“You made a difference this year,” the head of Connecticut’s Democratic Committee Nancy DiNardo told the Yale College Democrats on Monday night.

DiNardo, speaking to an audience of 19 students at the group’s weekly meeting, praised the College Democrats for focusing on local issues in addition to national politics. DiNardo said the work of Yale students was crucial in winning both statewide and municipal elections this past November. Last year’s election saw a number of tight races — in the state’s second district, for instance, where Democrat Joe Courtney defeated his Republican opponent Rob Simmons by just 83 votes.

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DiNardo praised the Yale Dems’ efforts to effect change on the local level, telling her audience that though city and state races attract lower voter turnout, local representatives and officials are often the most responsive to the public. City politics, DiNardo added, can also be more colorful than national politics.

“All big city politics are, let’s say, interesting,” DiNardo said. “You have large groups of interesting people with different opinions in different factions.”

Students not only can influence the issues that local politicians confront, but can also determine which candidates run for these positions in the first place, DiNardo said. DiNardo told her audience that in looking for candidates, state Democratic leaders focus less on a candidate’s positions and more on their willingness to run, so the promise of student support can help convince local figures to run for office. When DiNardo pointed out that students themselves can run, she prompted laughter from audience members who noticed the presence of Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Rachel Plattus ’09.

Several members of the Dems present at the meeting said they agreed with DiNardo’s emphasis on local politics.

But Sarah Turbow ’10, the organization’s membership coordinator, said Yale students are not necessarily interested in city and state politics when they first get to campus.

“People at Yale come and they only are really committed about national politics,” Turbow said. “One of the important things is to get people involved in local politics where we can really make a difference.”

College Democrats President Eric Kafka ’08 said he appreciated DiNardo’s acknowledgement of students’ role in local and state politics.

In her talk, DiNardo also touched on a number of issues presently facing Democrats in Connecticut and throughout the country. DiNardo expressed her disappointment in Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who DiNardo said has not yet offered a compelling vision for the state. DiNardo also expressed her support for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign, applauding the senator’s extensive experience in national politics and his hardworking, “average person” image.

DiNardo also mentioned reports that former New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter ’06 is considering running against Rep. Chris Shays in the 2008 elections.