City Democrats Monday night endorsed three newcomers for Board of Education at a party convention at Testo’s Restaurant. A challenge slate is expected to pull petition papers Tuesday (today) to try to secure signatures from five percent of registered Democrats to wage a September primary.
The 90-member town committee endorsed Rev. Simon Castillo, pastor of Good Shepherd Christian Church for 49 years, 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 for MDR, a Dun & Bradstreet company, active at Black Rock School. She’s the sister of Black Rock District Leader Dan Roach.
Incumbent Democratic school board candidates Tom Mulligan, Leticia Colon and Bobby Simmons are not seeking reelection.
An opposition school board slate may provide company in September. East End City Councilman Andre Baker, former City Councilman Dave Hennessy, a retired school teacher, and Howard Gardner, an ex-candidate for City Council will try to petition their way onto the ballot. A coalition of activists including East End committeeman Charlie Coviello will be scouring the necessary signatures to wage a primary. Coviello says leaders of the teacher’s union the Bridgeport Education Association, opposed to Mayor Bill Finch and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, will assist the signature process.
Former City Council President Lisa Parziale and former State Senators Ed Gomes and Ernie Newton announced their support for Andre Baker for school board at the convention. Baker’s name was placed into nomination but support for endorsement came up short. Still, Baker has pockets of support from pols who know how to pull out primary votes from neighborhoods, including West Side, East Side, East End and North End.
Democrats currently hold a 5-4 advantage on most contentious school board votes over members of the Connecticut Working Families Party, which will field candidates in the November general election.
Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa took a swipe at the Working Families Party for trying to take control of city schools. “The opposition has no plans,” Testa told party insiders from the ballroom of his restaurant. “Our main concern is the kids of the city of Bridgeport. The Working Families Party will come after us with everything they have.”
The endorsement session Monday night went according to plan for campaign operatives of Mayor Bill Finch who no doubt will be weighing in on this school board election to try to keep control away from Democratic opponents aligned with the Working Families Party.
Democrats also endorsed incumbent city sheriffs Dennis Scinto, Willie Murphy and Mitch Robles to two-year terms. Scinto has served as a city sheriff, with one two-year break, since 1987. He’s among the longest-serving elected officials in city history. Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy served from 1933-1957. City Clerk Fleeta Hudson has served consecutively since 1991.
On the City Council front Democrats endorsed:
130th District, incumbents Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom.
131st District, incumbents Denese Taylor-Moye and Jack Banta.
132nd District, endorsed incumbents John Olson and Evette Brantley could face a September primary from Bob Halstead, former long-time city planner, and Trish Swain.
133rd District, incumbents Tom McCarthy and Howard Austin.
134th District, incumbents Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia.
135th District, the Rev. Mary Lee, a city schoolteacher, says she’s planning to primary endorsed incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney.
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 endorsed incumbents Angel DePara and Carlos Silva.
In the 137th District get ready for the battle royal on the East Side. Incumbent Lydia Martinez will have to wage a primary to win reelection. Former council member Maria Valle and Aidee Nieves, members of the town committee district, received the endorsement Monday night. Martinez plans on seeking reelection with Milta Feliciano, instead of incumbent Manny Ayala who jabbed Martinez by placing Valle and Nieves into nomination.
138th District, incumbents Mike Marella and Rich Paoletto.
In the 139th District, James Holloway, the longest-serving member of the council, was endorsed for another two-year term with East End activist Eneida Martinez-Walker. Andre Baker, planning a primary for school board, will not seek reelection to his council seat.
Primary challengers can pull petition papers to seek signatures to win a ballot spot in September. They have about two weeks to return signatures to election officials for review and certification. 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.
City Republicans will conduct a candidate convention Tuesday night at the North End Library.