Grant Richardson

This November, Yale students will have two Republican peers on the Connecticut state ballot. Grant Richardson ’19 announced in an interview with the News that he is running for the 93rd District House of Representatives seat, which includes a portion of Yale’s campus. He joins Jordan Grode ’21, who announced last semester that he was running to represent the neighboring 94th district.

Running against 17-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, Richardson said he has decided to seek the position as a “Republican ambassador” — someone who can vouch for New Haven’s interests should there be a Republican governor in 2019. While Richardson made it clear that he did not vote for Trump and that “Washington is a mess,” he also noted that New Haven is in a “unique position” given its economic difficulties. A self-described moderate, Richardson said he would like to focus on creating jobs, improving Yale-New Haven relations, lowering the corporate income tax and fighting against partisan gerrymandering, among other issues.

Until now, Richardson said that he has not been actively campaigning, noting that he wanted to wait until students had returned from summer break to start in earnest.

“Even though maybe the national environment is more of a headwind against Republicans, in the state of Connecticut, however, because the Democrats have been in power there is more willingness to look to another party or alternatives,” Richardson said.

Walker did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.

Walker has held the 93rd District House seat, which has been blue for over 25 years, since she won it in a special election in 2001. It encompasses a portion Yale’s campus, including Morse, Ezra Stiles, Pierson and Davenport colleges, as well as many off-campus student housing complexes. Although the position was contested in 2016 by Republican Douglas Losty, Walker won with more than 90 percent of the vote.

Richardson said that running against an incumbent will be an “uphill battle” but that given the current fiscal crisis in Connecticut and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s low approval ratings, the state’s voters are “more willing to embrace an alternative.”

Richardson acknowledged that he does not have experience in Connecticut politics, but questioned the value of Walker’s experience, saying she has sponsored only a “handful of bills” and cannot seem to balance the budget even as residents are “fleeing the state.”

According to the Connecticut General Assembly website, Walker sponsored or co-sponsored 11 bills in 2018.

Steven Barbee ’21, Richardson’s fundraising director, said he supports Richardson over Walker because of his “new perspective and ability to bring together the Yale and New Haven communities.”

Richardson said he does not believe Yale should be taxed, arguing that Yale already supports the New Haven economy by providing jobs and development to the area.

“It is important to remember that Yale is one of the biggest employers in this area,” Richardson said.

Jeffrey Weiss, chairman of the New Haven Republican Town Committee, said that convincing New Haveners to vote red is a challenge.

Still, he said, “We owe it to the voters to give them a choice on the ballot.”

Jonathan Wharton, who was New Haven Republican Town Committee chairman before Weiss, said Weiss has focused on recruiting candidates, an initiative whose success is reflected in Richardson and Grode’s campaigns.

Democratic Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19, who has spoken with Richardson at length, said that while he appreciates seeing more young people involved in politics, he will be “knocking doors for [Walker] until Election Day.”

There are 151 members in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Ashna Gupta | ashna.gupta@yale.edu