Despite recent elections that favored Republicans nationwide, some New Haven Democrats are not wasting any time in preparing for the next round.
About 70 local Democrats gathered at Neat Lounge on Temple Street Wednesday night. They were there in support of the Greater New Haven Young Democrats, or GNHYD, a group which seeks mainly to increase political participation among people between the ages of 18 and 35 and to support young candidates and raise political awareness.
Guests included Democratic politicians from various parts of Connecticut as well as community members and Yale students interested in the GNHYD. While the event was partly a fund-raiser, its main goal was to provide an opportunity for guests to network and learn about the organization’s mission.
“There’s been such a drop-off in voter turnout and political participation by young people, it’s important to activate them on political issues,” said state Sen. Chris Murphy who was in attendance Wednesday night.
For a month prior to the fund-raiser, GNHYD organizers worked to orchestrate a gathering that would bring together leaders and community members of different ages so that they could meet and learn about the group.
“We wanted to get a diverse crowd for our first fund-raising event,” said Michelle Mitchell, who is in charge of fund-raising for the GNHYD.
Jesse Phillips Jr., president of the GNHYD, said the group has its leadership structure in place but has yet to actually recruit members. Membership drives are slated to begin at area colleges in December or January. Once they have engaged students and community members, leaders said they hope to register these voters, sponsor debates, and support statewide and national Democratic campaigns.
The GNHYD also wants to impact the policy of the Democratic party itself, with a focus on the interests of young voters. The effects of political issues on younger constituents were important to many of the people present at the fund-raiser.
“I think Yale students really don’t realize how much New Haven politics affect them,” Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 said. “Yale students tend to just think inside the gates.”
Phillips said the GNHYD also seeks to become involved with the Democratic party outside the immediate New Haven area. It is part of the Connecticut Young Democrats, an umbrella organization with five chapters throughout the state. While the New Haven chapter will be involved with local politics, it is also interested in building awareness of state and national issues.
Preparations for the next election at all levels of government are already in the works. Phillips said that the group hopes to collect $30,000 by means of monthly fund-raisers before the next mayoral election. Funds from the group will also be used in the future to support young candidates in particular, according to the group’s official list of objectives.
In future elections, the GNHYD will try to actively involve its members in helping Democratic candidates’ campaigns, with an emphasis on each member’s personal conviction rather than “playing party politics,” Phillips said.
“I think there are a lot of issues in politics that affect young people and that students should let their views be heard,” Jessica Scanlan GRD ’04 said.