The race to replace former Fair Haven Alder Santiago Berrios-Bones, who resigned on Jan. 31, has intensified recently, as the Democratic primary loser accused the winner of manipulating the election.
Co-chair of the Fair Haven Democratic Town Committee Kenneth Reveiz ’12 won the Democratic nomination on Feb. 9 and is the current front-runner to replace Berrios-Bones. But his former opponent Sarah Miller claims that Reveiz won the nomination under dubious circumstances. Miller believes that Reveiz and his associate Mark Firla, both of whom have close ties to Yale unions Local 34 and Local 35, used their power as co-chairs of the Fair Haven Democratic Town Committee to replace members of the committee who supported her with those who favored Reveiz. Reveiz and local Democratic officials have all denied these allegations.
Miller explained that the co-chairs of the committee have the power to rearrange the committee as they see fit, but said the two used this power to rig the election in their favor. This rearrangement allowed Reveiz to win the Feb. 9 committeewide election for the Democratic nomination 21–14, in which 35 of 50 committee members were present, according to Miller.
“They stacked the deck in the committee so there was no way for anyone else to get a nomination,” she said.
Miller also claimed that neither Reveiz nor Firla made a genuine attempt to let the rest of the committee know that they had made this change, and that many former members of the committee had no idea they had been removed.
In an interview with the News, Reveiz asserted that the decision to change committee members had nothing to do with the Democratic nomination vote, and instead that he chose new members for the committee who he believed “more accurately reflected the race, class, language, gender, age and street demographics of Ward 14.” He also noted that this rearrangement occurred long before the vote.
“The committee has been in place since [Mark Firla and I] were elected as co-chairs — about a whole year before our vote 14 days ago,” Reveiz said.
New Haven Democratic Party Chairman Vin Mauro also said he did not think Reveiz and Firla chose members of the committee with the knowledge that Berrios-Bones was going to leave, and that Miller’s claim that Reveiz “stacked the box” makes the situation sound “much more nefarious” than it actually is.
But Miller said many of the new members with whom she talked did not seem to be wise picks for the committee. One was a reporter for the New Haven Register who Miller said was not even allowed to serve on the committee because of her profession, and another was a teenage boy who described himself as “completely apolitical” and said he never voted in elections.
The general election is scheduled for March 18, and the winner of that election will serve the remaining seven months of Berrios-Bones’ allotted term. He or she will have to run for re-election in November 2017.
Miller said she would not run in the general election scheduled for March 18, explaining that she did not feel that the division caused by a hotly contested election would be worth the short time in office the race would award the victor. If Reveiz runs unopposed, the city most likely will not hold an election in order to save costs. But Miller added that she would run again in a year if she felt that Reveiz did not do a good job during this initial half-year “test run.”
Miller said she feared that Reveiz would join a recent series of ineffective Fair Haven alders. Reveiz worked on the campaigns of Fair Haven’s last two alders, Gabriel Santiago and Berrios-Bones, both of whom left their positions before the ends of their terms. Both alders were regarded by many as difficult to contact and not very committed to their job, according to Miller.
But she emphasized that she was now focused on working with Reveiz to help him succeed and to benefit Fair Haven. Reveiz echoed that, saying he and Miller are now “committed to working together.”
Berrios-Bones served as alder for about four years before stepping down in January.
The photo that previously ran with this article depicted Michael Stratton, an alder who was not mentioned in the article. It has been removed.