One of the two Yalies elected to the New Haven Democratic Committee is stepping down, leaving a void on the committee less than a month before she was set to take her place as co-chair.

In late January, Julia Salseda ’19 and Michelle Peng ’19 were elected Ward 1 Democratic committee co-chairs. But on Thursday, Peng told the News she plans to step down for “personal reasons.” She would have assumed her spot on the committee in March. Peng, a former vice-president of the Yale College Democrats, said that she has begun considering possible replacements — likely a Dems member. Democratic Town Committee chair Vincent Mauro will select Peng’s replacement.

“After talking with Julia and other people close to me, I decided to step down as co-chair for personal reasons, knowing that I wouldn’t have been able to do as good of a job as I’d like,” Peng said.

Historically, one of the Ward 1 co-chairs is affiliated with Students Unite Here, the undergraduate organization which has deep connections to UNITE HERE, Yale’s umbrella union organization that encompasses Locals 33, 34 and 35. The other co-chair is usually heavily involved in the Dems. Salseda is one of the leaders of Students Unite Here, and Peng will likely be replaced by another member of the Dems.

Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 said he is excited to work with the new co-chairs, but that he also has his own team of Yalies who work more closely with him on his various projects.

The co-chair serves as a “conduit” between the Democratic party and the voters, Mauro said, though he noted that some wards’ co-chairs are more active than others.

Since Ward 22 represents six of Yale’s fourteen residential colleges, one of the Ward 22 co-chairs tends to be a Yale student. For the past two years, Gabrielle Diaz ’18 has occupied that position, but Lorna Chitty ’20 will take over starting in March.

According to Diaz, co-chairs are tasked with managing voter registration, working to increase voter turnout, handling Democratic Party endorsements, choosing poll workers and helping out on Election Day. In addition, she said, they work with the alders who represents their respective wards on issues of community engagement.

Although neither Salseda nor Chitty originally hails from New Haven, both asserted the importance of recognizing the influence Yale has on New Haven, given that the University is one of the city’s largest employers and property owners.

“It’s important for Yale undergraduates and graduate teachers to understand the consequences that influence has for New Haven and to use the democratic process to shape it,” Salseda said.

Chitty agreed, saying that Yalies should hold themselves accountable to New Haven residents by building “open lines of communication” and rejecting the idea that Yale is “detached” or “transient.”

The other Ward 22 co-chair is Victoria Dancy, a New Haven resident with no Yale affiliation.

Ashna Gupta |