With vote tallies in from Democratic primaries across the city, Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield declared his candidacy for president of the Board of Aldermen last night and announced enough endorsements to make victory likely when a new board convenes next January.
Meanwhile, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01, who backs current President Jorge Perez over Goldfield, pulled through yesterday in a tight race against a challenger endorsed by Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who supports Goldfield.
At the Ward 2 polling place in Dixwell last night, the raucous chants of dozens of Chen supporters, mostly children, filled the air in the hour before polls closed in the ward’s primary. The chants escalated to screams of joy as the vote tally was announced, revealing that Chen had topped her opponent, Gina Calder ’03, by a mere 21 votes.
“Ain’t no party like a Joyce Chen party, ’cause the Joyce Chen party don’t stop,” the kids chanted, while running up to hug and congratulate their alderwoman.
Later in the evening, Goldfield announced his candidacy for the presidency of the Board of Aldermen at a party for aldermanic candidates supported by DeStefano, putting himself up against Perez. If the 17 aldermanic candidates who have endorsed him, including Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07, are victorious in November’s municipal elections, Goldfield will hold a sufficient majority on the 30-member board to secure the position.
Goldfield said he is running for the aldermanic presidency in order to change what he described as the board’s current “reactive” status. In particular, he said he would like to see the Board of Aldermen take action on public financing for municipal elections and new environmental initiatives. In his speech, he referred to the presidential election as almost a done deal, saying, “I look forward to a great transition.”
Though many of his supporters will not face serious opposition in November, Goldfield’s victory is not yet guaranteed. In Ward 1, which includes residents of Old Campus and seven residential colleges, Livengood is being challenged by independent candidate Nick Shalek ’05, who has not decided whom he would support for the position.
In addition, Chen, who supports Perez, said she sees a faction developing on the board of people whom she describes as independent voices rather than “rubber stamps” for the mayor. She said she and some of her colleagues hope to put forward independent challengers in some of the wards in which she feels the current aldermen are not serving their constituents. In particular, she mentioned Ward 28 Alderwoman Babz Rawls-Ivy, who campaigned for Calder at the polls yesterday, as a potential target.
Chen said she thought Perez was being challenged at DeStefano’s request as a result of Perez’s vote against the mayor on a city contracting issue last year.
But Goldfield and Rob Smuts ’01, DeStefano’s deputy chief of staff, firmly denied that the mayor had anything to do with Goldfield’s decision to seek the presidency.
“There’s dissatisfaction with the current leadership on the board, which is why all these aldermen have endorsed me already,” Goldfield said. “This came from the bottom up, from the Board of Aldermen.”
Goldfield emphasized that he did not intend to create division on the board, saying that he was committed to working with all its members. Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susie Voigt said she did not feel that Goldfield’s candidacy would cause a rift among the city’s Democrats.
“Both [Goldfield and Perez] really understand the fullness of this responsibility,” she said. “I think it’s about trying to move forward together.”
Livengood said she met with both Goldfield and Perez before coming to a decision based on their policy agendas. She said the candidates’ relationships with the mayor were not an issue in her decision.
“I was just really impressed with Carl’s dedication to the working class, to women’s issues and to queer issues,” she said.
Shalek said that if elected, he would be open to talking with both candidates before making a decision about whom to support, but he questioned Livengood’s motives for siding with Goldfield.
“I’m not surprised to see that Rebecca made a deal with the mayor, it sounds like,” Shalek said. “One of the reasons I ran in this race is because I wanted to stay very independent of all these machine politics, which I think Rebecca is being caught up in.”
The aldermanic presidency may become particularly important given DeStefano’s current campaign for governor. If the mayor were elected to state office and were to leave office before the end of his term, the aldermanic president would step in to fill his post, a position that would facilitate a subsequent mayoral run.
Goldfield acknowledged that the potential for the aldermanic president to serve as mayor may have influenced some of his supporters to endorse him for the position.
“I think it would be exciting to be mayor,” Goldfield said.
In other wards, Alphonse Paolillo and Jacqueline James fended off challenges from candidates endorsed by DeStefano. But the Board of Aldermen will likely see at least three new faces this year: Ward 13 Alderwoman Rosa Santana lost her primary against DeStefano-endorsed challenger Alex Rhodeen; Shirley Ellis-West lost to Gerald Antunes by seven votes, a margin so slim that a mandatory recount will be held; and Michelle Edmonds-Sepulveda won the primary in Ward 30, where Barbara Gorham-Walker did not seek reelection.
— Additional reporting by Christina Pryor and Christopher Young.
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