Four months after securing the Ward 1 alder seat against a Republican challenger, the Ward 1 Democratic Committee is inaugurating two new co-chairs, both of whom are Yale students.
The new chairs, Clifford Carr ’17 and Chris Rice ’18, have made a name for themselves in campus politics throughout their time in New Haven. As the only two candidates running for the two-year co-chairmanship, Carr and Rice will take over from Jacob Wasserman ’16 and Sarah Giovanniello ’16 on March 2.
In interviews with the News, Carr and Rice said they are committed to strengthening the bonds between the Yale and New Haven communities and dissolving the so-called “Yale bubble” that divides the University from the city. Rice said his experience as a field director for Fish Stark’s ’17 campaign in the Ward 1 Democratic primary last fall sparked his interest in engaging Yale students in New Haven.
“I really believed in the vision that we were pushing forward for the Stark campaign,” Rice said. “I thought that, as Yale students, we have a responsibility to give back to New Haven and do our part to give back to the community that gives so much to us.”
A native of Houston, Rice is especially involved in the Latino community on campus, serving as president of La Unidad Latina’s Yale chapter and as a member of La Casa Cultural and MEChA, a campus activist group that advocates for Latino and Chicano issues. Harnessing the spirit of the anti-racism protests that engulfed campus in the fall, Rice said he will work to increase diversity on the ward committee, which he said has historically been mainly white.
Carr comes from a different side of Yale’s activist community. A volunteer on current Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson’s ’12 2015 campaign and native of Oxford, England, he currently serves as chair of the Party of the Left in the Yale Political Union and works with the on-campus progressive activist group Students Unite Now to push for financial aid reform at Yale. Carr, currently a junior, will have graduated by the time his two-year term is complete, but said he intends to see out the entire term.
Like Rice, Carr said he views the ward committee as an opportunity to involve Yale students in solving issues in New Haven, building on the momentum of last fall’s protest movements on campus.
“I want to make sure that the committee contains people from a range of different political organizations on campus,” Carr said. “It should contain people who want to build links between undergraduate politics and the process of reimagining the University’s place in New Haven.”
Carr added that the ward committee can be a means of mobilizing students to “hold Yale accountable” for its responsibilities both to students and to New Haven residents.
Rice said he will look to continue the progress made by previous co-chairs Wasserman and Giovanniello in increasing student activism. Looking back on his two years as co-chair, Wasserman said civic activism on campus has increased since early 2014.
“Looking back, what surprises me is how politically active Yale students have become, and that trend is going upwards. Two years ago, there wasn’t as much engagement in local issues and local politics,” he said, noting that voter turnout has markedly increased in recent aldermanic elections.
Wasserman said the primary accomplishments of his co-chairmanship have been securing a third term as Ward 1 alder for Eidelson and the re-election of Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014.
Rice said he has yet to decide on what the ward committee’s main focuses will be over the next two years. Instead, he said, he is conducting a “listening campaign” — talking to student and city activists at gatherings such as the New Haven Votes Coalition meeting he attended last week. But issues like increasing Yale’s hiring of New Haven residents are likely to be on the docket, he said.
Both Carr and Rice said they have yet to think about what they would do if the 2017 election for Ward 1 alder were a repeat of 2015, when the ward committee declined to hold an endorsement vote in the Democratic primary. Rice said he would take into account the political and social context of the race before making a decision.
Eidelson said she is excited to work with the new co-chairs, adding that she and the co-chairs share the same goals: involving students in politics and activism and engaging them in the process of governing. She said she has gotten to know both Rice and Carr well through their involvement in New Haven politics during their time at Yale.
“The way it’s set up, the alder and the co-chairs get to work together as a team, since all of us are focused on trying to engage students in the various aspects of the democratic process,” she said.