In the wake of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s aldermanic endorsement, Democratic leaders in the ward are split on the question of whether or not a primary challenge would be beneficial to the party.
Dan Weeks ’06, who lost the committee’s endorsement to Rebecca Livengood ’07, has not yet decided if he will challenge Livengood in a Democratic primary or general election. Several campus leaders have suggested a primary race would serve to raise awareness of the city’s political issues among Yalies, but Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said it is time for the Democratic Party to unite behind Livengood and present a strong front against a potential challenger from another party.
“I think it’s important to unite around a really strong progressive candidate and get [Livengood] elected by a wide margin over whoever the Republicans might put up,” he said.
According to several Weeks supporters, Weeks stands a better chance of winning in a campus-wide vote than on the Ward 1 Committee, which consists in large part of political activists from the ward.
“He was able to rally a number of students around clean elections, students who normally haven’t had that much involvement in politics,” one Weeks supporter, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “This is indicative of his ability to reach out to a wide array of students at Yale and not just the traditional base of students that are already involved.”
Livengood said she looks forward to discussing her agenda with all the ward’s voters, most of whom she feels share her views on the major issues in the race.
“I value my connection to lots of groups on campus, and I think the ideals I’ve worked on are popularly supported,” she said.
Weeks acknowledged some concerns about running in a primary. For now, he said he would like to focus on continuing his efforts to lobby for elections reform, work that he said has been on the back burner while he has been campaigning for the aldermanic endorsement. In addition, the primary vote would take place in early September, leaving roughly two weeks to campaign after students arrive on campus for the fall semester.
“I am absolutely unsure what I will do,” Weeks said. “I’ve been encouraged by many people today expressing dissatisfaction with the process and urging me to continue. It’s nice to have that encouragement, but again it would be a very major undertaking.”
Livengood said she would welcome a primary race, particularly in light of concerns that surfaced about whether the committee process was sufficiently democratic. However, she said she hopes a primary contest would not involve personal attacks that could damage the nominee’s credibility in the general election.
“I certainly think the primary is a viable option,” she said. “But I would like to see if there is a primary, a clean campaign.”
Healey said he told both Weeks and Livengood early on in the process that his support would go to whoever won the Ward 1 Democratic Committee endorsement.
“My hope would be that [Weeks] join with the rest of us in supporting Rebecca now,” he said.
But Yale College Democrats president Alissa Stollwerk ’06 said she feels primary races can play an important role in politics.
“I definitely think the Ward 1 Committee has an important role in the process, but I don’t think it’s the only role,” she said. “What’s important is that the Democratic Party be strong and united for a general challenge.”
Ward 22 Democratic Committee co-chair Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, who has been a vocal Livengood supporter, said a primary race could have the welcome effect of encouraging students to get involved in New Haven politics. Rosenberg is a columnist for the News.
“I think that if there is someone who wants to challenge in a primary or general election, that’s great,” she said. “It means more participation, more discussion.”