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Primaries Put Labor To The Test
by Melissa Bailey | Sep 9, 2013 1:01 pm
Posted to: Campaign 2013
Two years after taking hold of the city’s legislative wing with a slew of new candidates, labor unions are testing their strength—and investing over $10,000—in 10 contested aldermanic primaries Tuesday.
Polls open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday for New Haven’s Democratic Party primaries.
If you’re not sure what ward you live in, which polling place is yours, or whether you’re a registered Democrat, click here to find out.
Registered Democrats in all 30 city wards can vote in the mayoral primary. Four candidates—Kermit Carolina, Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez and Toni Harp—are running to replace retiring 10-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano. Two candidates, Mike Smart and Sergio Rodriguez, are seeking the party nomination for city/town clerk. The incumbent, Ron Smith, is seeking reelection but didn’t make it on the ballot for the Democratic primary; he did make the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
In addition, voters in 10 wards can cast ballots for contested races for alderman.
The election is the first since a coalition of labor-backed candidates swept City Hall in 2011, winning 17 of the 18 aldermanic contests they participated in, and creating a new supermajority on the Board of Aldermen. The election demonstrated that the labor-backed movement affiliated with Yale’s unions has emerged as the single most powerful force in local electoral politics.
In some neighborhoods, those new aldermen are now fending off challengers for the first time. In others, labor unions are backing new candidates to take on incumbent aldermen or vying for open seats.
Four union-affiliated political action committees have together poured in $11,400 to aldermanic races so far, according to campaign finance reports filed last week at the Hall of Records. The donations stem from two main unions: AFSCME Council 4, which represents city government workers, and UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35, which represent pink- and blue-collar workers at Yale, the city’s largest employer.
The unions have not officially announced which aldermanic candidates they have endorsed. But campaign finance filings reveal they have picked a favorite in almost every ward. In most cases, union-backed candidates are outgunning independent candidates in terms of money raised.
One small slate of candidates, who have formed under the name Take Back New Haven, is challenging the union-backed group. Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen formed the slate as an antidote to the labor-backed “machine.” He originally aimed to launch a larger campaign, complete with a community-service element called “Give Back New Haven.” However, the effort fizzled when two candidates, Anna Festa in Ward 10 and Mike Stratton in Ward 19, bolted; and another candidate dropped out of the race.
The slate now includes just four candidates: Hausladen in Ward 7, Greg Smith in Ward 2, Peter Webster in Ward 8 and Patty DePalma in Ward 11.
Hausladen acknowledged there is no way his slate could topple the supermajority on the board. “This isn’t about trying to wrestle away control from anyone,” he said. “This is about trying to have people who want to have other voices represented on the board,” he said. “We need as many voices in the process as possible, not just a singular voice, louder.”
He said the four candidates on his slate would offer independent voices devoted to participatory budgeting and transparency in government.
Stratton has been the most outspoken candidate against the union coalition, which he accused of trying to “co-opt” all 30 seats on the board.
Local 34 President Laurie Kennington denied the unions are trying to “dominate” the Board of Aldermen. She said the labor coalition has brought new voices to the board, empowering people who were not previously engaged in politics.
Local 34’s goal, she said, is to “continue encouraging as many people as possible to join the political process.”
Following is a round-up of the 10 races, including links to fuller stories about the candidates.
Ward 2 (Dwight)
The race centers on the role of the labor-backed majority on the board: Smith is part of Take Back New Haven; Douglass was one of the labor-backed candidates who took office in 2011.
Douglass has teamed up with Aldermen Tyisha Walker and Evette Hamilton on a joint candidate committee called DEW United. The committee’s contributions include $1,000 from the Greater New Haven Labor Council PAC and $1,000 from Local 34 PAC.
Smith reported raising less than $1,000 for his campaign, which means he doesn’t have to list the donations.
Ward 7 (Downtown)
Wood has faced allegations of “carpetbagging” after she broke a lease with her landlord and moved into Ward 7 just days before signing up to run for alderman. Wood countered that she remains committed to the neighborhood and staying in the city. Wood is the labor-backed candidate; Hausladen said he’s running to keep an independent voice on the board.
Hausladen has raised $10,525—the most of any individual in the race. Contributors included Josh Erlanger, Wood’s “furious” former landlord; former Alderman Moti Sandman, and former U.S. Rep. Sam Gejdenson.
Wood did not disclose how much money she has raised. She just filed paperwork on Sept. 3 announcing her campaign intends to raise over $1,000; she has not filed subsequent filings specifying where her donations are coming from. Ella said Thursday she was running “to be a part of a team” and has received support from union-backed candidates Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson, Ward 22 Alderman Jeanette Morrison, and mayoral candidate Toni Harp.
Ward 8 (Wooster Square)
Aaron Greenberg, a Yale graduate student, is the labor-backed candidate running against Peter Webster, of Take Back New Haven, for an open aldermanic seat. The current alderman, Mike Smart, is vacating the seat as he runs for city/town clerk.
Candidates have jockeyed over who is the true insider—and who’s the outsider —in the race. Whoever wins will face Andy Ross, a Republican, in November.
Greenberg has raised $1,258, including six contributions from Yale “graduate teachers,” a description that references graduate students’ belief that they should be recognized as employees. Greenberg received $375 from AFSCME Council 4 OPC.
Webster reported raising less than $1,000.
Ward 11 (Bella Vista/ Fair Haven Heights)
Patty DePalma is taking on Alderwoman Barbara Constantinople, a labor-backed alderman who took office in 2011. Both women live at the Bella Vista senior housing complex.
A key issue in the race is how to help—and get absentee ballots to—over 120 people at Bella Vista who are temporarily homeless due to a fire.
Constantinople is raising money jointly in the “East Side Democrats” political action committee, along with Alderman Al Paolillo and candidate Rosa Santana, both of whom are running unopposed. The PAC has raised $1,575, including $1,000 from the Greater New Haven Labor Council PAC and $500 from Local 34 PAC.
Most of the spending has been concentrated on Ward 11, where the PAC has paid for literature, stickers and lawn signs.
DePalma reported raising less than $1,000.
Ward 14 (Fair Haven)
First-term, labor-backed Alderman Santiago Berrios-Bones, a 65-year-old high school biology teacher faces challenger Thomas Burwell, a 31-year-old engineering student. The ward includes the west end of Fair Haven and part of the Annex.
Both vow to help seniors—both the wave of baby-boomers beginning to retire, and the seniors who are already in senior centers, complaining of food that takes like “cold dirt.”
Berrios-Bones has received $375 from Local 34 PAC and $375 from the Greater New Haven Labor Council PAC. He also raised individual donations, including from prominent Latino politicians: state Rep. Juan Candelaria, Democratic Co-Chair Celestino Cordova, former aldermanic President Tomás Reyes, Fair Haven Alderman Migdalia Castro, and Westville Alderman and city/town clerk candidate Sergio Rodriguez. State Rep. Patricia Dillon also donated to his campaign.
Berrios-Bones reported raising $1,325; Burwell reported raising less than $1,000.
Ward 19 (East Rock/Newhallville)
Yale union steward Maureen Gardner and personal injury lawyer Mike Stratton are vying for a seat left open by retiring seven-term Alderman Alfreda Edwards. The ward straddles some of the richest and poorest streets in the city, in Newhallville and East Rock.
Key issues: Whether to slash the fire department in half, and the role of Yale’s unions on the board.
Ward 20 (Newhallville)
Voters are gearing up for a rematch between Alderman Delphine Clyburn and Charles Blango.
Blango (pictured) used to represent the ward until Clyburn knocked him out of office with a robust, union-backed get-out-the-vote campaign in 2011. The race will test the strength of the new team of voters Clyburn has recruited to get involved in politics.
Blango has raised $1,280. Clyburn is raising money jointly with Dixwell Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison. The two have received $4,000: $2,000 each from the Greater New Haven Labor Council PAC and AFSCME Council 4 OPC.
In her first term, Clyburn (pictured) took a leading role in negotiations over the construction of a new charter high school in the neighborhood and went to bat for community gardens.
Ward 22 (Dixwell)
First-term, labor-backed Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison faces two challengers: Helen Powell and Cordelia Thorpe.
Candidates are focusing on how to revive the Q House.
(As noted above, Morrison and Clyburn have raised $4,000 together: $2,000 each from the Greater New Haven Labor Council PAC and AFSCME Council 4 OPC.)
Ward 26 (Upper Westville)
Two teachers—Darryl Brackeen and Nick Koululias—are running for a seat left open by Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, who’s running for city/town clerk. Brackeen challenged Rodriguez for his seat in 2011 to no avail.
Brackeen got a head start on the fundraising race: He collected $1,643 as of July 1. His September filing had not been turned in as of Friday midday. Koululias said he would self-financed the campaign; he did not report spending in excess of $1,000.
Ward 27 (Westville)
Alderwoman Angela Russell faces a challenger named Kevin Diggs.
Diggs couldn’t be reached for an in-person interview. He said he grew up in “a very modest family” on Brookside Avenue, has 25 years of manufacturing experience, and holds an MBA.
Russell took office in 2011 with support from labor. Neither she nor her opponent reported raising over $1,000.
All aldermen are seeking reelection except for Michael Smart (Ward 8), Justin Elicker (Ward 10), Brenda Jones-Barnes (Ward 13), Alfreda Edwards (Ward 19), and Sergio Rodriguez (Ward 26).
Two new candidates are running unopposed in the primary: Anna Festa (Ward 10) and Rosa Santana (Ward 13).
Where To Vote
Check the list below for the polling stations. Two wards have multiple polling places.
Note: Ward 9 votes at Wilbur Cross. (The description the Registrar’s office gave below is somewhat confusing.)
Curious what your ballot looks like? Check it out here.
Post a Comment
If voters are smart, and there’s no guarantee on that, they will vote against every union candidate there is. They want to dominate the board, maintain high public employment and frankly, have shown they collectively don’t care about the deficit, have no plans to reign in spending and that will mean one thing only: Much, much higher property taxes to pay for their wish list of “feel goods.”
Watching the union put up a challenger to Hausladen is reminscent of Destefano’s support for Elicker against incumbent Green Alder Allan Brison a few years ago.
Hausladen, like Brison, is both competent and well-regarded.
Challengers to good people raise questions of motivation. Is a challenger really so different on the issues or is there a hidden agenda involving who controls whom?
Domination by an individual or a single party or entity cannot be good for the majority in the long run. If everyone is in lock step, it could be a march over the cliff.
you have been misinformed Destefano did not support Elicker or Brison. Brison was a great Alder he got Ed Madison out of office a JD guy. But once elected Brison forgot about Cedar Hill. We, Cedar Hill went out looking for someone to run that would help our side of east rock the low income side not just Brisons street. Elicker had moved from his roommate situation to an apartment of his own. It was in ward 10. We the people of Cedar Hill begged him to run….and finally he said he would. Sometimes good people lose track of what they are fighting for…Brison has and will always fight for all the right things. But he was the alderman of a community and he forgot about it.