As the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s March 23 aldermanic endorsement vote approaches, some observers and committee members have raised concern that the committee’s composition may have an undue impact on the outcome of the vote.
The committee’s organizers made it their goal for the current aldermanic endorsement process to avoid the type of controversy that has clouded endorsements in past years, in particular by creating an open process and inviting all registered Democrats in the ward to join. Nonetheless, several committee members said they were concerned about connections between committee members and aldermanic candidate Rebecca Livengood ’07, potentially giving her an edge over her opponent, Dan Weeks ’06.
The main source of controversy is the number of committee members who are affiliated with the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, the group Livengood has worked with at Yale. Livengood said only about six of the committee’s 41 members regularly attend UOC meetings, but several committee members said they were concerned that a significantly higher proportion of the committee has had ties with UOC.
“I think that there is a tendency to feel oppressed by a group that is actually in the minority when it seems threatening,” Livengood said. “It has really been exaggerated.”
But one committee member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that higher estimates, around one-third of committee members, are more accurate. She said the situation makes it “nearly impossible” for Weeks to get a fair shot at winning the committee’s endorsement.
“I’ve attended UOC meetings in the past, and I’d say those numbers are pretty accurate,” she said. “I don’t see how Dan can win the way it’s stacked at this point.”
Weeks said he was “absolutely committed” to working through the committee endorsement process.
“I respect the committee process,” Weeks said. “I trust that they will give me a good hearing even if they didn’t know me as well to begin with.”
Ward 1 Democratic Committee co-chair Nazneen Mehta ’06 said she was not concerned about the committee’s composition. She said she was confident everyone on the committee was a committed Democrat who would make an independent decision based on his or her perception of who would best represent the ward on the Board of Aldermen.
“I would say it’s completely fair,” she said. “The committee members are going to have to make a choice for themselves … I don’t think it’s fair to pigeonhole any of these people because they’re affiliated with a particular organization.”
Committee member Roger Low ’07 said he hoped the committee members would vote objectively, but he is concerned that there is no large campus organization like the UOC backing Weeks, who has primarily worked with groups that are less influential on the committee, like Students for Clean Elections and the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project. Low said he thinks both Levengood and Weeks are strong candidates who should be on an equal footing before the committee.
“I just worry that Dan doesn’t have a base of support that he can draw from the way Rebecca does, and I don’t think that’s fair,” Low said. “I think that the way that the race is going, Rebecca has an advantage, and I think that Dan’s too strong a candidate for her to have the advantage she has.”
At least two members have also said they are concerned that Livengood has close personal ties with some on the committee and is dating committee member Josh Eidelson ’06.
Livengood said she did not ask Eidelson to step down from the committee because he has been serving on it since before the two met. In contrast, when one of her roommates, Caroline Howe ’07, was asked to join the committee this year, Livengood said she and Howe decided together that it would be best for Howe to turn down the position.
Eidelson could not be reached for comment last night.