The bull from Trumbull, the moose from Stiles, and the gnome from Davenport, and their upperclassmen pals were hard at work Friday afternoon carrying the luggage and lamps of the 1,300 Yale freshmen who arrived en masse at Phelps Gate on College Street.
The residential-mascots had a new helper this week: a mayoral candidate.
Candidate Justin Elicker carried Jenny Scherl’s new IKEA rug up seven flights to her room at Branford College—as the hunt for Yalies began in earnest during for the 19 days leading up to the four-way New Haven Democratic mayoral primary.
The electoral tote took place as Elicker and his team of student organizers kicked off the fall’s first Yale for Elicker event, an attempt to engage, register, and bring over to their side as many of the approximately 1,300 new Yale students who potentially could volunteer and (if they register here) vote in the Sept. 10 primary.
Yale students have come to play an increasing role in local politics in recent years. They’ve for decades pretty much had their own ward with their own alderman Ward 1. They also now provide a significant number of vote and vote-pullers in Dixwell’s Ward 22, which includes two undergraduate residential colleges; as well as East Rock’s Wards 9 and 10. The Yale College Democrats have become a routine campaign stop for Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. The Yale Daily News provides extensive coverage of city politics when school’s in session.
The students’ arrival for the fall semester promises to increase the number of students involved in the primary and general election campaign. During the summer at least six Yale students have been working in the central office and for “partner” organizations of the Toni Harp mayoral campaign, according to manager Jason Bartlett. He said “at least 30 Yalies canvassed and got petitions for Toni over the summer.” Elicker campaign manager Kyle Buda said this summer he has had “a core group of about six that I interact with, and they have a much larger group of Elicker supporters who help out on campus.” Mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina said he has one Yale staffer so far. Henry Fernandez said “about a dozen” Yalies have worked with his campaign this summer; his has also drawn visible support from Yale Law School.
Yale for Elicker’s chief organizer, Branford College junior Drew Morrison, said Friday he had already engaged about 15 volunteers to door-knock and purvey Elicker pitches via social media.
That number seemed to grow even as he led the candidate among the wide-eyed freshmen, the mascots, and the kids hauling Rubbermaid wheelbarrows to introduce him to his friends and contacts he had already made.
One was sophomore Josh Faber, who’d been on the receiving end of emails from Morrison promoting Elicker. Faber’s dad is a psychiatrist who went to Yale Medical School in the 1970s. “It was bad then,” Faber’s dad told him.
Elicker said New Haven has improved a lot since then, but a lot more needs to be done. That’s why he’s running for mayor.
“I don’t know much about you,” said Faber, who hales from Roseland, N.J.
Elicker proceeded to tell him that he grew in Connecticut and “I was a foreign service officer.”
“Oh wow,” said Faber.
“Do you have opinions about health care?” the psychiatrist’s son continued.
“Yes, I definitely think we don’t do enough with primary care,” Elicker responded.
Faber nodded and said his dad believes in clinics and pre-emptive care as better alternatives in many cases than hospitalizations and emergency-room visits.
Elicker said he’d like to expand New Haven’s school-based clinics. “Dental care [for kids in the schools] isn’t what it should be” either, he said. Then he asked Faber if he himself had any thoughts on the matter.
“My dad worked in mental health programs. Clinics providing good care early,” Faber responded.
“There’s a lot to do. The thing about New Haven: every issue has a large umber of organizations doing things. The city can play a better role coordinating,” Elicker said.
“Sounds good” said Faber, who agreed to register to vote as a Democrat on the spot. He signed the form on the clipboard that Morrison held out to him.
If he votes for Elicker in New Haven, Faber won’t be able to vote in elections in his New Jersey hometown.
Elicker was asked about the challenge of convincing other students to abandon their hometown voting rolls in favor of New Haven.
“People talk about eating locally. They should vote locally. Registering to vote is one of the first steps in being more engaged in the community,” he said.
Elicker talked to Matthew Jackson, a Berkeley College senior from Washington, D.C., and to Tate Harshbarger, a freshman counselor, and several other students. Most knew little about the mayoral race.
When they asked him to make his “elevator pitch,” Elicker offered these words:
“Polls say it’s between me and Harp. I do evidence-based solutions. Whatever issue it is, it’s probably on our site. I’m in public financing, and Toni’s not. My contributions are 80 percent from New Haven residents, while Toni has 70 percent outside of the city.”
Harshbarger thanked him and said “I’ll do some more research.”
“I simply don’t have enough information yet,” said Jackson. “There are some weeks before the election. I can still go any way at this point.”
The candidate may have found a convert in Faber: “I trust Drew, and if he likes Justin ... Right now I’m leaning that way.”
Morrison said the next Yale for Elicker event will be a barbecue over the Labor Day weekend.
In the meantime, he said, he and his canvassers will knock on doors, including in staircase C, where Jenny Scherl lives and is enjoying her new rug.
“I’ve never seen a mayor[al candidate] so immediately serve the needs of his constituents,” said Rachel Scherl (pictured), mother of the freshman.