Don’t look now, but four Republicans may run contested campaigns for public office this year—four more than ran the last time New Haven held city elections.
The Republican Town Committee (RTC) unanimously endorsed those four candidates for aldermen at a convention Thursday night at 200 Orange St. The party did not nominate a candidate for mayor.
Four candidates may not sound like a lot for a Board of Aldermen that has 30 seats. But right now that board has only Democrats sitting on it. And the GOP wasn’t able to field any candidates in 2011 after incumbent Morris Cove Alderwoman Arlene DePino, the only RTC-endorsed candidate, dropped out of the race.
New Haven is largely a one-party town, as GOP Town Chairman Richter Elser demonstrated by citing the latest numbers from the city’s registrar of voters: 2,540 registered GOP voters, compared to 48,140 registered Democrats and 18,377 unaffiliated voters For the past two years, not a single Republican has held an elected position within the Elm City besides the uncontested position of Republican registrar of voters. On the Democratic-only Board of Aldermen, that has meant no minority party representation on committees.
Electing a Republican to the board in November, said Elser (at right in photo), could potentially give the party an oversized voice, due to the legal requirement to have members of both parties serve on certain boards and commissions. He added that a Republican aldermanic victory would also force Democratic lawmakers to be more transparent about their decisions.
“One of the advantages in getting back to two-party rule are more conversations that would be taking place in the open instead of staying as private Democratic matters,” he said. “It’s hard to have good government without discussion out in open.”
The problem, Elser explained, is that New Haven voters often equate “small-R local Republican politics” with “big-R national Republican politics.” The issues at the national and local levels are different, he argued. To make a “credible argument that [Republicans] should be part of the [city] discussion,” he continued, the party needs to start at the aldermanic level with well-known neighborhood candidates.
One such candidate is Ward 8’s Andy Ross (pictured), a Wooster Square activist. In a speech to other members of the RTC before his endorsement, Ross thanked DePino for proving that “getting elected as a Republican is possible.”
His campaign manager, University of Connecticut student Michael McGuigan, said Ross faces an uphill battle. Wooster Square’s Ward 8 has just 86 registered Republicans. Still, he pointed out that 54 of these Republicans are under the age of 40. Elser suggested after the meeting, Ross will have extra time to connect to voters in his ward as the other two candidates compete in an anticipated Sept. 10 primary.
Also receiving an endorsement Thursday evening was Yale student Paul Chandler (pictured, in hat), who will likely run against Democratic incumbent Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson in Yale’s Ward 1. In brief remarks to the committee, Chandler, who is from Westport, said he is interested in the city’s education system, adding that he decided to run at the prompting of Yale’s Republican Party.
Elser, who has lived in New Haven for three decades, said he couldn’t remember any other Republican campaign for alderman at Yale. Chandler, he added, already has a campaign committee and a website. (A Republican Yale student sought office in 1987 in a race that included a Green.)
The Hill’s Ward 6, which includes City Point, Church Street South, and the Towers elderly apartments, will also see a Republican challenger in the form of Frank Lobo (at left in photo). Lobo, who came to New Haven originally to attend Yale Medical School and “fell in love” with the city, said he has “invested” a lot in his ward. He’ll take on incumbent Alderwoman Dolores Colón.
Lobo said he would like to see improved city schools and oversee the removal of the “moat” that separates his neighborhood from downtown. Lobo also echoed Elser’s comments about two-party rule, arguing that New Haven needs a “dialogue” that has been lacking in recent years. “It would benefit the Democratic Party to have a little opposition,” he said.
Finally, in Ward 10, which covers East Rock as well as Cedar Hill and a slice of Fair Haven, Democratic aldermanic candidate Anna Festa may see competition this November as William Wynn, a business manager for the Board of Education, plans to run as a Republican. Wynn couldn’t make it in person to Thursday night’s endorsement meeting. Instead he texted Elser to ask the committee to endorse him anyway—which it did unanimously.