Greg Morehead, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate in the four-way race for Ward 22 alderman, threatened to sue his opponent, Cordelia Thorpe, for slander.
Morehead left a message on Ward 22 co-chairwoman Thorpe’s home answering machine this weekend in which he said that she has been spreading lies about him. Thorpe has also been distributing versions of articles from local newspapers which she altered in a way that Morehead said was unfair and disingenuous. Thorpe denied the slander claim, saying she has only attacked the Democratic Party’s nominating process, which she said “disenfranchised” voters.
Thorpe’s alleged slander, Morehead said, comes despite his call for a non-negative campaign in the April 16 special election, which was created following the resignation of former alderman Rev. Drew King.
“I’m hearing a lot of things from residents in the community that you’re saying a lot of things against me,” Morehead said in the voice message, which Thorpe played for the News. “If you continue to say things against me and say I’m a fraud and everything else — things that are not true — I will press charges against you.”
Morehead said in an interview that he will sue Thorpe for slander if hears about two more accounts of her spreading lies about him. Her allegations have included claims that Morehead is a fraud and that the city is blackmailing him to run, he said.
Thorpe laughed when discussing Morehead’s warning, saying she has not said “anything negative about him or anyone else in [the] United States of America.” She also suggested that Morehead should concede the election because he cannot take the heat that comes with campaigning and the scrutiny to which public officials are subject.
“He is inexperienced and incompetent and not ready to be alderman, but we do have spot on the ward committee for him,” Thorpe said. “I think Mr. Morehead needs to learn politics … As Harry Truman once said, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’”
Contacted Sunday, Morehead said he “had nothing to hide” about his message to Thorpe, calling her alleged tactics “unprofessional” and saying they are the result of what happens when “people get desperate” in political races.
“I just don’t like my name to be in things that aren’t true,” Morehead said. “I told her before — and she’ll try to switch things around — that if she has anything to say, tell me directly. Don’t go behind my back, because she knows the type of person I am, and I like to be straight up and honest with her. I would like that same respect in return.”
Thorpe has been passing out a New Haven Advocate article headlined, “Democracy Inaction,” but she has removed some of the information and quotes that brought balance to the piece. In the version of the article that Thorpe distributed, she removed five paragraphs, including all of Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Susie Voigt’s comments defending her decision to support Morehead in the party’s endorsement election. Voigt, following Connecticut Democratic Party rules, cast the tiebreaking vote to endorse Morehead in a process which Thorpe has criticized as unfair, as Voigt is not a resident of Ward 22.
Thorpe said she removed the lines so that they would fit on the page and that she “humbly” apologies if she broke the law in doing so. She said a Yale graduate told her that as long as the spirit of the article remained the same, it could be edited down.
Thorpe also distributed an edited version of a New Haven Register article about the race — “Morehead, Thorpe vie in Ward 22” — in which only the comments pertaining her own candidacy were included.
One of Thorpe’s close supporters, Carrie Ritter, said she has been with the candidate throughout all of her campaign efforts and she has not once heard Thorpe say anything — negative or positive — about her opponent other than that Morehead has two “beautiful children.” Thorpe clarified her statement to mean that she was joking about a photograph Morehead supplied to the media portraying himself with his wife and two children. She said the shot was picture perfect for running for political office.
But Yale College Democrats President Eric Kafka ’08, who endorsed Morehead, said he was disappointed by Thorpe’s conduct.
“I think it’s sad that Cordelia is spending a lot of her campaign being negative about Greg,” he said. “Let’s make this campaign about our visions for Dixwell.”
Thorpe’s platform focuses on issues of accountability in the ward and the city. She lists six specific planks on a piece of campaign literature, including statements that “no one seems to have the courage to stand up to the administration to hold them accountable,” that “democracy has been kidnapped” in New Haven and replaced by a “plantation style boss type political machine,” that aldermen will not speak out against New Haven Police Department failures “for fear of political retaliation” and that Mayor John DeStefano Jr. manages “through fear and intimidation rather than through inspired vision and competence.”
In his platform, Morehead, an entrepreneur and former drummer for Ludacris, calls for the city to open a 24-hour youth center in Ward 22 following the closing of the Dixwell Community Q House, visits by music producers to Ward 22 help children in the city expand artistically, greater economic development in the neighborhood and other initiatives to booster the relationship between the Ward, particularly its children, and Yale.
Also running in the race are Lisa Hopkins and Reggie Lytle. The deadline for mail-in registration for voting in the ward — which encompasses Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges — is today.