Chandler Tweet

Photo from Twitter.

An odd incident in Paul Chandler ’14’s campaign for Ward 1 alderman suggests members of his campaign team may have mistakenly interpreted or misrepresented a meeting with U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio as an endorsement.  After an informal conversation in Trumbull College between Chandler and Portman, who was on campus visiting his son, the Chandler campaign put out a statement trumpeting Portman’s visit as an endorsement of Chandler in the local political race.

“This afternoon, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) endorsed Paul Chandler for Ward One Alderman,” the statement said.

Chandler, a Republican, is running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sarah Eidelson ’12 for the Ward 1 seat on the New Haven Board of Aldermen.

The campaign tweeted the news as well, linking to the press statement and writing that “@RobPortman — known for his bipartisan, moderate leadership in the Senate — endorsed Paul!!”

Following the News’ inquiries into the endorsement — including to Portman’s son — the statement was revised. It appears Portman did not endorse the local Republican candidate but merely met with him and offered encouraging words about Chandler’s political ideals.

The Senator, who was on the short list of potential running mates for Mitt Romney in 2012, “met with Paul Chandler, and applauded him on his work and vision for Ward One,” the revised statement said.

Chandler said he appreciated the opportunity to speak with the Senator but that the conversation did not relate to the central focus of his campaign: engaging Ward 1 voters about city politics.

“It wasn’t a formal event,” he told the News. “I got a chance to take a picture and talk to him a little bit. It’s not that important to what I’m trying to do.”

Amalia Halikias ’15, a spokesperson for Chandler’s campaign, said the senator has a policy of not endorsing local candidates out of state, and that the campaign “wanted to respect that even though we were really happy to have his support.”

Sterling Johnson ’15, Eidelson’s campaign treasurer, said the episode struck him as “bizarre” and a distraction from the substantive issues in the ward.

“It’s strange that they are lauding an endorsement from someone outside of New Haven,” Johnson said. “That says nothing about Paul’s credentials.”

Eidelson said she is proud of the endorsements she has received from within the city, including from mayoral candidate Toni Harp ARC ’78 and Ward 22 Alderman Jeanette Morrison. Eidelson declined to comment further.

But Halikias said those sorts of endorsements are not available to Chandler because “there is no equivalent of the union machine on the Republican side.”

Still, Halikias said, the campaign is trying to distinguish itself from the way students conceive of the Republican Party on a national scale.

“The future of the Republican Party and conservatism is kind of unknown on campus. Paul’s stances on various policies don’t line up 100 percent with the Republican Party,” she said. “We were aware that we might attract national press and national attention because we were getting at issues in a way that’s not very traditional for a Republican candidate.”

Ward 1 has not seen a Republican candidate since 1993.