SOM ’01 resigned to take a job in New York City.
Halle said he thought he met with success because New Haven voters are tired of a political system dominated by the Democratic Party.
“Even Democrats have been concerned with the inevitable stagnation that gets created when there is only a limited number of choices,” Halle said.
Halle will likely face Marathas and Republican Robert Anderson in the general election.
The fifth new alderman was Republican Arlene DePino, who replaced Justin Gargiulo Jr., also a Republican.
DePino, one of only two Republicans on the board, is being challenged by Democrat Susan Campion in November.