This past fall, Eli Sabin ’18, a sophomore at Yale University studying political science, and a lifelong East Rock resident, became the youngest person to be elected to the New Haven Board of Alders.
Sabin explained his decision to run for the Board of Alders at 19 years old, “I think it’s an incredible opportunity to offer a different perspective in government than is usually present. Once you [are] 18, you have the same amount of votes as everybody else in the country and I think young people deserve representation. I’m really excited that I have the ability to offer the perspective of a younger generation to our politics and talk about progressive ideas.”
As a Hopkins student, Sabin enjoyed engaging in both the Hopkins and New Haven communities. “When I was in high school, I started getting involved in a lot of community service work. I was on the Student Council, helped run the Canned Food Drive, and helped raise money for the Connecticut Food Bank. Then, I did volunteer tutoring.”
Sabin began his involvement in local politics while taking 21st Century Democracy with Assistant Head of School John Roberts. That fall, he canvassed for former East Haven State Representative James Albis’s reelection campaign. Sabin reflected on the election: “The day of the 2016 election, when Donald Trump won the presidency, Rep. Albis won his race in East Haven by just nine votes. That was incredibly exciting and it made me feel like even though there was this moment of disappointment and real pain for a lot of people at the national level, I felt very hopeful and optimistic about the impact that I had been able to have in this little State Rep. race where fewer than 10,000 people voted and it was decided by just 9 votes. I had knocked on a ton of doors and felt very much like this was a way for me to make a difference in my community.”
Volunteering in the local 2016 election inspired Sabin’s passion for local politics. After knocking on doors in East Haven, Sabin became more involved in other campaigns. He also worked for the State Legislature as Director of the Progressive Caucus and joined the Homeless Advisory Board.
Sabin motivation stems from his family and the community, “I got involved in local government because I have a very deep belief in the value of public service. It [is] something my family taught me and that I [care] a lot about. I also care a lot about my hometown. When [the Board of Alders position] opened up, it was a perfect matching of those two missions that are very close to my heart. I felt I had something to contribute because of the work and experience I gained over the last few years working at the state and local level. The relationships I’ve built around New Haven and around Connecticut, and the understanding that I have of the city. ”
Sabin’s position as a young person in politics is challenging, yet rewarding. “Being a young person in politics always has its challenges and also presents a lot of opportunities. You’re always struggling to understand all of the systems that you’re working within and the institutions that you’re navigating. I’ve been trying to do my best to learn as much as possible and ask for advice from many members of the Board.”
Before joining the race, Sabin discussed his candidacy with the members of the New Haven community he had met through political work and community service over the last few years. Their opinion helped determine his campaign strategy and principles. “I wanted to get their perspective on whether they thought I’d be able to make a difference on the Board of Alders and to get their advice about what a campaign would be like,” explained Sabin.
Sabin enjoys discussing politics with prospective politicians and encouraging other young people to become more involved in politics. The way to get involved, Sabin said, is to show up and ask questions. “If you want to learn what it’s like to run for office, work for a campaign, or serve in government. You should show up to a campaign meeting, like a door-knocking kick-off. You should introduce yourself to State Representatives, City Council members, or First Selectmen who are running for office. The thing about Connecticut is it’s a small state and our politics are not at all dominated by big money or big power players.”