The August 9 Democratic legislative primaries are set. Four of eight members of the city’s state legislative delegation will have primaries: State Senator Marilyn Moore versus Tom McCarthy, State Senator Ed Gomes against Dennis Bradley, State Rep. Charlie Stallworth will take on Maria Pereira and State Rep. Andre Baker versus Charlie Coviello. Former City Council member Tito Ayala had toyed with challenging State House member Chris Rosario but pulled out on Tuesday, the deadline to file primary petition signatures. A quick overview of the candidates and districts: Connecticut’s 22nd State Senate District covers the north and west sections of the city, all of Trumbull and a piece of Monroe. It’s the seat Bill Finch had occupied before elected mayor in 2007. Republican Rob Russo, following a special election to replace Finch, represented the district for 10 months. He was felled by Democrat Anthony Musto of Trumbull in the Barack Obama electoral tsunami of 2008. Musto was not a popular figure among government reformers in Bridgeport. He killed a state bill on behalf of ally McCarthy to enforce the Bridgeport City Charter that prohibits city employees from serving on the City Council. In 2014, challenging Musto in a primary Moore opposed the political establishment as a bridge-building reformer running up large pluralities in the city offsetting Musto’s suburban base on her way to a general election win. She’s the only black woman in Connecticut’s State Senate. In her first year in the State Senate she successfully closed a loophole in the upper chamber to enforce the city charter prohibiting city employee councilors, but the measure did not come to a vote in the State House.
McCarthy was elected to the City Council in 2001. He was appointed to a city job by Joe Ganim during his first mayoral tenure. In 2006 McCarthy lost a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent State Rep. Jack Hennessy. Following Finch’s mayoral election in 2007, McCarthy was elected City Council president by his legislative peers. On the 2015 campaign trail Ganim promised to eliminate conflicts of interest on the City Council. Rather than face a possible legal battle Ganim worked out a severance exit with McCarthy in which he’d depart his position as deputy director of Labor Relations in exchange for $35,000 and two years of health benefits.
Connecticut’s 23rd District includes two thirds of Bridgeport and a piece of western Stratford. Gomes, a retired steelworker, occupied the seat for several years until knocked off by State Rep. Andres Ayala in a 2012 Democratic primary. Political observers thought Gomes’ political career was over at age 76, but in the schizophrenic world of city politics the urban warrior was resurrected when Governor Dan Malloy appointed Ayala state commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles in late 2014. Running on the Working Families Party line, Gomes defeated Democratic endorsed Ricky DeJesus in a special election in early 2015. In 2015, Dennis Bradley won a Board of Education seat running on Ganim’s mayoral line. The young lawyer was immediately elected school board chair by his peers. He’s hoping lightning strikes twice, occupying the former campaign headquarters of Ganim whose historic 2015 comeback made national news following his conviction on federal corruption charges in 2003.
Connecticut’s 26th State House District stretches from a portion of the North End to the Upper East Side. Stallworth won the seat in an early 2011 special election after long-time State House member Chris Caruso resigned to accept an appointment by Malloy. The district features some of the higher turnout areas of the city including the African American-rich Wilbur Cross precinct and the eclectic Hooker School in the Upper East Side. Pereira is a novelty in city politics, a mom who got involved in education issues frustrated by her daughters’ revolving door of teachers. In 2009 she won a school board seat running on the Working Families Party line. She did not end her political activism there.
On the weekend of July 4, 2011, Mayor Bill Finch had orchestrated a clandestine state takeover of city schools. Pereira, aided by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, cried foul. A court action led to the Connecticut Supreme Court overturning the decision. Pereira pressed on in the years that followed building a political base of support in the Hooker precinct. She supported Ganim for mayor in 2015, but they had a quick falling-out over education issues. A Democratic Town Committee slate she led in March 2016 won all nine seats against the political establishment. Now she’s challenging Stallworth, a city minister who supported Ganim and was rewarded with a city job.
Connecticut’s 124th State House District had been the domain of Ernie Newton with a base of support in the African American-rich East End. In 2014, funeral director Andre Baker who served for years on the City Council defeated in a primary party endorsed Newton who sought a comeback following his conviction on federal corruption charges a decade prior. In 2013 Baker was part of an insurgent coalition that defeated the endorsed candidates for school board in a Democratic primary.
Multiple-mayoral candidate Charlie Coviello, a city policy wonk, is taking on Baker in a district that runs across portions of the East Side.
All the candidates are trying to qualify for Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races.