A Yale alum is running a long-shot campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, with a little help from his fellow Elis.
The stakes couldn’t be higher in this fall’s election. Results will determine the presidency and may shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
One of the Senate seats up for grabs is in Georgia, where the incumbent resigned and a special election is being held. With 21 candidates in the race, it’s a crowded field, which will be winnowed down to two prior to a run-off election in January. Among the contenders vying for the seat is Richard Dien Winfield, one of seven Democrats running.
Winfield—or RDW as his campaign staff refer to him—is a left-of-center candidate whose shock of somewhat-unkempt white hair and rectangular glasses calls Bernie Sanders to mind.
The Yale-educated philosophy professor (BA ’72, PhD ’77) is running on a platform that calls for a social bill of rights comprising a Federal Job Guarantee, Medicare for All, and a novel Legal Care for All policy based on the single-payer healthcare model. He talks passionately about the need for truth and justice in society; he hopes to bring positive change to his adopted state. A native of New York City, Winfield has taught philosophy at the University of Georgia for the last 37 years.
Winfield is registering in the polls, but is by no means a frontrunner. Still, he felt compelled to throw his hat in the ring despite the odds. “Our country is in a genuine crisis,” Winfield explained.
Even his campaign advisor, Rasik Winfield, admits the race is a long shot for RDW—or Dad, as he usually calls him. The younger Winfield is a current Jackson MA student who is taking a year off from his graduate studies to help run his father’s campaign.
It’s a different kind of learning experience for him, and one that fits well with his academic interests. “It was an instant fit,” said Winfield, who is focusing on civic engagement, social movements, social and economic rights policy in his graduate studies at Yale.
He feels energized by his father’s principled campaign, which he hopes will get out the word about policies that he believes in. Doing work on a grass roots campaign is meaningful, Winfield says, because “it reframes what government means in people’s everyday lives. It’s about empowering the voiceless.”
For Winfield, who worked on his dad’s previous campaign for US Congress in Georgia’s deep red 10th district in 2018, it’s also an opportunity to reconnect with his hometown and consider how the international models he has studied at Yale compare with issues in the South.
“I’ve been rethinking my obligations to this region,” he said.
Lorna Chitty ’20, a fellow Georgian who graduated from Yale in May, has also jumped on the RDW train as its manager. She felt strongly about returning to her home state and giving back.
“So many professors opened my imagination to political philosophy,” she said. “Yale taught me to go and do something about it,” said Chitty, who was elected to the New Haven Democratic Town Committee while she was a student.
“This campaign is about giving people a new vocabulary to demand rights,” she said, including fair wages, the right to unionize, and securing seats for employees on corporate boards.
This small but mighty team is unified in their ultimate goal for the campaign—to leave a constructive legacy, win or lose.
To learn more about Winfield’s campaign, go to www.winfieldforsenate.com.