Thanks to an impromptu campus visit by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a few more freshmen now know who represents New Haven in Congress.
DeLauro came to Yale Sunday afternoon to speak to the Yale College Democrats before they set out for a few hours of canvassing dorm rooms to rally support for Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is facing a tight race against Republican Tom Foley. Seeing the crowd assembled in Old Campus for the annual Freshman Barbeque, DeLauro, a Democrat, decided to go meet some of her newest constituents.
“I said ‘Wow, I’m stunned at the number of people that came to canvas,’” DeLauro said of her initial reaction to the gathering on Old Campus — which she figured was the Yale Dems.
Accompanied by Yale Dems President Rebecca Ellison ’15, DeLauro marched past smoky grills and booming speakers to introduce herself to groups of freshmen. Most of them had never seen or heard of the politician, who is known in Connecticut and in Washington, D.C. as one of the most liberal members of Congress. Facing a poorly funded Republican challenger — former high school math teacher James Brown — DeLauro is likely to win a 13th term in the House of Representatives this November.
Carlin Hudson ’18, Hannah Coy ’18 and Kristina Kim ’18 were eating hamburgers when DeLauro approached them. She asked where they were from and how they were adjusting to Yale and urged them to engage with New Haven.
Interviewed after DeLauro walked away, all three said they were glad for the chance to meet her, but had no idea she represented New Haven in Congress until meeting her.
“We all just got here a month ago,” Hudson said.
DeLauro spent about 15 minutes mingling with students. Not every freshman was unaware of her reputation.
Will McGrew ’18 was on his way to get in the line for burgers and hotdogs when he saw the woman he calls his “idol.” The New Orleans native became familiar with DeLauro when he was working for Planned Parenthood back home — the congresswoman is one of Congress’s strongest supporters of reproductive rights. He shook her hand and thanked her for her work in the House of Representatives.
“I love her,” McGrew said. “She fights against all kinds of attempts to cut family planning funding. She’s literally one of the most important people in Congress.”
To most of McGrew’s classmates, however, DeLauro’s name means little. Of 60 freshmen surveyed on Old Campus after DeLauro’s visit, just two said they knew who represents New Haven in Congress.
DeLauro said her lack of wide name-recognition at Yale doesn’t bother her, but she hopes students will take time to learn about issues affecting New Haven and Connecticut.
“I understand the ties to home, but where you live and the quality of life where you live is important as well,” DeLauro said.
In a brief speech to the Dems just after she arrived on campus, DeLauro thanked the organization for providing her with the opportunity to meet students. She also praised the Democratic Party more broadly.
“Fundamentally, people believe the government has the opportunity to make a difference, and that’s where Democrats are on the issues,” she said.
She also noted that election day is only two weeks away, leaving a crucial window of time for candidates to make their case to voters. Though she said she is confident Malloy will retain his office, a poll released by Quinnipiac University on Oct. 8 found him locked in a dead heat with Foley.
Of the 60 freshmen surveyed, 22 could name Malloy as Connecticut’s governor.
While DeLauro spoke to freshmen on Old Campus, the team of about 15 canvassers from the Yale Dems spread out across residential colleges to visit the suites of registered Connecticut Democrats and urge support for Malloy.
Jackie Qiu ’18 estimated she knocked on between 40 and 50 doors. Only about 10 people were home to hear the Dems’ pitch, but Qiu said those who were home were responsive. Qui, who is from Ann Arbor, Mich., said she was not surprised that so few of her classmates had heard of DeLauro and Malloy.
“It’s really easy to get absorbed in the Yale bubble,” Qiu said. “It’s understandable.”
DeLauro represents Connecticut’s 3rd District, which includes New Haven, Middletown and Stratford.