The Ward 1 Democratic Committee will convene today to endorse an aldermanic candidate, who will likely emerge as the favorite to win a seat on the New Haven Board of Aldermen.
After questioning the candidates this evening, the committee will select Rebecca Livengood ’07 or Dan Weeks ’06 to receive their endorsement to represent Ward 1, which includes seven of Yale’s residential colleges. The candidate not awarded the endorsement, however, will still have the option of running in a primary or in the general election.
Most committee members said they have met individually with the two, though discussing the candidates as a group may still sway some, committee co-chair Nazneen Mehta ’06 said. The committee has not yet voiced overwhelming support for either of the candidates and many members said their final endorsements will depend on a range of issues. Committee co-chair Amia Srinivasan ’07 said the 41-person committee — consisting of any registered voters who showed interest before the winter deadline — is looking for specific qualities in the aldermanic candidates.
“On the one hand, there are policy issues that are very important to these members,” she said. “On the other, they are concerned with finding a person who will be effective on the board.”
Some members, however, said they see the committee’s endorsement as an unnecessary step, advocating a direct primary system, which may be more publicly visible.
“I think a lot of people associate committee nominations with back-room politicking and smoke and mirrors,” committee member Bill Strom ’05 said.
Several said they see the composition of the committee as problematic in this particular race.
Erica Franklin ’05, who supports Weeks, said she thinks tomorrow’s endorsement will be a “numbers game,” heavily dependent on Livengood’s ties to the Undergraduate Organizing Committee.
“I heard through the grapevine that it is going to depend on how many UOC members are on the committee,” she said. “It’s too bad that the [Ward 1] Committee is such a small microcosm of the school that it could just boil down to loyalties that would make no difference if it was open to the entire student body.”
At least nine committee members are active UOC members.
Though Committee member Nick Seaver ’07 is on the UOC, he said this affiliation will not influence his vote.
“This is more about issues than about what groups you’re in,” he said. “Saying there are a lot of UOC members is like saying there are a lot of people who are for financial aid reform. Dan supports financial aid reform. UOC doesn’t mean ‘vote Rebecca.'”
In addition, Seaver pointed out several flaws in the idea of having a primary system. Candidates would only have a few weeks to campaign after students return to school. In addition, he said, the candidates’ platforms have appreciable differences to the committee members but appear virtually identical to the larger student body, and a more public campaign would lose nuance, giving way to the “ridiculous liberal” versus “more experienced” labels he said have been misleadingly applied to the candidates.
“I don’t really have sympathy for the view that people are feeling disenfranchised by the committee process because it’s very easy to enfranchise yourself,” he said. “The people who are involved with this system are extraordinarily qualified and excited to make this decision.”
Jesse Pizarro ’06 said, however, he is on the committee because he got an e-mail saying he had missed its first meeting, though he said he never expressed any formal interest in it.
Pizarro said he is a relatively indifferent voter and neither candidate was able to answer his questions on “nuts and bolts issues” such as taxes, revenues and budgets.
“I don’t know a lot about the process, which I guess is somewhat telling,” he said. “But I definitely got the feeling from the beginning that there was an establishment choice and then someone else. It’s basically all Livengood all the time.”
Terelle Hairston ’06 said rumors the committee is leaning one way or another are just hearsay.
“For every time I’ve heard someone say it’s leaning toward Rebecca, I’ve heard someone say it’s leaning toward Dan,” he said.
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