Last week, Eli Sabin ’22 became the first candidate to jump into the race to succeed Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19 as Ward 1 Alder this fall.
On Friday, Sabin declared his candidacy for the Board of Alders seat through a post on his personal Instagram account. The announcement came just days after Catalbasoglu shared that he would not seek another term in office following his graduation from Yale College in May and plans to move to New York for graduate school. Sabin, who is also a resident of the Elm City turned Yale student, will now vie to succeed Catalbasoglu in representing the lone Yale-majority district in the 30-seat legislative body.
“I feel very strongly that all of us have a responsibility to serve others,” Sabin told the News in an interview. “New Haven has a really proud and longstanding tradition of progressive community activism. I want to be a part of that tradition and bring the things that I’ve learned … If I’m elected to the Board of Alders, I want to spend my two years working on progressive change in the city.”
Sabin, echoing Catalbasoglu’s campaign two years ago, billed himself as having unique qualifications to represent Ward 1 as a Yale student born and bred in New Haven with local political experience. He filed the relevant paperwork to run for the seat last Monday after Catalbasoglu announced he would not run again two days before.
In his Instagram announcement, campaign website and an interview with the News, Sabin pointed to his work in politics in the New Haven area. At Yale, Sabin currently serves as the communications director for the Yale College Democrats but told the News that he will transition out of the position over the summer, citing the time demands of running for Alder. He is also the co-director of the Connecticut Progressive Caucus, which works in the Nutmeg State’s legislature, and serves as one of two co-chairs for the Ward 1 Democratic Town Committee. In April, the Board of Alders approved his nomination to the city’s Homeless Advisory Commission.
Catalbasoglu, a resident of Ward 2 prior to becoming a student at Yale, ran two years ago on the platform of bridging the divide between Yale and New Haven. He told the News last week that while he did not intend to participate in this year’s election and had no candidate in mind as his successor, he believed that the next Ward 1 Alder should similarly be a student straddling the oft-tumultuous identities of town and gown.
The thirty members of the Board of Alders, the city’s legislative branch, represent New Haven’s approximately 130,000 residents. Ward 1 represents the residents of eight of Yale’s 14 residential colleges and all of Old Campus.
Unlike the other 29 wards, Ward 1, which primarily comprises Yale’s campus and other University-owned property, receives almost none of its services from the city. Yale takes on everyday services such as roadwork and trash collection, shifting the nature of the responsibilities of the Ward’s alder from a heavy emphasis on day-to-day delivery and provision of constituent services to the broader legislative goals of the Board of Alders. But Ward 1 has long struggled with voter turnout. Though the Ward has more than 3,700 eligible voters, just 46 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary in 2017.
Sabin’s campaign manager, Matt Post ’22, told the News that he decided to join the campaign because he saw that Sabin, “has got a stake in this town.” Post hopes the campaign will, “bridge the gap between Yale and New Haven and, on election day, turn out an unprecedented number of students to the polls.”
Prior to coming to Yale, Post served as a field strategist for the nationwide March For Our Lives movement and ran local campaigns in Maryland, including his own successful bid to sit on the Montgomery County School Board.
Sabin told the News that he had not yet put together the rest of his team. His campaign website lists the campaign’s treasurer as Elizabeth Bjork ’21, the current treasurer of the Yale College Democrats.
Yale College Democrats President Timothy White ’20 wrote in a statement to the News on behalf of the organization that it would hold a town hall in the fall with all Democratic candidates for Ward 1. Discussion by the organization’s board and membership will then determine if, and who, it will endorse in the race.
White, in a personal capacity, told the News that he believed in Sabin’s qualifications and called Sabin “a responsible, effective and empathetic person to work with.”
“[Sabin] is deeply committed to New Haven,” White said. “He has the rare combination of the expertise necessary for the position and an openness to listening from community members and leaders who have different experience and different expertise than him.”
In 2017, Catalbasoglu, who was uncontested in his race for Ward I Alder, was criticized by some for leaning heavily on his background as a New Haven local and shying away from traditional campaign necessities such as policy platforms. The Yale College Democrats issued a critical statement about his candidacy just days before the general election, citing a lack of “actionable ideas” and limited policy platforms.
Sabin told the News that he believed Catalbasoglu made good on his campaign promise to bring Yale and New Haven together, but that his own campaign would also push a stronger policy agenda in the coming weeks.
Sabin grew up in the neighborhood of East Rock, in Ward 10. A graduate of the Hopkins School, on Forest Road, Sabin matriculated at Yale last fall and is a member of Grace Hopper College.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org