In most of the city’s aldermanic elections, incumbents run unopposed or handily beat other candidates. But that may not be the case in Ward 7 this year.
Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94, the ward’s alder in 2014, plans to run against one-term incumbent Alberta Witherspoon — and Roth seems to have considerable community support. She officially declared her candidacy at a campaign kickoff at Koffee? on Audubon Street on Saturday, March 11. Roth and several of her closest supporters spoke to a crowd of about 60 residents who attended the event. In her speech, Roth spoke of the need for active alders in the city and her desire to be one of those alders.
“We need a strong, effective Board of Alders,” she said. “One with hard workers who are present, listen carefully, ask necessary questions, think innovatively and analytically and collaborate with each other, residents, businesses and nonprofits to address both the challenges facing the city and to seize opportunities.”
The Ward 7 Democratic primary is scheduled for Sept. 12, but the loser of the primary will have the opportunity to run again in the general election in November.
In an interview, Ross explained that she was running for her former position because she “liked being involved in the community and helping people.”
During the event, Roth also spoke of her accomplishments during her previous time as alder, including drafting legislation restricting tobacco use in public places and writing a letter to the chief of the New Haven Police Department criticizing the department for mistreating a civilian.
Several of Ross’ supporters, including Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa and Caroline Tanbee Smith, who resides in Ward 7 and serves on the Downtown Wooster Square Management Team with Roth, also spoke at the kickoff. Tanbee Smith praised Roth’s work ethic and genuine care for the Ward 7 community.
“I’ve been inspired and invigorated by [Roth’s] desire to make a positive impact on our city,” she said. “In all her work, she prioritizes transparency, accessibility and collective decision-making.”
Among the residents who attended the kickoff were former Ward 7 alder Doug Hausladen ’04, the director of the city’s department of transportation, traffic and parking, and Daniel Vernick ’19, a legislative captain for the Yale College Democrats. Vernick said he is meeting with Roth on Wednesday to discuss how best to reach out to students who live in the Timothy Dwight College annex, which is part of Ward 7.
He added that the Elm City government needs greater transparency and accountability, both of which Roth brings to the table, Vernick said.
“Abby is not running to be just another politician; she’s been deeply involved in the Ward 7 community, and genuinely wants to improve it,” Vernick said. “Abby will ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and that real progress is made in Ward 7 and across New Haven.”
After graduating from Yale Law School, Roth worked in Washington as a lawyer, but said she was frustrated at how little change one individual could effect at the federal level. After 10 years in Washington, Roth returned to New Haven, where she became involved in several community groups and projects, including the Downtown Wooster Square Management Team, where she is now vice chair, and the New Haven Free Public Library, where she is treasurer.
Roth said she would be a truly independent candidate, not beholden to any interest group. She explained that she saw herself as “an independent thinker … not aligned with one faction or another” instead of “as a union person or Yale person.”
Roth’s opponent, Witherspoon, has been alder since 2015. She said, if re-elected, she hopes to lead a move to create new sidewalks and traffic signals in the ward. She added that she was proud of redoing the crosswalk at the intersection of Audubon and Orange streets during her term as alder.
Roth was elected alder after Hausladen resigned in January 2014.