Courtesy of Frank Redente Jr.

Two first-time candidates for the Board of Alders took diverging routes to ensure their names will be on election ballots this fall.

Securing an endorsement at the Democratic Town Committee Convention, which was held on July 25, is typically how candidates get their names on the ballot. If endorsed by the DTC, their names are automatically placed on the ballot for the Democratic primary election, a significant boost as a majority of voters in New Haven are registered Democrats. 

Neither Andrea DiLieto Zola nor Frank Redente Jr. received the DTC endorsement for the wards where they have been campaigning.

Ward 8’s challenger, DiLieto Zola, is running against two-term incumbent Alder Ellen Cupo in a district that covers Wooster Square, Mill River and parts of Fair Haven and the Annex. 

“I’m new to politics, and am excited to be dedicating my time to my neighbors,” said DiLieto Zola. 

In Ward 15, challenger Frank Redente Jr. is running against Alder Ernie Santiago, who is just concluding his twelfth year in office. The district covers a large part of the majority Latine/Hispanic neighborhood of Fair Haven.

“I love my community and love getting involved and helping my neighborhood, but I felt I had to do more,” said Redente.

A registered Democrat on the ballot… endorsed by Republicans

DiLieto Zola, a third-generation Italian American whose grandfather immigrated to Wooster Square, was raised in Morris Cove. DiLieto Zola moved to Wooster Square two years ago to carry on her family’s involvement in the neighborhood. 

Previously the owner of Bridafy, a bridal beauty shop on Wooster Street, she has worked in Wooster Square for six years. DiLieto Zola told the News she is currently working on starting a vegetarian café with her childhood friend.

DiLieto Zola is challenging Ellen Cupo, a union organizer with Local 34, one of the politically powerful unions that represents Yale’s workers.

Cupo, a native Fair Havener, is facing her first contested race for alder since her election in 2019. She has spent her time in office pushing to increase Yale’s financial contribution and job guarantees to New Haven. 

“My campaign is centered around a profound belief in the potential of our city, where our government and our residents work in unison towards a brighter, more equitable future,” Cupo wrote in an email to the News. “As I raise my two young children here, my vision is for a city in which they, and others, can flourish with stability and prosperity.”

While Cupo’s priorities lie in expanding access to affordable housing and good-paying jobs for city residents, DiLieto Zola’s campaign goals center around prioritizing a “safer community.”

After losing the DTC endorsement, DiLieto Zola was endorsed by the Republican Town Committee despite being registered as a Democrat.

DiLieto Zola’s Republican endorsement ensures she will be on the general election ballot in November as Republican candidate, but she failed to turn in enough signatures to contest the September Democratic primary.

“I would like to be offering my time to both parties and to all people in the neighborhood,” DiLieto Zola told the News. “I am happy to represent all sides, and that the Republicans were open-minded enough to endorse me.”

Lifelong Fair Havener taps into community support

Redente, a 48-year-old Democratic candidate, has lived in the neighborhood he’s running to represent his whole life. He has worked in Fair Haven schools for 28 years and served as a street outreach worker doing violence prevention work. 

“I am super excited about the race and have received overwhelming amounts of community support,” said Redente. “I’ve been reaching out to neighbors and hearing there’s a need for change.”

Redente is running against incumbent Ernie Santiago, who has served as the alder for Ward 15 for six two-year terms. Neither candidate was endorsed at the DTC Convention, with the committee splitting their votes between each candidate, forcing Redente and Santiago to petition their way onto the ballot. 

Any non-endorsed candidates are required to receive signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in the ward, which required 36 signatures for Ward 15. Redente collected the required signatures in time to qualify for the primary election; according to the New Haven Independent, Santiago did the same. 

“The fact that the Ward Committee had enough faith in me and in my ability to do the job that they voted to tie the vote has motivated me to keep running,” said Redente.

Santiago declined an interview with the News, citing his busy schedule.

Incumbent Santiago has never faced a contested race since he was elected as alder in 2011. Redente says he has found that neighbors are excited to have a competitive race.

As a “product of Fair Haven,” Redente has said he would prioritize public safety as a way to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. 

The municipal primary election will take place on Sept. 12 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.