Ugonna Eze ’16 will run for Ward 1 alder as a Republican candidate this November.
His entrance will make the contest for the Ward 1 seat a three-candidate race. At roughly 11 p.m., a Facebook page for Eze’s candidacy went live. Fish Stark ’17 and current Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 declared their candidacies earlier in the spring.
Eze, a Global Affairs major in Pierson College, has spent time in New Haven advising students at Hillhouse High School on issues affecting black teenagers.
“A lot of Yalies have a white knight complex,” Eze said. “They see themselves as saviors of New Haven. I really want to encourage Yalies to see ourselves as part of this city.”
Eze, the current speaker of the Yale Political Union and a member of the Black Men’s Union, has selected Amalia Halikias ’15 as his campaign manager and Reed Dibich ’17 as communications director. The role of campaign manager will turn over, Eze said, when Halikias graduates.
Bronx native Eze said that, while he is still in the process of developing his platform, he will focus on improving education and rates of homelessness and crime in the city.
“My decision [to run] was informed by my three years at Yale and my experiences growing up,” Eze said. “I grew up in a part of New York that is very similar to New Haven in its issues.”
He added that he does not yet know whether or not he will campaign in New Haven this summer. This will depend, Eze said, on whether or not he finds a way to fulfill the student effort portion of his financial aid package while staying in the city.
Halikias added that Eze has the potential to bring “real change” to the city.
“He is the only person I know who is able to act as a bridge between completely different communities,” Halikias said. “When he speaks, people listen. That’s what this ward needs.”
At the outset of their campaigns, Stark and Eidelson — the latter of whom will be running for her third consecutive term — both said they would run as independents in the general election in November. But Eze’s announcement has thrown that into flux.
In an interview with the News, Stark said he plans to run in the Democratic primary on Sept. 16.
“I commit to abiding by the results of a Democratic primary, and I hope that Sarah will agree to do the same,” he said. “The Ward 1 alder really needs to be a Democrat, and we don’t need a three-way race. I think come November, it should be one Democrat and one Republican.”
Stark added that he believes the Ward 1 alder should be “substantially” connected both to campus and the city, and he feels he is the best candidate in the race to strike that balance.
Eidelson could not be reached for comment by press time.
Tyler Blackmon ’16, the president of the Yale College Democrats and a columnist for the News, said Eze’s entry will entirely change the dynamic of the race. He said he was “blindsided” by Eze’s announcement.
“A Democrat will work much better with the existing Board of Alders,” Blackmon said. “Ugonna doesn’t have very much experience in New Haven at all. Either Sarah or Fish would do much better in the role.”
In the case of a primary, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee will have the power to make an endorsement in the race, according to Ward 1 Co-chair Jacob Wasserman ’16. Should the committee choose to make an endorsement, the endorsed candidate will appear on the first line of the primary ballot.
Blackmon added that the Dems will support whoever wins the primary. Before Eze’s announcement, he had said the Dems would not formally support Stark or Eidelson.
Eze is the second Republican candidate to run for Ward 1 alder since 1993. Paul Chandler ’14 unsuccessfully ran against Eidelson in 2013; he won roughly 35 percent of the vote.