A Conspirator’s View Of The School Board Election–Can The Working Families Party Be Stopped?

Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira
Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira, two members of the BOE that won running on the Working Families Party line.

Nothing like a special election to flow the campaign juices. Assuming the city doesn’t win more legal delays, within the next few days we should hear from Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati about a timetable for a special election for Board of Education with up to a 150-day window, per order of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Despite a 6-3 vote majority, one of the reasons city officials rationalize for state control of schools was the “dysfunctional” elected board. Here’s where this special election gets dicey for the BOE-appointed advocates.

Bobby Simmons, a Democrat, Maria Pereira, a Democrat and Sauda Baraka, a Republican comprise the key three enemy-empire coalition against supporters of state control. Pereira and Baraka both won seats to four-year terms in 2009 running on the Working Families Party line, shocking the minority-party representation makeup of the school board. The Bridgeport school board has nine seats. Three seats not going to a Democrat satisfies minority party representation. The seat of Thomas Cunningham, a Republican who voted for state control, is among the four seats up for grabs in the special election. Operatives of the Working Families Party could run another candidate. If that candidate finishes ahead of the GOP field of BOE candidates then theoretically the minority coalition comes precariously close to controlling the school board. Now it’s a 5-4 vote. Political paranoia will set in over which of the five the enemy coalition can flip to control the school board.

Do I hear an electoral conspiracy between Democrats and Republicans to stop the Working Families Party? John Slater is the new young chairman of the city’s GOP. What Democratic operatives will approach Slater about making sure he puts up Republicans the Dems can work with and ensure election? Ironically Democratic operatives helped to elect Pereira and Baraka in 2009 not knowing what they were getting.

Will Slater tell the Dems to go punt or will he take a more pragmatic approach to deal-making and try to position his party, shut out of just about everything, for more government influence? Like okay we can talk but help us pass minority-party representation on the City Council. Or how about a few jobs for Republicans? Or how about this and how about that?

But what if a Democrat aligned with the minority BOE coalition manages to sneak past the Democratic-endorsed candidates in a primary or as a petitioning candidate in the special election? Whoa!

But what, also, would stop the city administration from asking the state to once again take over city schools once the newly elected board is seated, presumably this summer?

And will the city file motions to delay the special election?

Stay tuned!



  1. Bobby Simmons, Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka, you have my support. I also would like to thank you for your fight to protect the voting rights of the citizens of Bridgeport in electing the members of the Board of Education.

  2. Gee, who would have thought throwing out the city charter, the state constitution, respect toward electing officials, petit political conniving, grand mal manipulation of city budgeting, and dropped infield flies, off-tackle handoffs and bounce passes could lead to so many questions?

  3. How can two members of one party (Democrat or Republican) run under Working Families Party? Or did they drop their current party affiliation to join the Working Family Party? If they did not, then why can’t other Democrats/Republicans run as Working Family Party members, just to get on the board? Just curious.

    1. Lifelong, you need not be a member of the WFP to be endorsed by the WFP. Candidates endorsed by WFP run on that line. In fact, some candidates may run on the major party line as well as the WFP line if endorsed by WFP. Many Dems in the state have won because of two lines. State statute on this can be confusing. If I’m reading it correctly minority party representation is based on voter line appearance, but in the case of cross-endorsed candidates it is the candidate’s personal affiliation. For a candidate appearing on only one line it is the nominating party. My understanding is Baraka is considered WFP, but if she were cross endorsed by Bridgeport First and WFP, when elected she would be considered a Republican. I’m seeking a clarification on this from a lawyer with the CT Secretary of State’s Office.

  4. Questions?

    As long as the Democrats are electing minority party candidates, shouldn’t Mario and the mayor interview Republican Party candidates for Board of Education before the Democrats support them?

  5. Lifelong:
    The key to the process is making sure the RIGHT person wins. The system does not want to elect a dissenter. Conformity to the community agenda is critical to move forward.

    Your political party, ethnic, economic or neighborhood background are of no concern. The system encourages all sorts of people to participate, whether they be cracked or logical of mind and temperament. The system is open; and, indeed, quite liberal. It has goals.

    Mistakes occur. Nothing is perfect. The mayor and his allies work very hard to correct these mishaps. Who knew the people elected on the Working Families line were crazy? It would be nice, but you can’t vet everybody. The system does the best it can.

    The mayor and the party cannot allow distractions from their goals of community improvement. It is critical to the future success of the city in attracting more half-way houses for criminals and water taxis to Pleasure Beach.

    I’m sure you can see where this is going.

  6. Jim Callahan, “Who knew the people elected on the Working Families line were crazy?” Crazy is what Mayor Finch did playing dictator and taking the voting rights of the residents of Bridgeport to vote for the BOE, that’s what you call crazy.

  7. I have asked a number of people I met in the past two weeks about what they see as citizen responsibilities in 2012. A number of answers surface routinely including:
    ** obey the laws
    ** pay taxes to support government and common good
    ** serve military duty when called
    ** maintain your property to community standards
    ** responding to requests to serve on juries
    ** stay informed on community issues and vote at each election

    The Charter Revision Commission has heard comments about how poor voter turnout has become in Bridgeport and other cities with 7-10% in non-Presidential elections of voters supporting candidates for Board of Education. And yet there are many in Bridgeport who can remember personal experience or that of family finally getting the vote and being able to participate without fear.

    So, I have started thinking about what a CRC could do to encourage a larger percentage of City registered to consider their privilege and responsibility. For example what if the CRC proposed language that would suggest all who wished to exercise their voting privilege should register and regularly vote. However, if you registered and failed to vote you would be fined, a penalty that would be in common with failing to show up for jury duty. People could unregister, vote or pay a fine. This is a new source of funds for the City. It could directly support the Registrars’ office, or be used to support a specific Civics program at the secondary level to teach about voting and informing oneself about the issues. Eliminating names from the voting lists will save money also. The number of electors voting will increase and decrease the cost per vote in elections. And since we all know the presence of street money on primary or election day creates a formula for the value of a vote (though no one wishes to admit this dirty practice continues), the creation of a new stream of income from would-be voters who fail would support the real value of a vote. How say you? Time will tell.

  8. *** I did not care for the way the city & state went about the actual State BOE takeover, however I was in favor of the possible overall change it could hopefully bring to the Bpt school system. With that said, I’ve been approached by a few residents in my district to consider running as a petition candidate for the upcoming BOE election; and if I did, I would prefer to run as an independent! School spending, students & staff safety, school maintenance along with overall better parent & teacher input, communication & accountability towards students’ academic improvements would be at the top of my list. A thankless mission that would only be tainted & delayed once again, should the usual Bpt politics of the BOE come back into play! *** 150 days, “Back To The Future?” ***

  9. Paul Timpanelli and Mario Testa could care less if we have an ‘appointed’ BOE or an elected. Either way, the BOE will be populated with the hand picked who will do as they are told.

    So long as the brain-dead registered voters in this town will not get out and vote we are doomed to the picked and placed on the BOE and in all other aspects of municipal management.

    Our problems in the education system of Bridgeport are two-fold. First and most importantly we must increase student achievement in the classroom by wisely spending that portion of the schools budget where it will do the most good. Secondly, we must carefully monitor and administer the spending on goods and services. We must make sure these lucrative contracts are awarded to contractors and vendors who will provide us with high quality goods and services at a fair and reasonable cost. I am especially concerned with contracts that pertain to food and nutrition services.

    1. Don’t just blame the voters. The people who work for the City have to not go along with unethical practices on a regular basis, being told what to do or just knowing how to take hints and body language as being told what to do, knowing it is not right but going along with it for fear of losing their jobs.

  10. yahooy, I agree with you. There was nothing Bobby Simmons, Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka could or can do to change the vote outcome Mayor Finch wants. So why go through this charade, why would this mayor take voting rights away from the residents of Bridgeport? My answer is, he has NO RESPECT for the voters.

    1. Ron–I think part of your answer was in the print addition of last Sunday’s CT post. It was an article about the board but focused primarily on Maria. The article was pretty large but never made it to the online edition of the paper like some of the other print stories did. It was on her role and battles with some of the members. They spoke with her supporters and detractors.

  11. Of course Working Families can be stopped–all the Republicans need to do is nominate good candidates (preferably people who are already involved in the schools) and then have them run a serious campaign.

    The mystery isn’t what they need to do, it’s why they have chosen not to do it.


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