An aldermanic campaign that began on the basketball courts of the Hill ended over salad at the Greek Olive, as a fledgling “Take Back New Haven” slate lost another candidate.
The latest casualty from the “Take Back” slate is Raymond Wallace, who had been campaigning for the Hill’s Ward 4 aldermanic seat.
Wallace showed up at the city clerk’s office Friday morning, after a dinner at the Greek Olive the night before with seven-term Hill Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks, to have his name removed from the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot.
Wallace, a 48-year-old who had been running as part of the Take Back New Haven slate, said he’d had enough of politics after a few weeks of plunging in. He said Jackson-Brooks, his erstwhile opponent, never asked him to drop out of the race.
“It’s just not my time,” Wallace said as he left the Hall of Records Friday morning. “I’m not about politics.”
Wallace is a 48-year-old community activist who runs Guns Down Books Up, a citywide youth program. He spends his time organizing basketball games and barbecues, flag football games and fundraisers for shooting victims. Wallace said he had been running to help young people in the Hill, where he moved a year and a half ago.
He came to realize that being a politician is not like being a youth organizer. He said he had people “cuss [him] out” and slam doors in his face while he was canvassing. People started to question his residency in the ward, since his name isn’t on the lease where he lives. And he said he began to think that his agenda was not the same as Take Back New Haven’s.
The slate, organized by Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen, presents itself as an alternative to the Yale union-backed majority on the Board of Aldermen, as a way to bring more voices to the board.
Take Back New Haven began with six candidates, then dropped to four when Mike Stratton and Anna Festa left the team. With Wallace now not running, the slate is down to Hausladen, Greg Smith in Dwight, Peter Webster in Wooster Square, and Patty DePalma in Bella Vista.
Hausladen had encouraged Wallace to run against Jackson-Brooks after the two men met at a Critical Mass bike ride.
“I think they had a vendetta with this lady,” Wallace said of Take Back New Haven. He said he thinks Hausladen and the other members of the Take Back New Haven slate are wonderful people. But they didn’t prepare him for what he was getting into, he said.
“I’m frustrated. I’m upset I had to do this,” Wallace said. “Take Back is still not explaining to me what is Take Back. I think their agenda is more political than mine.”
Wallace said Take Back New Haven spoke to him about the union-backed majority being wrong to sell Wall and High streets to Yale. “That’s not going to affect me,” Wallace said.
He said he’s not interested in political alliances or the “pull of power.”
“I’m more concerned with the youth. I’m not concerned with that stuff,” he said. “Every time we bicker amongst each other we’re losing another child.”
Thursday evening’s meeting at the Greek Olive was arranged by former Newhallville Alderman Charles Blango, who knows Wallace’s family, Jackson-Brook said. Blango joined the meeting. (Blango is running in the Sept. 10 primary to try to win his old job back against incumbent Delphine Clyburn.)
“I talked about some things I might be able to help him with, some of the thing we have done with youth,” Jackson-Brooks said. “He was also very receptive when I told him I’d like him to participate in the process, in the ward commitee and all that. We had a very good conversation.”
Wallace said Jackson-Brooks showed him how Guns Down Books Up might get some money from the city. “It wasn’t no bribe. I don’t take promises.”
“I’m really glad to have met him and do plan to involve him,” Jackson-Brooks said. “He really has a mission, and it’s not about being a politician.”
“I think he would be a tremendous asset to the city and should be supported in every endeavor he does,” Hausladen said. “A lot of Take Back have been having a tough time running campaigns from a shoestring budget. It’s unfortunate what it takes to go up against such well-funded and well-organized opponents.”
Earlier in the week, when Wallace was still on the campaign trail, he stepped out of his house on Washington Avenue to canvass. Three teens were in his front yard tossing a football, several of the kids he works with through Guns Down Books Up.
He crossed the street and 8-year-old Shaquan Raghubir ran up to greet him, toting a bag of Doritos.
All the kids in the Hill know him, Wallace said. “I don’t know most of the parents, but I definitely know most of the kids.”
Later, as he returned from canvassing on Cedar Street, Wallace passed by the basketball court at Clemente Leadership Academy and picked up a couple of sidekicks: Shaquan and his sister Shania Raghubir, who’s 9, fell in step with Wallace. He said they sometimes knock on his door at 8 a.m., looking to play.
He helped them cross the street. “Last one’s a rotten egg!” he called out, sending them sprinting to the other side.