Yurdin captures Ward 1 City Council primary

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Seth Yurdin triumphed over opponent Ethan Ris ’05 in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the Ward 1 City Council seat, receiving 58 percent of the vote.

641 Ward 1 residents voted for Yurdin, compared to Ris’ 458 votes.

Ris, who was president of the Brown Democrats while at Brown, garnered fewer votes among on-campus Brown voters than Yurdin, who won in all seven Ward 1 precincts.

Ward 1 is bordered on the north by Waterman Street and encompasses the Fox Point neighborhood and parts of College Hill, including most of Brown’s campus.

All Brown students who registered to vote with their University mailing addresses are in the sixth precinct and were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s Ward 1 primary at the Salomon Center.

The mood was jubilant last night at the restaurant Rue de L’Espoir, located at 99 Hope St., where Yurdin supporters gathered to await the election returns and, ultimately, celebrate his win.

Standing on a chair to deliver his victory speech, Yurdin told his supporters – along with Mayor David Cicilline ’83, a Ris supporter – that his campaign has focused on the power of grassroots organizing. He said he also emphasized “real concerns – making sure that our city is the way we want.”

Judy Blackadar, a Fox Point resident who lives on John Street, said Yurdin’s focus on these concerns is why she voted for him.

“He’s concerned not only about Fox Point, but about the whole vision for the city,” Blackadar said. “He’s concerned about the (Interstate 195 highway) relocation, he’s concerned about our schools, he’s concerned about the library, the environment, health care, affordable housing – he’s reached out to the whole neighborhood.”

“(Those issues) aren’t just talking points for (Yurdin), they’re not just the latest slogan,” added Blackadar’s husband, Murray Blackadar, who said he was impressed that Yurdin made the high rate of child poverty in Providence one of his campaign cornerstones. “He’s a good person, and he has a kind of steel in him that’s going to be good in City Council,” Blackadar said.

Harry Bilodeau, who lost against current Ward 1 City Councilman David Segal in the Ward 1 race four years ago, is a staunch supporter of Yurdin.

“Seth is a great candidate endorsed by David Segal (and) ahead of the Al Gore Democratic machine,” said Bilodeau, a Fox Point resident. “All this (energy) is being put into something that 10 years ago … would have been deemed totally irrelevant and nobody would have cared about these races.”

Bernice Bronson, a Fox Point resident, lives at Tockwotton Home, an assisted living residence on East Street, and walked over to Rue de L’Espoir for the gathering.

“To me, (Yurdin) is a genuine liberal,” Bronson said, “and I like liberals. And I think he’s incorruptible, and we’re always worried about that.”

In an interview with The Herald, Yurdin attributed his victory to “the kind of campaign we ran and the issues we cared about – people responded to that.”

He continued: “I think the most important thing is to be communicating with the people (I’m representing), having an open line of conversation with them. I look forward to working with people on Brown’s campus, because they add a lot of energy to the city.”

Yurdin was endorsed by Segal, who also emerged victorious in Tuesday’s election. Segal won the Democratic primary for District 2 state representative in a landslide against opponent Richard Pacheco.

At Ris’ campaign headquarters just blocks away on Ives Street, the mood shifted from uncertainty to dejection. As runners returned with numbers from exit polls, silence fell over Ris’ assembled volunteers, supporters, friends and family members.

Adrienne Ris P’05, Ris’ mother, hugged her son as he realized he was defeated. But she remained hopeful – if not for this race, then for future races. “I’m incredibly proud of the ethical, clean way that he ran this campaign,” she told The Herald. “There are more campaigns to come.”

Ris was clearly disappointed but accepted his defeat in a professional manner. “I think we can hold our heads high,” he announced to the assembled crowd of about two dozen.

“I’m very proud of the work we did. I want to commend Seth Yurdin on running a very hard-fought, honest campaign,” Ris said.

“I can’t say the same for David Segal – his negativity really set the tone for this campaign from the outset,” he added.

Former Ward 1 City Councilman John Murphy was present and expressed his continuing support for Ris. “You have a lot to offer,” he said. “In this business you gotta take some defeats,” he added, pointing out that Cicilline lost his first run for mayor’s office.

Ris said he plans to continue teaching at The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center but will definitely stay involved in politics.

In reference to The Herald’s endorsement of Yurdin on Monday, Ris said, “I’m not happy about it – I thought their reasons were shallow and unfair.”

With additional reporting from Jon Herman and Chloe Lutts.

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