A challenge to the city Democratic Party’s new ruling coalition fell short in the Beaver Hills neighborhood Tuesday night, in one of two primaries for town committee seats.
The primaries were for the positions of ward co-chair in Beaver Hills’ Ward 28 and upper Westville’s Ward 26. Each ward elects two co-chairs, who help the city party endorse and elect candidates for city and state offices.
In Ward 26, the team of Amy Marx and Sharon Jones defeated opponents Ronald Rainey and Bridget Gardner by a 3-1 margin. Marx, a visible supporter of independent mayoral candidate Justin Elicker in last fall’s mayoral election, collected 152 votes at the Mauro/Sheridan School polling station; Jones, an incumbent ward chair (from a different ward; redistricting changed her ward) who backed Toni Harp in the mayoral election, collected 146 votes. Rainey got 55 votes, Gardner, 38.
The victors vowed to use their victory to help more neighbors meet each other and get involved in local politics. They also vowed to work “hard” for the reelection of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
“We live in an incredibly diverse neighborhood in which not enough neighbors know each other,” Marx said.
“The election means our neighborhood is ready for a change, to be committed to each other,” added Jones. Marx’s daughter, Sophie Schonberger, then handed Jones a bouquet in congratulations. “Make me cry—give me flowers,” Jones responded.
The incumbent co-chairs in Ward 28, Jess Corbett and Donald Walker, beat back a challenge from Claudette Robinson-Thorpe (who’s also the ward’s alder) and Clython Thompson Jr. Robinson-Thorpe mounted the campaign as part of an effort launched earlier this year to challenge the coalition that dominates both the city Democratic Party and the Board of Alders.
Walker received 203 votes and Corbett 184 at the Hillhouse High School polling station, according to numbers announced moments after voting ended at 8 p.m. Robinson-Thorpe received 105 votes, Thompson, 68.
“It was my 10 or 15 people versus their 100 people knocking on doors,” Robinson-Thorpe (pictured) said after the polls closed. “It’s the union-backed machine. I expected this machine. I tried to talk to constituents.” She was referring to Yale’s UNITE HERE union locals, which originally recruited her to run for the Board of Alders. This year she left the coalition and joined a dissenting group called the People’s Coalition after she said she was unfairly passed over for leadership positions on the Board of Alders.
Corbett (pictured hugging a supporter at the polls) said he originally ran for ward co-chair years ago at Robinson’s urging. “It’s about talking to people, getting out there, getting to know voters. I’ve met people that I would have never otherwise gotten in contact with,” he said.
The Democratic ward co-chair job traditionally entails voting for candidates for mayor, alderman, and state and federal offices at party conventions. Some candidates occasionally promise to do more, using the position to promote greater ward democracy. (Click here to read about one such example.)
Primaries took place Tuesday in only two of the city’s 30 wards. In the other wards candidates who petitioned for co-chair positions automatically got them. Only one person ended up submitting valid petitions in Dixwell’s Ward 22 and Fair Haven’s Ward 14, so the new party town chair will select the second co-chair in each of those wards. The town chair will also pick both co-chairs in Wards 2 (Dwight), 6 (City Point), and 10 (East Rock), where no one petitioned for the job. The Democratic Town Committee is expected to elect Vincent Mauro Jr., the son of a late former town committee chairman from the 1980s, to the position. Click here for a list of all the people who petitioned to become ward co-chairs.
These ward co-chair elections take place every two years. They are the most local of local elections, rarely attracting notice outside of a small circle of insiders. In 2012 the races attracted an unusual amount of competition, organizing and attention, as a newly ascendant coalition that had taken control of the Board of Alders sought to do the same with the local Democratic Party. It succeeded: Candidates from the coalition swept all seven competitive races that year and gained a majority of the Town Committee. (Read about that here.)
In Ward 28, Robinson-Thorpe and Thompson ran Tuesday to unseat incumbent co-chairs Walker and Corbett, a Yale med school lab tech and active member of Yale’s UNITE HERE Local 34.
In upper Westville’s Ward 26, Jones (the current Ward 27 co-chair, whose address became part of Ward 26 in the latest redistricting) ran with a first-time candidate, Marx, a legal-aid lawyer.They promised to use the position to get people more involved in community service, beginning with snow shoveling; click here to read a story about that. They faced the team of Rainey, a current ward co-chair, and Gardner, one of the homeowners who pressed the state for help with “sinking houses” in Upper Westville’s Beverly Hills section. Rainey said he agrees with Marx and Jones that the committee can do more.
The ward’s new alder, Darryl Brackeen, worked with Marx and Jones on the campaign. Part of the idea was to bring people together who had supported different candidates in last fall’s election, and to encourage new leadership.
“We want to make sure everyone from Ward 26 from end to end are all one,” Jones declared Tuesday night.