Does Candidate Diversity Matter In Elections?

Do ethnic politics matter anymore? How about politically correct ticket balancing between gender and race? Could this impact the school board election?

Hispanics, by sheer numbers, are the new growing force in city politics. By registration, at least, they represent the single largest voting bloc in the city. State Senator Andres Ayala, Town Clerk Alma Maya, Democratic Registrar Sandi Ayala, State Rep. Christina Ayala, State Rep. Ezequiel Santiago to name a few occupy municipal and state elected seats.

A lot is on the line for a September primary for Board of Education assuming the challenge slate to the endorsed Democrats submit enough certified signatures for ballot approval. Elections officials will be examining the names on petition sheets this week. Democrats currently hold a slim 5-4 voting advantage on most contentious votes over interests united with the Connecticut Working Families Party that is seeking coalition control of the school board. The WFP as well as the Bridgeport Education Association representing school system unionized workers support the school board challenge slate.

The endorsed school board slate features the Rev. Simon Castillo, a Hispanic male, Katie Bukovsky, a white woman and Brandon Clark, a black male.

The challenge slate has two black males, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey, a white male. No Hispanics or women on the opposition slate. Does it matter in what is shaping up as a competitive primary? Or will what the candidates communicate far outweigh ticket diversity?

Hispanic children represent the largest student population in the school system.

Both the endorsed school board candidates and challenge slate have quality candidates with Castillo and Baker the best known.

Campaign operatives for Mayor Bill Finch as well as a majority of the Democratic establishment support the endorsed slate. Baker, however, has pockets of party support and an East End base from his City Council seat to bring to the table, aided by coalition forces from the Bridgeport Education Association and Working Families party.

The challenge slate, with a battle cry “Better education starts today,” will present itself as the alternative to the endorsed candidates backed by privatization advocates.

Operatives for the endorsed slate will frame their candidates as positive advocates for school progress opposing school board dysfunction fanned by the WFP.

Each side will look for an edge. Will candidate diversity be one of them?



  1. The elected officials in Bridgeport are a diverse group. The council is made up of 9 blacks, 5 Hispanics and 6 whites. the city clerk is a black female, the town clerk is a Hispanic female and the registrar of voters is a Hispanic Female. The state delegation has 3 whites and the remainder are minorities. What more do you want?

    1. Excellent point, Andy. Minorities and woman are well represented these days. A few groups that are important blocs in the City and should not be overlooked. Brazilians, Mexicans and Asians. They have been growing and opening small businesses everywhere. They have contributed to the City as well as the neighborhoods. I include the Portuguese community also. How lucky we are in this city. The diversity is incredible. For me, it’s all about the food. Lol.

  2. Unless we are including the Portuguese community, when we are talking ‘Hispanics’ around Bridgeport we are talking the Puerto Rican community. Let’s not zoom each other with finery.

    That voter is picky and independent. It does not seem to machine well, at least in Bridgeport, compared to earlier ethnic groups in the city. It shares one characteristic common in decades past with working-class people in town: the voter is more concerned with other things besides civic affairs. There has been engagement when a local special interest has been raised and effectively presented.

    The average voter Puerto Rican will not automatically come out for a stiff just because they are from their community. Manipulated voters will turn out, as they do and have done in other communities. Say hello to the reigning queen of absentee ballots. (We should give a hat tip to Mitch Robles for figuring out a way to push his neighborhood, if not outright machine it.)

    Previous conflicts between what could be described as the white community and the black community leave the Puerto Rican community disinterested unless a white politician or a black politician can find a way to flip them. Usually they split, or don’t vote.

    Ethnic politics counts in this community, like any other. It has always counted, but it is not the only factor. They don’t cotton to the white-black crap in American politics. Unless it serves a self-interest.

    Percentage of voters–in all communities–is down from years ago because of efforts to register voters. Raw numbers of voters have not dropped that much. Remove for a moment the series of really hot primaries from 1979-86. Look at before and after. Things went back to “normal.” During the “war,” the personalities were different; the issues extreme. The Puerto Rican community, as an ethnic bloc, provided a frequent tipping point in those battles. It was not their war. They got to play both sides. For their advantage. Which they did.

    Obviously, the influence of the Puerto Rican community in Bridgeport politics has increased since that time by numbers of elected officials alone. But it appears that is not because voter turnout has increased. Instead, their numbers have reached a point in certain precincts where it is their neighborhood. They call the shots. And they elect and unelect representatives in a manner that confuses Anglos (see East Bridgeport). Four years ago in a hullabaloo–from OIB and possibly around town–over a city council primary on the East Side, there were more people hanging out in Washington Square Park on Primary Day than turned out to vote. The city would have been better served setting up a polling booth in the bandshell than at Marin. That strikes me as reasonable to describe the normal political interest of Bridgeport’s Puerto Rican community. That was a squawk among their own. Yawn.

    That stated, Andres Ayala did get something of a push from his own community running for state senator in his primary last year. He had a credible political record, but no sizzle. The response was OK but not overwhelming. Perhaps that will come. But his own community couldn’t close the deal without outside help. Perhaps it is better that way. It forces people to work together.

    Now, you would think the education issue would strike a chord. The percentage of students in the school system suggest an interest. It is a reasonable assumption. It is NOT reasonable based on PAST fact. For that to change, some ONE–or an organized group–the community respects will have to mobilize that vote.

    Good luck.

  3. If I do decide to vote, 50/50 chance I will vote for the challenge slate. Anyhow I think voter apathy has hit me, it does not really matter who you vote for, things will never change. Now I see why people stay home, I might just sit this one out. My prediction is a light 2,000 to 2,500 voter turnout and if lucky 3,000 the most with Black Rock school leading the way with 220 to 300 voters casting a vote there, really doubt 300 though.

  4. *** Depending on the political race and who’s running, may make a difference when it comes to diversity; however in Bpt just getting voters to the polls is a major hurdle in itself which is why A/B’s can make or break a candidate’s election run. Last Mayoral election run with a full city slate only topped about 19% citywide (sad). ***

  5. *** Very sad, especially when the incumbent Mayor won by a small margin (citywide) to a last-minute unknown female candidate with a weak campaign. Also in which lots of underhanded election moves and money was spent on a full slate by the DTC. *** NOTHING TO BE PROUD ABOUT, REALLY ***


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