Vinay Nayak ’14 is no longer the only candidate for Ward 1 Alderman.
Sarah Eidelson ’12 transformed a hitherto uncontested race by announcing Sunday that she will run for the seat. The Bala Cynwyd, Penn. native and rising Jonathan Edwards senior said she has committed to staying in New Haven after graduation whether or not her aldermanic campaign is successful.
“I’m running because I really want to live in a New Haven where government works for all the people who live here, and I want to stay here to make that happen because I know that it’s possible,” Eidelson said in an interview Sunday.
Eidelson said she has been involved in activism both on and off campus during her three years at Yale. She was a driving force of a student-led campaign protesting the University’s decision last February to increase the self-help portion of financial aid packages by $400. Last summer, on a fellowship from Dwight Hall, she registered New Haven voters in the Dwight, Dixwell, West River and Newhallville neighborhoods, and this summer she worked on an aldermanic campaign in Ward 18.
One experience that kindled her aldermanic ambitions, she said, was the We Are One rally she helped organize in March. Over 100 Yale students joined about 1,000 New Haven residents in the labor union-. church- and student-organized march on City Hall to show solidarity with New Haven’s poor and unemployed. It was the largest single protest the city saw during a year marked by many political demonstrations.
While their backgrounds differ widely, it is not yet clear how — or how much — the candidates, who are separated by two years, will distinguish themselves on matters of policy.
Eidelson said she agrees with Nayak’s declaration in April that “what’s good for Yale is good for New Haven, and vice versa,” though she added that town-gown issues are “more complicated than that.”
On City Hall matters, about which Nayak has so far demurred, Eidelson did not hesitate to offer her opinions. Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s fiscal policy has unfairly targeted low-income city employees, she said, noting that the average salary of city workers far exceeds that of the average employee the city laid off in February.
“Of course, with the state the economy is in, budgeting is extraordinarily difficult, but it’s important that when cuts need to be made, they be made at all levels,” she said.
Nayak said he and members of his campaign are currently working on several proposals addressing workplace discrimination, government accountability, economic development, education and public safety, which they will roll out in the coming weeks.
Stopping short of embracing any particular view of what the Ward 1 alderman’s role ought to be, Nayak instead said he hopes to learn from Ward 1 voters — almost exclusively undergraduates on Old Campus and eight residential colleges — what they want in their alderman. Many on campus have either argued that the Ward 1 alderman should strive to address the day-to-day concerns of Yale students or that he or she should fight for broader causes, a dichotomy Eidelson said does not exist.
“Like all aldermen, a good Ward 1 alderman has to fight for his or her constituents, and that does mean taking care of the small things, but taking on the big things is exactly what it means to fight for Ward 1,” she said. “As long as Yale graduates don’t want to stay in New Haven, and as long as students come to Yale in spite of rather than because of New Haven, then government isn’t working for us, so you really have to do both.”
Eidelson said she has made her dedication to New Haven clear through her actions — staying in the city for two summers and now running for a position that would keep her there through Dec. 2013 if she is elected.
While Eidelson’s campaign is in its nascent stage, Nayak has already assembled a team of 15 staffers, three of whom are current or former board members of the Yale College Democrats. Nayak said he has been campaigning by phone and email over the summer while structuring his campaign and developing policy proposals.
Nayak and Eidelson have met only once, though each said they look forward to two months of intense campaigning once the academic year starts in just over two weeks.
“I’m anticipating the start of a great conversation,” said Nayak, who came to Yale from Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and worked as a policy assistant on the Board of Aldermen last year.
Though they are both Democrats, Nayak and Eidelson will run as independents in the Nov. 8 general election, in accordance with the Ward 1 Democratic Committee’s request. Because the Democratic primary is Sept. 13 — leaving only two weeks for candidates to mount campaigns and freshmen to get acquainted with the city in the fall — the committee asked Democrats to run only in the general election.
Nayak and Eidelson are the only two candidates who have officially registered with a party in Ward 1, but write-in campaigns are still possible.