On Monday Democrats will meet at the party convention to endorse candidates for City Council and Board of Education at Testo’s Restaurant, the epicenter of city politics, owned by Town Chairman Mario Testa. Republicans will do the same Tuesday night at the North End Library. What is usually a sleepy off-year election cycle is shaping up as a guerrilla warfare battle for control of the school board as well as competitive races for some council seats.
Heading into the weekend it appears Democratic school board candidates are a work in progress. Five school board seats are up for grabs in November but the Dems can only claim up to three with the other two slots reserved for state-required minority-party representation. Those slots are currently occupied by Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira with the Connecticut Working Families Party. They ran ahead of Republican candidates in 2009. The Democratic slots are occupied by Tom Mulligan, Leticia Colon and Bobby Simmons. Mulligan and Simmons have announced they will not be candidates. There is also a question about Colon running again.
Former State Rep. Hector Diaz and East End City Councilman Andre Baker have expressed interest in running for citywide school board seats on the Democratic side, but do not appear to have traction with a majority of the 90-member Democratic Town Committee for endorsement. One possible option for Baker is running on the Working Families Party line, but he notified OIB Thursday afternoon he’ll likely seek reelection to his council seat.
Several names on the Democratic side are in play for BOE endorsement including Rev. William McCullough, pastor of Russell Temple CME Church on Connecticut Avenue, Rev. Simon Castillo who has served on several city boards and commissions throughout the years, Brandon Clark, a teacher with Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, and Katie Bukovsky, an education marketing professional, active at Black Rock School. She’s the sister of Black Rock District Leader Dan Roach.
On the Republican side Joe Larcheveque, an emergency services medical professional from Black Rock active in the neighborhood, is a candidate for school board. City Republicans are finalizing the other school board spots.
On the City Council front, a number of primaries and general election matchups are taking shape. In the 130th District, two-time Republican mayoral candidate Rick Torres, who owns the popular Harborview Market in Black Rock, has announced he’ll be a candidate challenging Democratic incumbents Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom in November. No final word yet on Torres’ running mate.
In the 132nd council district, Democratic incumbents John Olson and Evette Brantley could face a September primary from Bob Halstead, former long-time city planner, and Trish Swain.
In the 135th District, the Rev. Mary Lee, a city schoolteacher, says she’s planning to primary incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney.
In the 136th District, Ricky DeJesus, former officer with the the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has his campaign up and running for a potential September primary against incumbents Angel DePara and Carlos Silva.
In the 137th District get ready for the battle royal on the East Side. Incumbent Lydia Martinez may have to wage a primary to win reelection. Former council member Maria Valle and Aidee Nieves, members of the town committee district, are expected to receive the endorsement Monday night. Last week, at a district caucus, town committee members voted to support them. Martinez plans on seeking reelection with Milta Feliciano, instead of incumbent Manny Ayala.
The 139th District, James Holloway, the longest-serving member of the council, will seek reelection. His council partner Andre Baker had considered a run for school board but says he’ll likely stick with his council seat. East End activist Eneida Martinez-Walker may jump into the race. Former State Senator Ernie Newton may run for council depending on what Baker does.
Once candidates are endorsed Monday night, challengers can pull petition papers to seek signatures to win a primary ballot spot in September. That means for a school board seat securing five percent of signatures (roughly 2000) from Democratic electors citywide, for council seats five percent of electors from each respective district.