Fish Stark ’17 is formally investigating a run for Ward 1 alder.
Stark filed papers at the New Haven Hall of Records on Monday that formed an exploratory committee to investigate running for the seat on the city’s legislative body that represents the bulk of Yale College students. Although he said he has yet to decide whether he will run, Stark’s formation of an exploratory committee represents a major step towards a formal declaration. Hedy Gutfreund ’18, the communications director for the Yale College Democrats, will serve as the committee’s treasurer.
Sarah Eidelson ’12, the current Ward 1 alder, has not yet announced whether she will seek a third term in November. Both Stark and Eidelson are Democrats, and on Monday, Stark registered his exploratory committee under a Democratic party affiliation.
Eidelson could not be reached for comment.
A member of Jonathan Edwards College, Stark previously served as the membership coordinator for the Yale Dems, but is currently without a leadership position in the organization. Stark, hailing from a small town near Annapolis, Maryland, comes from a political background — his father, Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr., served as a member of Congress representing various districts in California for 40 years until he narrowly lost his seat in 2013.
Stark said he has spent recent weeks discussing the role of the Ward 1 alder in informal conversations with members of the Yale community. He added that the formation of the exploratory committee marks a “continuation of what we’ve been doing so far.”
“I just want to keep continuing those conversations,” Stark said. “This is a way of formalizing that, and of showing that we’re really serious about considering this possibility.”
If Stark does decide to run for alder as a Democrat and Eidelson also seeks a third term, the two will compete for the Democratic nomination later this year, said Jacob Wasserman ’16, co-chair of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee and vice president of the Dems.
He said the ward committee’s endorsement vote will take place before the end of the academic year. The candidate who wins the ward committee endorsement vote will appear on the top line of the primary ballot as the officially endorsed Democratic candidate.
But the Dems, an organization separate from the ward committee, will not endorse a candidate should both Stark and Eidelson run, said Tyler Blackmon ’16, president of the Dems and a columnist for the News. He said members of the Dems are free to support whomever they like, but the organization will make no official endorsement until after the primary. He also said the organization will still remain involved in the race by running voter registration drives and organizing debates between the candidates.
Gutfreund, the exploratory committee’s treasurer, said Stark would be a strong candidate for alder, but she emphasized that he has not yet made a decision on whether to run. As treasurer, Gutfreund said, she will handle all monetary issues relating to the committee, but she added that the campaign is not currently seeking financial support.
Stark said that, if he runs for alder, he will seek to foster a culture of community engagement among Yale students. He said his background as the Dems’ membership coordinator, a position in which he “worked to engage freshmen and get them to go out of the Yale bubble,” has prepared him well for the role of Ward 1 alder. Stark also emphasized that he feels the Ward 1 alder should be a current Yale student.
“It’s very important that we have an alder that is present, visible, vocal on campus, that is regularly engaging with group leaders, who is communicating with the student body through newsletters of social media,” Stark said. “And I think there’s an extent to which that role is best filled by someone who is a current student and has those connections on campus.”
In the fall of 2013, eighteen months after she had graduated, Eidelson defeated Republican challenger Paul Chandler ’14 to win a second term on the Board.
Stark has been heavily involved in the New Haven community since his arrival at Yale. Last summer, he taught classes to New Haven middle and high school students as a President’s Public Service Fellow at Squash Haven, a selective youth development program. As a commissioner on the New Haven Peace Commission — to which he was appointed earlier this year — he said he works to create a “culture of peace in the city” alongside “progressive” city leaders such as Alfred Marder, director of the Amistad Commission, and Joelle Fishman, a former congressional candidate for the Communist Party.
Stark said he has not yet met with Eidelson to discuss his prospective candidacy, but he plans to do so in the near future.
Amalia Halikias ’15, communications director for the Yale College Republicans, declined to comment on whether Stark’s move will affect the Republicans’ decision to run a candidate for alder.