I was sitting out in the rain, passing out flyers for Frank Douglass for Alderman and Toni Harp for Mayor.
Since voters weren’t braving the torrential showers at that moment—minutes later, we’d all be equally distracted by a power outage which affected several blocks of downtown—I was doing the Jumble puzzle in the Register.
The third anagrammatical clue was SLEIYA, and I couldn’t get around that the answer could be "YALIES."
Yalies were a notable factor in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, in Ward 2 and several other wards. Twasn’t always so. This year, the Yale Daily News didn’t just do the obligatory news story about local elections. They wrote, and updated, numerous stories for weeks, some on races where students were directly involved but many others on races which were just of general interest to everyone in the city. Yale was a presence that simply couldn’t be ignored—not just as a target for a change, but as part of the process.
It’s taken me a few days to get a handle on what happened in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries. But even though turn-out was relatively low—less than 30 percent of registered Democrats, for that monolithic party’s biggest mayoral showdown in two decades—there was still a lot of excitement, optimism and hope for the future.
For one thing, the sheer mass of new voters who were signed up for recent national and state races involving such extraordinary encounters as Obama vs. Romney and Murphy vs. McMahon may take some time to discover the charms of mere citywide contests. Some wards, where aldermanic pride was at stake, pulled in over 700 voters. My own ward, where I serve as co-chair of the Democratic Town Committee, drew just under 400. But the make-up of that electorate was fascinating.
Lots of students. Lots of elderly. A number of people brand new to the neighborhood. Dogged voters who’d made sure to locate their new polling places following the redrawing of the ward boundaries last year and the multi-district state/local polling-place confusion of last November.
All these people arrived with purpose—you can always tell how purposeful someone is, if you’re there trying to put a card in their hand touting your own fave candidate. They tended to arrive individually, not transported in packs by special-interest groups. They largely had their minds fully made up, not just about the mayor’s race but about the City/Town Clerk and Alderman positions.
This was a joy to be part of. Honest, earnest, widespread civic engagement. Educated voters. Vivid, visceral political discussions about what makes New Haven great and how it could be greater.
I came away from it ecstatic that my own personal choices had done so well. (The actual answer to that Jumble anagram was EASILY, which was how Toni Harp and Frank Douglass overcame the opposition. Easily.) I always vote my heart, and rarely find myself voting for the clear victors; this time my votes were part of an overwhelming majority. But I also learned a lot about other voters and their concerns. I resolved to do more in my neighborhood to inform neighbors of their rights and options as citizens, political and otherwise.
This was more than a Primary Election day. It was a day of reassessment, of new horizons, of recalibration. It was a new day in New Haven. November will be cool too, but if you missed this one you missed something special.