The Yale Daily News

After incumbent Sarah Eidelson ’12 won the closest race in Ward 1 history Tuesday, complaints have surfaced alleging that her canvassers used overly aggressive tactics to spur her on to that victory.

Students interviewed claim that canvassers entered residential college suites without permission, made multiple return visits and engaged in unwanted outreach. Many students said the methods used by Eidelson’s campaign turned them off from supporting her bid for a third term as Ward 1 alder.

But Eidelson said she has not heard any complaints from students about unwanted canvassing tactics.

“We did a lot of work to try to reach as many people as we possibly could and engage them on the issues and make sure they knew what was going on,” Eidelson said.

Yale College Democrats President Tyler Blackmon ’16, a staff columnist for the News, declined to comment on the allegations against Eidelson’s canvassers. The Yale College Democrats launched campaign activity for Eidelson following the Ward 1 Democratic primary, with many members canvassing for Eidelson. The Dems were not the only group participating in campaign efforts — members of Student Unite Now and New Haven Rising were also heavily involved in canvassing.

Timur Guler ’18 said the Eidelson canvassers’ actions amounted to “stalking” and “harassment.”

“They ran [the campaign] like Nixon,” Guler said. “It was ridiculous.”

He said canvassers visited his suite at least three times a day leading up to the election. He added that even though he told canvassers their actions had turned him away from supporting Eidelson, his suitemates still received texts and calls nearly three times a day.

Guler said that on one occasion, he called the Yale Police Department to remove canvassers from his suite, but they left by the time the YPD arrived.

An Eidelson canvasser — who wished to remain anonymous due to her ties to the campaign — said Eidelson’s campaign cannot be blamed for the aggressive tactics of individual canvassers. She said that on election day, canvassers acted out of genuine passion for the issues that Eidelson addressed in her platform.   

“I don’t think this is on the campaign,” the canvasser said. “It’s on individual canvassers going back and bothering people who had asked us not to, putting blame on people for not voting … I think people got very emotionally tied up in the election. We knew it was close.”

Still, the canvasser acknowledged that the heat of the campaign may have clouded canvassers’ respect for the autonomy and voting decisions of the Ward 1 residents.

A student in Trumbull College, who wished to remain anonymous due to personal connections with the campaign, said Eidelson canvassers had entered his suite without permission on multiple occasions.

The student said canvassers engaged him in long conversations even though he told them he had limited time. The student said the tactics turned him away from voting in the election, but he told the canvassers that he had already voted in an effort to drive them away.

“I felt like they didn’t really respect my decision at all, which is what compelled me in the end to lie to get rid of them,” the student said. “I think that a lot of other students had that experience too.”

The student added that he had also received six to seven messages from the Ugonna Eze ’16 campaign through texts and various social media leading up to the election.

Students from Berkeley College said they had also felt uncomfortable due to Eidelson canvassers. Bianka Ukleja ’18 said canvassers entered her suite uninvited, harassing her and her suitemates on multiple occasions until they eventually locked their suite door.

Cooper Sullivan ’18 said that on election day, an Eidelson canvasser told him he was “being f—ing apathetic” due to his decision not to vote in the election.

Lillie Lainoff ’18 said that an Eidelson canvasser outside her door cried out for help and vocally feigned injury so that she would open the door. Once Lainoff opened the door, the canvasser tried to solicit a vote, she said.

Eze’s bid for Ward 1 alder sought not to employ the aggressive tactics Eidelson’s canvassers allegedly used, Amalia Halikias ’15 — Eze’s former campaign manager — said Tuesday. Halikias added that the campaign ran no door-to-door canvassing operation on Election Day, instead opting to focus on “organic interactions” with voters, ensuring that all canvassing was done between volunteers who were already friends or acquaintances with potential voters.

Guler said he knew none of the canvassers who came to his suite.

Eze stated throughout the election season that his campaign would seek to avoid “intimidation” and “overly aggressive” field strategy. Multiple students interviewed at the New Haven Free Public Library after they voted Tuesday said they voted for Eze largely because of his canvassing style.

Eidelson serves as the chair of the city’s Youth Services Committee.

Sara Seymour contributed reporting.

Clarifications, Nov. 7: A previous version of this article failed to specify that Students Unite Now and New Haven Rising members also canvassed for the Eidelson campaign. It also stated that a canvasser had feigned injury to Lillie Lainoff. In fact, the canvasser vocally injury.