With Yale College Council elections all wrapped up, most Yale students are done running for office for the time being — but not Jordan Grode ’21.
On Friday evening, Grode announced his campaign for the 94th district in the Connecticut House of Representatives in a post in his residential college’s Facebook group. Grode, a Republican, is currently the only candidate who will challenge incumbent state Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, in November’s election, according to State Elections Enforcement Commission records. The 94th district encompasses a northern portion of New Haven and a southwestern section of Hamden. The district includes Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Pauli Murray, Benjamin Franklin, Grace Hopper, Berkeley and Trumbull colleges. Asked why he decided to run for office, Grode cited budget mismanagement in the state capital.
“I think one of the biggest problems facing our state right now is budgetary short-termism — that is, politicians kicking the can down the road, making short-term deals for political gain that have very long-term costs and consequences,” he said. “If we want to rectify the problems that legislatures today are creating for tomorrow, we need to have representatives who will be there tomorrow and who aren’t just thinking about the next two years … but on the long term, the 30 or 40 year horizons, since we’ll be the ones paying for it.”
If elected, Grode said, he would fight to roll back unnecessary regulations and reform the state retirement system. He said the state employee pension program — a major contributor to Connecticut’s budgetary woes — was structured to shift costs onto his generation, which he said is underrepresented in the state legislature.
Porter, the incumbent, won her seat in April 2014 with 38.1 percent of the vote, succeeding current state Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven. In the following general election, in November 2014, she won with 90.8 percent of the vote, defeating David Olszta of the Green Party.
The last time Republicans fielded a candidate for state representative in the 94th district was the April 2014 special election, when Reynaud Harp received just 4.7 percent of the vote.
This year, Democrats hold an 80–71 majority in the state House of Representatives.
Grode originally filed for candidacy on March 14 and submitted the required itemized financial disclosure on April 9. As of April 9, his financial contributions total $45.
When he initially announced his candidacy, the reception was mixed, with some students expressing skepticism about Grode’s qualifications for the position, as a first-year student at Yale.
“Is this a joke?” one student asked in a comment on Grode’s announcement post in the Pauli Murray College Facebook group. “In what way, shape, or form are you qualified to run for Congress?” another asked.
In response to these criticisms, Grode said in an interview that he would work to build trust and earn constituents’ confidence through his platform and dialogue.
Other students, like Michael Blicher ’21, said that, regardless of Grode’s policy positions, it was refreshing to see students getting involved in local politics.
“I think it’s very cool that he’s trying to actually go and run for something and make a difference,” Blicher said. “Regardless of how qualified he is, everybody has the ability to run for office, and even if he loses, the fact that he’s doing it, I think, is pretty cool.”
The minimum age to be a state representative in Connecticut is 18. Grode will turn 19 this July.
If elected, he would become the youngest person ever elected to the Connecticut House. The current record holder was 20-years-old at the time of his election.
Ryley Constable ’21, one of the individuals on Grode’s committee, conceded that precedent was not promising for a Republican candidate in the 94th district, though past candidates such as Lisa Valentovish ’89, who served as Ward 22 alder, provide an example for how conservatives can have success in the district.
“By using very personal, promotional techniques such as door-knocking specifically with the candidate, we can develop those personal relationships needed to win votes over, and more importantly, to develop a campaign that’s representative of District 94,” Constable said.
If elected, Grode would serve a two-year term.
Keshav Raghavan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, April 16: This version of the story has been updated to include three more residential colleges that fall under the 94th district.