Union Teams Take East Rock, Bella Vista, Newhallville, Dixwell, Dwight In Primaries

Allan Appel PhotoAriela Martin PhotoUnion-backed candidates swept elections citywide Tuesday for seats on the Democratic Town Committee, paving the way for a union-backed majority to run not just New Haven’s legislature but the machinery of its only real political party.

Candidates backed by Yale’s unions, UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35, won contested races for ward co-chair in Dwight, Fair Haven Heights, Dixwell, Newhallville, and East Rock. Candidates weren’t running specifically on a union agenda. Many said they were first-time candidates interested in ward-level issues.

Union-backed candidates lost in Beaver Hills’ Ward 29. They won on the machines, but lost on absentee ballots.  A recount is scheduled for Friday because the second and third-place candidates were only one vote apart. (As the absentee ballots were counted at 200 Orange St. Tuesday night, a supporter of the union candidates, Alderman Brian Wingate, tried to have the process stopped because of what he said were absentee ballot irregularities. It wasn’t stopped. The moderator of the count, attorney John A. Cirello, refused to allow photography of the process; he later apologized for what he called an honest misreading of the law.)

“This election provides an opportunity for changing the role of the Democratic co-chairs in our community to being more active and able to address critical issues in our neighborhoods,” declared Christopher Arnott, a victorious candidate in Dwight’s Ward 2.

Seven primary elections in all took place across town. Each involved electing two people to the position of Democratic Town Committee (DTC) co-chair. (The city’s other 23 wards did not have contests.)

The new DTC appears poised on March 14 to elect a new labor-backed town chairwoman, Jacqueline James (who’s also a Hill alderwoman). Christopher Randall and Esther Armmand are also seeking the position.

Results from the polls Tuesday (not counting absentee ballots, except in Ward 29, where they made a difference in the outcome):

Ward 9 (East Rock):
Cristina Cruz-Uribe 249*
Lauren Miller 239*
Jane Edelstein 160
Donald Harvey 169
(Not enough absentees were collected to change this outcome.)

Ward 11 (Fair Haven Heights):
Patty DePalma 50
Paul Tricaso 26
Fannie Brooks 221*
Dorothy Harper 217*

Ward 20 (Newhallville):
Latoya Agnew 215*
Barbara Vereen 209*
Ernest Jones 59

Ward 22 (Dixwell):
Jayuan Carter 108*
Josef Goodman 92*
Gina Phillips 70
Cordelia Thorpe 79

Ward 29 (Beaver Hills):
Audrey Tyson 286 (158 on machines, 116 on absentees, 2 on “hand counts”)
Thomas Ficklin 213 (142 on machines, 71 on absentee ballots)
Major Ruth 212 (193 on machines, 19 on absentees)*
Betty Alford 194 (178 on machines, 16 on absentees)*

Ward 2 (Dwight):
Christopher Arnott 130*
Jane Kinity 137*
Anita Morales 15
(Read about the candidates here.)

Ward 26 (Upper Westville):
Arnold Amore, Jr. 93
Ronald Rainey 98
Theresa Jones 37

* denotes the union-backed candidates.

Thinking Locally—Very Locally

Thomas MacMillan PhotoWhile Republicans nationwide dominated headlines with “Super Tuesday” presidential primaries, Democrats in New Haven were working hard on their own elections for a smaller prize, but one they believe can make a difference.

On the surface, ward co-chair is a sleepy job. The co-chairs pick ward committees to meet once or twice a year to endorse candidates for aldermen, mayor, and other political offices. And these co-chair elections don’t usually attract much attention outside longtime party workers.

This year was different. On the heels of a dramatic sweep of the city’s Board of Aldermen by labor-backed insurgents in last fall’s elections, control of the Democratic Party is shifting. Many people new to electoral politics ran for ward co-chair Tuesday either to support that labor agenda or just to get involved in local politics in a new era. (Read about some of those new faces and that new energy here.) Some said they hope ward committees will become vehicles to promote democracy and involve more citizens in civic life; in the past some ward committees were accused of serving to keep a closed circle of people in power instead.

Unlike in last fall’s hard-fought aldermanic elections, Tuesday’s DTC primaries did not generally pit labor forces against City Hall. City Hall and the old Democratic machine largely sat out the races, except for in Beaver Hills’ Ward 29. And that was a personal payback, not a quest for citywide power: DeStefano Administration officials and longtime party workers came out of personal loyalty to the aid of an ally who cared a lot about remaining a ward co-chair, Audrey Tyson.

In one-party New Haven, winning Democratic primaries or endorsements is often tantamount to winning office. The city last elected a Republican mayor in 1951. All 30 members of the Board of Aldermen are Democrats; no Republicans ran even token campaigns against any of them this past fall. As of Monday, the city had 45,555 registered Democrats, 2,456 Republicans, 15,946 unaffiliated voters and 341 “other” voters.

Compared to past DTC primary election days, Tuesday was a big night for democracy, if total number of voters participating in an election is understood to reflect civic vitality. More people than usual turned out to cast ballots in some races.

In Newhallville’s Ward 20, for instance, the winning candidates collected 215 and 209 votes, respectively, at the polls Tuesday. The winners in a 2010 DTC primary there won 126 and 99 total votes.

A member of the Ward 20 poll working crew at Lincoln-Bassett School, Bobby Moore, reported that 10 first-time voters came to the polls for this election. They came throughout the day; they were all young.

Ward 20 Moderator Deveria Peterson said that in each case she, Moore, and all the poll workers offered a spontaneous “Whooo!” of contratulations. Peterson described it as a “celebratory hurrah” to thank and encourage each of the new voters.

And a young person won the election: 19-year-old Latoya Agnew. She got involved in neighborhood organizing after working for one of the victorious labor-backed candidates for alderman last fall, Delphine Clyburn. Agnew organized a young people’s organization Newhallville Dream Team and launched her campaign for party co-chair. (Read about her exploits here, here, and here.)

Agnew said she and Vereen hope to find and designate a ward committee person responsible for each block. Whenever a new person or family moves in, the ward committee’s welcome wagon, as it were, would go out.

This is the second election Agnew voted in—and the first she’s won.


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posted by: Lisa on March 6, 2012  9:21pm

These results make me sad.  Don and Jane have lived in East Rock for a long time, and are very vested in our neighborhood and community Where were Cristina and Lauren when we were organizing donations for the fire victims?  Where were they when we were organizing a fundraiser for the stabbing victim?  What interest do the union backed folks have in East Rock, and in furtherance of growing the community?  The people these folks brought in to vote are here for a year or two, and then what?  Maybe I am wrong, and Cristina and Lauren will start to come to block watch meetings, and step up to help in community building efforts.  I hope I am wrong.  In any event, congratulations on your win.

posted by: WC10 on March 6, 2012  9:24pm

Hopefully these new ward chairs will be able to do something about the low turnout, since now it’s one of their responsibilities.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 6, 2012  9:43pm

thank you to all who took the time out of their lives to do this…to all who will actually still be living here in 5 years…god protect us…let the spending begin.

posted by: ASL on March 6, 2012  10:27pm

In the next few weeks, the newly elected and other co-chairs will be appointing the members of their respective ward committees in accordance with the DTC bylaws, available here: http://newhaven.dems.info/towncommittee/bylaws/

Scroll down to Article III to learn how to apply to join the ward committee.

The default number of committee members is 50 but the co-chairs can choose to increase that number, which I hope they’ll all consider doing in the interest of inclusiveness.

posted by: lawrence st on March 6, 2012  11:43pm

Congrats to everyone on their wins!

@Lisa—Do you not consider Friends of East Rock Park, the East Rock Festival, the Campaign for Fire Engine 8, and the East Rock Community Management Team Meeting part of community building efforts? Because I have seen involvement from the new Co-Chairs in those activities, as well as many others in East Rock.

There are many ways to be involved and work for the East Rock community, and I hope that we can all work together to continue making East Rock great. I know that Cristina and Lauren will—for both the long term residents, and those who might only be in town for a couple of years (or 6-8 for the many of us getting our dissertations), but still have a lot to contribute and are part of the community.

posted by: Donald Harvey on March 7, 2012  8:45am

It’s Wednesday, March 7, and the election is over.  Jane Edelstein and I want to offer our sincere congratulations to Cristina Cruz-Uribe and Lauren Miller on their victory as Ward 9 Democratic Committee Co-Chairs.  We look forward to their spirited leadership in East Rock Democratic Party politics for the next two-years.  Congrats, you two!  Let’s all roll up our sleeves and get to work! 

Donald A. Harvey

posted by: MotiS on March 7, 2012  9:58am

Way to go Audrey!!

You worked hard and took nothing for granted but you persevered! Great job :)

posted by: Anderson Scooper on March 7, 2012  6:57pm

The bar is set low. But I can’t help wondering if the Mayor’s old clique isn’t just being replaced by a new Union-dominated clique.

Maybe we’ll see a new local Democratic Party that’s all about participation and inclusiveness. Or maybe we won’t? I guess time will tell….

posted by: The Realist on March 7, 2012  11:14pm

Unions are single-minded organizations that seek to maximize the benefits to their membership - regardless of the costs to organizations they are part of, or society at large.

Unions = protect and increase union benefits & wages (well beyond what everyone else gets), and make sure all contracts w/ the city are union friendly. 

Such focus on Union benefits and pay = MUCH more money spent by the city of New Haven.

More money spent by the city of New Haven =  more taxes on the city of New Haven.

More taxes on the city of New Haven = marginally higher taxes for New Haven, and SKYROCKETING taxes for those living in East Rock, Westville or Wooster Square.

If you live in one of those areas and think the impending property tax increases are big… well… I predict that this is only the beginning. 

The Unions can and will take this newly-found electoral power and jam tax increase after tax increase down the throats of the electorate, to pad their own pay and benefits…. because this is what Unions do.  As previously mentioned - Union’s raison d’etre is to increase the pay and benefits of their membership - regardless of the cost. 

For those of you who were lulled into submission by the siren-song of the union-activist democratic co-chairs and aldermen… looks like you’ve doomed us to a death spiral of higher taxes, urban flight and an eventual decline of this vibrant urban center.

I mourn this city that I love.

posted by: new ER homeowner on March 7, 2012  11:56pm

@ lawrence st
Lisa raises a meaningful question.  Where have these folks been at times when neighborhood work didn’t receive publicity?  I think that whether an activity “counts” as a community building effort depends on both (a) what level of “involvement” you’re looking for and (b) how that level compares to the candidate’s level of involvement in other initiatives.  (a) Attending an organizational meeting is not the same thing as picking up trash in the park after the Fourth of July.  (b) If you spend 90% of your discretionary free time working for the unions, then yes, I discount the 10% that you spend on community building in East Rock. 

Remember that most union employees do not live in New Haven.

When push comes to shove (more spending leads to increased taxes), where are the loyalties of all these union-endorsed candidates?

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 8, 2012  11:13am


posted by: M Short on March 9, 2012  1:24pm

Congrats to Chris Arnott! Chris I really liked your message when you were campaigning - making these committees be real bodies of concerned active residents and not just throw togethers around the time of nominations - its a really great goal and message. I support it and I know that if you are involved, then it is not partisan, it is not fake. I am proud too of Anita Morales who is important to her community and who can make a difference if she keeps working and learning and meeting people and I hope that she will join the ward committee and work closely with Chris and Jane and Frank Douglass the alderman.

If these candidates all live up to their message, and they act competently in their management of the City, which is a tough balancing act, then I support them. And to all of the people who lost, or supported someone who lost or are worried about taxes and other public issues - the only answer is to get involved and stay involved. No one owns New Haven politics besides the residents and there is always another election. So stay active, stay a stakeholder, and remember to be positive and constructive! We need to really focus on that as a political culture.

Good luck! I look forward to supporting some initiative in my neighborhood that Chris comes up with!