Understandably, many New Haven voters are focusing their attention outside the Elm City this Election Day. With the prospect of down-to-the-wire races for electoral votes in states like Ohio and Florida, not to mention recounts and legal challenges, the few local races on the ballot have become lost in the shuffle. But while the top of the ticket offers an important and historical choice — as we will discuss later this week — the rest of the ballot merits our attention, too. In particular, we believe local voters should re-elect three candidates facing challengers Nov. 2:

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd is one of the most popular political figures in Connecticut, and with good reason. For more than two decades, Dodd has offered a charismatic and effective voice for Connecticut in the U.S. Senate while emerging as a powerful figure in the national Democratic Party. On issues from family and medical leave to voting rights, Dodd has sponsored landmark legislation, and he serves as a high-ranking member on some of the Senate’s most important committees. Connecticut Republicans have put little effort towards challenging Dodd this year, and their candidate, businessman Jack Orchulli, has not succeeded in explaining why Dodd should not remain in office for at least another six years.

Likewise, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro offers a combination of experience and effectiveness that has served New Haven well in Washington. For the second straight election, DeLauro is facing a challenge from local business owner Richter Elser ’81. DeLauro safely won in 2002 with two-thirds of the vote, and Elser, along with Green Ralph Ferrucci, has had even more trouble this year mounting a challenge against the incumbent. It is not hard to see why, as neither offers a compelling reason to unseat DeLauro. Our only major complaint about the veteran congresswoman is that she could do more to build a relationship with the Yale campus; DeLauro sometimes appears to do little to interact with the University except criticize its labor policies. But DeLauro has otherwise been good for Connecticut’s 3rd District, and New Haven would be well-served by sending her back to Washington.

In the course of her brief political career, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01 has had surprising success challenging New Haven Democrats. In 2001, the Green Party member shocked many in the city by winning her current aldermanic seat, and she is trying to accomplish a similar feat this year against incumbent State Rep. Toni Walker, who represents an area that includes off-campus housing for many Yalies. But Chen, who is running to the left of one of the General Assembly’s most liberal legislators, has developed neither the record as an alderwoman nor the platform as a candidate to deserve a seat in Hartford. Chen does an admirable job, as she often points out, of organizing the grassroots, but that does not make up for what we see as her failure to articulate a rationale for her candidacy.

Still, although we are unimpressed by Chen’s campaign, we are pleased to see at least one competitive race on the ballot in New Haven. In what is effectively a one-party town, it is no surprise to see so many politicians win election after election without facing a serious challenge. Maybe a little more local competition will give the bottom of the ticket the attention it deserves.