Last week, Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 emerged victorious from the New Haven Democratic mayoral primary. Yet, defeating incumbent Toni Harp was no easy task. Elicker had scores of Elm City supporters as well as a team of dedicated Yale students to thank for his success.
The team, led by Jacob Malinowski ’20, worked behind-the-scenes in different capacities over the summer to support Elicker’s candidacy, according to Malinowski. Team members, all undergraduate volunteers, started working in the spring of last year and continued through the summer until Sept. 10. The students carried out a number of tasks from making phone calls to preparing Elicker for debates.
“I’ve always found that Yale students are highly motivated,” Elicker told the News. “If you give them tasks that are complex where they need to figure out things on their own and you give support, I’ve always found that Yale students rise to the occasion.”
Malinowski said he first met Elicker through a mutual friend, and then met with him again in December of 2018 to express interest in pulling together a team of Yalies to support the campaign. According to Elicker, he and Malinowski hosted a meeting for Yalies who were interested in working on the campaign this past February.
From there, Malinowski led a core team of at least eight students during the primary campaign in addition to some other volunteers who joined closer to election day.
“We thoughtfully engaged with how we were going to turn out not only voters in Ward 1 and Ward 22, but also what was our purpose here in the city,” Malinowski said. “I think Justin was really cognizant of that as well.”
The students who worked for the campaign performed a variety of jobs — from making phone calls, proofing material, and knocking on doors to helping with messaging strategy and debate preparation.
According to Gage Frank, Elicker’s campaign manager, the students working on the campaign proved to be invaluable in helping deliver votes for Elicker, especially in the wards housing Yale students.
“I don’t think we would have been able to reach the student body in the way that we did [otherwise],” Frank said. “It’s hard to send a random volunteer to knock on doors on a college campus. We needed to have people who, for example, knew the layout of the campus, where to find people, and where to set up our voter registration tables. It was really a great operation.”
Team member Andrew Sorota ’22 said that getting involved with the campaign was easy, since Elicker was so interested in working with New Haven’s student population.
“It’s really easy during your four-or-so years here to put yourself in a bubble, but we are residents of this city before we are students here, and I think that Yale students need to be just as concerned with the future of this city as any other one,” Sorota said. “To me, that means volunteering on local campaigns.”
Three Yalies who worked on the campaign and were interviewed by the News said they would continue working on the campaign if Mayor Harp decided to run against Elicker on the Working Families Party ticket in November. Harp has yet to announce whether she will compete in the general election or not. If she bows out, Malinowski said he would want to start working on the transition team for Elicker to “flesh out” and “faithfully” execute the policy promises he made on the campaign trail.
While the Yale students who helped Elicker’s most recent campaign may not know exactly what is next for them in terms of their work in politics, Drew Morrison ’14, who led the team of Yale students who worked on Elicker’s 2013 campaign, shared some insight.
“The people [who worked on Elicker’s 2013 campaign] really took that experience and opportunity of working together to find ways to continue to be involved,” Morrison said. “And that’s really rewarding to have all [of us who] worked together and then all [of us who have] been able to stay involved in issues of public policy and politics after the fact. I think it’s inspired by the work we did in 2013.”
New Haven’s mayoral general election will be held on Nov. 5.
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