With the Ward 1 Democratic primary just over a week away, candidates are emphasizing freshman outreach as part of their last-minute campaign strategies.
The three candidates in the race — Democrats Sarah Eidelson ’12 and Fish Stark ’17, along with Republican Ugonna Eze ’16 — have all been active on campus in recent days, manning stands at the Extracurricular Bazaar on Sunday and going from door to door. For Eidelson and Stark, the rush to spread their messages is increasingly urgent, while Eze has been able to run a more relaxed campaign, with two months remaining until the general election.
On a hot, cloudless Saturday afternoon, members of Stark’s team went door-to-door in Vanderbilt and Welch Halls. Stark said they had already canvassed some of the rooms the week before, but they were trying to make sure all freshmen heard their message.
Sergio Lopez-Valdez ’18, the campaign manager, and Sean Nelson, a resident of nearby Milford and student at High School in the Community in New Haven, made a simple pitch to freshmen during the canvas. Lopez-Valdez introduced himself and briefly outlined Stark’s major areas of emphasis, while Nelson spoke about the roots of his own support for Stark. They also encouraged students to register to vote, and handed out voter registration forms to those who needed them.
“Why I’m volunteering out of my time this weekend is that Fish actually cares about the youth,” Nelson said. “He’ll push for the issues that matter to the youth.”
One aspect of the race went unsaid during the pitch: Stark’s opponent, the incumbent Eidelson. In between stops, Lopez-Valdez said most freshmen he has met seem not to know about Eidelson or her bid for re-election.
When Eidelson did come up in a conversation, Lopez-Valdez made sure to emphasize that Stark was the only current Yale student running in the primary.
“It’s a seat traditionally held by a student,” he said. Nelson underscored that Stark supports policies that help youth, and “the person currently in the position hasn’t been doing it.”
Many of Stark’s student volunteers on the weekend, though, rose to prominence through a system that Eidelson worked to institute. Caroline Ricardo and Martin Clark, a senior and junior respectively at New Haven schools, both ran for the two student seats on the Board of Education in the spring. As chairman of the Youth Services Committee, Eidelson has directed the establishment of those seats, making it one of her prime foci as alder.
Eidelson has championed other areas of youth policy as well. Under her direction, the Youth Services Committee poured nearly half a million dollars into community centers around the city, allowing them to make sorely needed renovations.
Like her Democratic opponent, Eidelson has campaigned since students arrived back on campus. She and her campaign team were knocking on doors and registering voters on Old Campus on freshman move-in day, and similar operations have continued since, with her team canvassing the residential colleges and distributing literature.
“The vast majority of people I’ve talked to are excited to register and to learn about where they live and get involved,” she said. “That’s been great to see.”
For Eze, the sole Republican candidate in the race, Stark’s and Eidelson’s form of campaigning is unnecessary at the moment: He still has two months until the general election.
In the Pierson common room last week, Eze said he has so far run a relaxed campaign based on “organic interactions” with students. Eze runs the gamut of Yale extracurriculars, from the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union to the Hip-Hop Collective. He said he has leveraged his extracurricular involvement as a means to meet as many students, especially freshmen, as possible. His wide range of activities, he said, lets him “resonate” with many different types of people across campus.
“We’re not trying to reach out to people who are from political families or are already super-involved in politics,” he said. “We’re trying to reach out to people who aren’t involved, who typically wouldn’t vote.”
He criticized Stark and Eidelson for their aggressive campaigning throughout the first days of college. Describing Camp Yale as a “very special time,” he said he doesn’t want to “compromise it with politics.”
Instead, Eze said he will continue to pursue his strategy of casual conversations with voters in a non-political context throughout the immediate future.