The 2018 election cycle will be loaded with intriguing matchups including the one shaping up in the 126th State House District where incumbent Charlie Stallworth faces a Democratic primary challenge from Congressman Jim Himes’ former deputy district director Shanté Hanks who has formed a candidate committee.
Stallworth won the seat in a 2011 special election after long-time district representative Chris Caruso was appointed to a position in the State Labor Department by Governor Dan Malloy. Stallworth, a city minister, was an early supporter of Joe Ganim’s comeback for mayor in 2015. In Stallworth’s East End church, on January 1, 2015, Ganim issued his first public apology about his 2003 conviction on public corruption charges on his way to a historic comeback. Stallworth, a leader in the politically active Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, emerged as a high-profile Ganim campaign supporter. Ganim rewarded him with a $100,000-a-year job as special adviser to the mayor working out of the mayor’s office.
Last March, Stallworth resigned as director of the Small & Minority Business Resource Center after being demoted from the mayor’s office as part of an administrative shakeup by Ganim in December 2016. Stallworth had joined several black political leaders condemning the rank demotion of Lieutenant Lonnie Blackwell who was accused of fabricating a racial letter within the Police Department. Blackwell denies the charges. Stallworth speaking out was seen as a public swipe at Ganim.
Hanks has a compelling story to tell about her Bridgeport roots with a strong background in community organizing. She worked many years at Housatonic Community College where she connected students with community resources. She was also on the Beacon Hall Project Steering Committee that was responsible for securing funding for the college’s Downtown expansion. In 2009, she was appointed to the staff of Democratic Congressman Jim Himes who had defeated Republican incumbent Chris Shays in the 2008 general election. She also served on the Bridgeport Housing Authority.
Hanks has also stared down tragedy as the survivor of a near-fatal car accident caused by a drunken driver that inspired a book Titanium Woman. As the book notes “Shantè went from a lively graduate coed to a comatose patient, lying in a hospital bed where doctors rebuilt her crushed pelvis, broken wrists, ankles and femur with titanium metal.”
The 126th State House District includes the African American-rich Wilbur Cross and Hallen precincts in the North End and Whiskey Hill neighborhoods and cuts across the city to take in a portion of the Upper East Side. In 2016 school board member Maria Pereira waged a competitive primary challenge of Stallworth who was aided by an infusion of independent expenditures to keep his seat. Prior to that Stallworth had little competition for his seat. He says he is seeking reelection. The split State House district is represented by State Senators Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes.
The Democratic Party endorsement for the seat will take place in May in advance of an expected August primary.