Veteran political reporter Jim Callahan files his perspective on Republican candidate for mayor Rick Torres’ chances in November.
BY JIM CALLAHAN
A Bridgeport Republican mayoral candidate these days has got to be claustrophobic and lonely. So many Democrats. So few Republicans.
The person has got to feel like Jimmy Cagney running through that oil refinery trying to get away from the cops. Pulls out the gat. Fires wildly. Climbs the catwalk onto the gasoline tank.
“Top of the world, Ma!”
Turns gun to tank. Fires.
Yo, that’s the good news: That’s the end of the movie.
Republican Rick Torres has got to campaign the next month as enthusiastically as he can, raising the issues of the community as best he can. He has to be passionate to show he cares, yet not lose his sense of humor and balance because a lot of people are not listening to him. Something could happen. If you don’t put a good face on it nothing will happen. From his press releases Torres is giving it a shot, and not a gunshot into a gasoline tank.
The following is a list of challenges. For sanity’s sake, Torres should ignore them all. They are irrelevant. He is the Republican nominee. He has chosen to accept this challenge. But it is fair to list them to see what needs to be overcome not only in this election but for future planning by Bridgeport Republicans.
* Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to one, or 40,000 to 4,000. Let’s take that 40,000 down to 20,000. The missing Democrats were registered for other elections and do not care about this one. That makes it five to one. Big wup. A few of those 4,000 Republicans were registered for other elections too. Cut that in half. We’re back to 10 to one. A voter bloc favoring Republicans is unaffiliated voters. Likely unaffiliated voters do tend Republican, or at least a little more than even, in local elections. I don’t have any recent information on voting patterns and that is critical because they are independent. For no good reason other than argument’s sake, let’s throw the balance back to five to one again in favor of Democrats. Big wup.
* Republicans are always at a disadvantage in Bridgeport. True. But when their registration was up to 10,000 and more it made Bridgeport one of the largest Republican communities in Connecticut. This mattered because state-wide Republicans wanted those 10,000. They would help out the locals. Today? Not so much. The Republicans skipped Bridgeport last year when running in the Fourth Congressional District.
* Money, money, money. In one sense a lower registration means you have less a Republican organization to cater too. You can set your own agenda without committee people annoying you. But then you have to find your own volunteers and paid staff to run the show. Staff who understand the critter that is Bridgeport. Costs a ton. Can be done. But not everyone is New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg with his personal billions operating in the headquarters of mass media in the United States.
* National mood. Right now, New England Republicans, including Connecticut Republicans, are in decline. The national party is somewhat distant from regional interests. When Republican candidates for mayor won in recent times, there were Republican presidents: Nick Panuzio/Richard Nixon; Len Paoletta/Ronald Reagan; Mary Moran/George H.W. Bush. State Republicans were stronger during those times as well. Sure, local conditions set the tone, but again, outside help was nice.
* Dissension. Bridgeport Republicans are the protest party to Bridgeport Democrats. They do not win on the exclusive merit of being Republican. They need to be an alternative to the status quo. One way to judge the fever of Bridgeport voters is by observing Democratic dissension–and seizing it if you are Republican. Mayor Bill Finch eliminated challenger Mary-Jane Foster nicely in their primary. The mayor’s organization had to work, but did what it had to do. The mayor won with more votes than are registered Republican.
* Issues. Attached to all of the above. If the issues exist, the money and organization follow if the Republican candidate can articulate issues, and people are listening. There are issues, there are always issues in a community as stressed economically and socially as Bridgeport. Mayor Bill Finch has convinced voters he has managed these issues, judging from the results in his primary. The Republican can only restate those issues, perhaps come up with a few of his own, using his own reasoning and hope they catch fire.
This could end with a wisecrack about gunshots, gasoline tanks, lightning strikes …