Silliman student Sarah Grube ’22 is running to replace Lorna Chitty ’20 as one of Ward 22’s co-chairs on the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, or the DTC. The other co-chair on her slate is longtime Dixwell resident Victoria Dancy.
Ward 22, one of two New Haven wards that include undergraduate residential colleges, includes Pauli Murray, Benjamin Franklin, Timothy Dwight, Silliman, Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges in addition to a large part of the Dixwell neighborhood. The Ward 22 co-chairs represent all of the registered Democratic Party members in the ward at the DTC meetings and conventions, according to Chitty. If elected, Grube and Dancy will work closely with Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison to gather community concerns and lead get-out-the-vote efforts. Grube turned in her first batch of signatures necessary to get on the ballot in March on Friday.
“Being co-chair is a lot of trying to connect people and make sure people are involved and that they feel like a part of their community,” Grube said in an interview with the News. “I’m looking forward both to being able to do that with Yale students, but also, by being co-chair of a ward that’s not just Yale, being able to make that connection with Dixwell residents and New Haven in general.”
Each of New Haven’s 30 wards has two Democratic Party co-chairs who make up the DTC. The DTC itself endorses candidates for city and state positions and formulates the Democratic Party platform for the Elm City. Every two months, the body meets to carry out its tasks and to hear from local and state elected officials on their legislative achievements and goals, according to Chitty.
Individual co-chairs have the power to endorse candidates for alder in their own wards and candidates for state offices whose districts overlap with their own wards. In addition, the co-chairs help run primaries in New Haven and lead voter registration efforts.
Ward 22 is not the only ward with Yalies running for co-chair positions. Last week, Donasia Gray ’22 and Michael Martinez ’21 began gathering signatures for their own campaign in Ward 1, the only of the 30 wards overwhelmingly populated by Yalies.
In recent history, Ward 22’s two slots have been filled by one Yalie and one Dixwell resident, representing the approximate proportion of the two demographics in the district. Ward 22, after the opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, is now approximately 50 percent Yalies.
Chitty, still the sitting co-chair until March, is a senior originally from rural Georgia. A political science student, she got involved in New Haven politics by working on the successful campaign of former Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19. Chitty stayed in New Haven during the following summer and decided that she wanted to stay involved in the Elm City political sphere. So, Chitty contacted then-Ward 22 co-chair Gabrielle Diaz ’18 and would ultimately become her successor in March 2018.
“I feel like I’ve experienced interesting political winds. It was fun to go to big state conventions, and it was fun to put on elections,” Chitty said about her time as co-chair. “But I think that I’m most proud of the relationships with people in New Haven that I’ve been able to have.”
Chitty noted that the biggest challenge about the position is creating sustained Yalie interest in Ward 22 and Elm City politics. One of the tasks of co-chairs across New Haven is to register more Democratic voters in their respective wards, which is even more important in wards with large numbers of Yale undergraduates, as many continue to vote in their hometowns.
Grube hopes to inspire more Yalie involvement in local affairs by hosting regular events where constituents can express their concerns about city government. She also wants to promote Morrison’s quarterly dinners with Yale students in the Ward 22 residential colleges. As a first step for her term, Grube wants to make sure more students are aware of city politics and that they know that “their actions have an impact” in New Haven.
Grube originally hails from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and found her way into local politics through her involvement with Students Unite Now and the group’s affiliation with New Haven Rising, a community organization closely affiliated with the Elm City’s unions. She stayed in New Haven over the summer and contributed to New Haven Rising’s sign campaign in addition to canvassing for a number of the aldermanic races last fall. Grube reached out to Morrison about taking the co-chair position after she heard about the opening from her involvement in SUN.
Her co-chair running mate, Dancy, is the incumbent and previously worked with Chitty and Diaz.
Looking forward, Grube and Dancy must turn in the necessary number of signatures by Wednesday to be eligible for the March 3 election. If no other candidates submit petitions, there will be no election in March and the two will automatically assume their seats at that time.
Morrison was first elected as Ward 22 Alder in 2011.
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