With Democratic candidates Fish Stark ’17 and Sarah Eidelson ’12 locked in fierce competition just days before the Ward 1 primary, the campaign of Republican candidate Ugonna Eze ’16 is starting to ramp up.
Eze will face the winner of Wednesday’s primary in the general election on Nov. 3. Attended by close to 50 students — many of whom were members of Eze’s campaign — the event marked something of a turning point for Eze. Until now, he has maintained a relatively low-key presence on campus.
Eze and his team gathered on Old Campus Friday afternoon for their first public campaign event featuring volleyball, pizza and conversations about sustainability at Yale and in New Haven. At the event, Eze led a recycling audit in which campaign volunteers brought recycling bins from Old Campus and residential colleges and sorted through the materials to remove non-recyclable items. He collaborated with representatives from the Yale Student Environmental Coalition to teach attendees about single-stream recycling at Yale.
In a short speech at the event, Eze highlighted sustainability as a central issue on his campaign platform — an issue that Eze believes is critically important given New Haven’s role as a coastal city.
“Environmental issues are important because they’re existential questions, but they’re also questions of social justice,” Eze said. “Sustainability is relevant at a national, state and local level.”
Several policy ideas in Eze’s platform concern climate change, including advocating for LEED certification in all new buildings in New Haven and reorganizing bus routes to provide more direct routes from satellite neighborhoods to downtown. While the state currently has the authority to set bus routes, Eze said, if elected, he would seek to lobby the state government to give that authority to the city — an initiative that Eze said Mayor Toni Harp has championed.
While many of the attendees at the event were members of Eze’s campaign, the bulk of the unaffiliated attendees were freshmen. They came for a variety of reasons. Rosa Shapiro-Thompson ’19, for instance, said she came to the campaign event because she is an undecided voter.
“I definitely was scared off at first by the Republican label,” Shapiro-Thompson said. “But now I feel, meeting [Eze] and hearing his policies, that he would be good for the city.”
Trinh Truong ’19, also a freshman, has recently joined Eze’s campaign team as a field director. Truong, who initially got involved in the Ward 1 race canvassing for Stark, said she joined Eze’s team because she was more interested in the hands-on work involved in being a field director than canvassing. Truong said her responsibilities for Eze’s campaign included helping organize events like the one on Friday.
Eliot Levmore ’18, a member of Eze’s policy development team, said he joined the campaign because he was interested in specific issues outlined in the platform, including sustainability, homelessness and unemployment.
Despite differences in focus areas, Eze, who emphasizes that his platform is bipartisan, agrees with Stark and Eidelson on several issues, including rethinking how the University makes investments in New Haven and how students engage as city residents.
“Talking about hiring commitments and numbers is all good and well but I think we need to have conversations that are more grounded,” Eze said.
Eze also agreed with his Democratic opponents on the importance of tackling the jobs crisis in the Elm City.
The Republican candidate said his team has public events scheduled frequently in the weeks leading up to the general election. He added that the campaign will also hold casual meet-and-greet events in the suites of friends and campaign staffers. Conversations have been the most effective way to recruit volunteers and voters, Eze said.
No Republican candidate has been elected Ward 1 alder in the past two decades.
Correction: Sept. 14
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Ward 1 Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday. In fact, the primary election is on Wednesday, Sept. 16.