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Endorsed Democrats Say They Were Not Invited, School Board Forum Cancelled

September 3rd, 2013 · 35 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Education, News and Events

UPDATE: Jean Rabinow of the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters informed OIB Monday night the forum scheduled for Tuesday (tonight) for Democratic school board candidates has been cancelled. “We regret that we cannot go forward with the forum,” she said. “It was our understanding that all candidates were notified. Out of fairness to all candidates we have cancelled the event. It’s our policy not to be involved in a forum that would be one-sided.”

The campaign manager for three endorsed Democrats running in a September 10 primary for Board of Education issued a statement on Monday that they will not participate in a Tuesday forum at the Burroughs Community Center “because they were not invited by the forum organizers” the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters and Common Cause in Connecticut. News release follows:

The Democratic endorsed candidates for the Board of Education, Kathryn Roach Bukovsky, Rev. Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark, announced today that they will not be participating in a candidate forum scheduled for Tuesday evening because they were not invited by forum organizers.

“Katie, Brandon and Rev. Castillo have been working very hard since being nominated, speaking directly to the residents of Bridgeport about this very critical election and what role they will play in improving the schools to create a better future for our city,” said Emily Basham, campaign manager. “The candidates have decided to continue to speak directly to the residents, rather than put their positive momentum to a halt to participate in a forum that they were not invited to attend.”

The Democratic primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 10. Residents interested in learning more about the candidates can log on to www.facebook.com/citizensforstudents or call the campaign’s headquarters at (203) 572-7822.

Last Thursday the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters and Common Cause in Connecticut announced a candidates forum for school board for Tuesday September 3, 6 p.m. at the Burroughs Community Center, 2470 Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock. Jean Rabinow of the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters told OIB last Thursday that she believed that most of the six candidates had been invited, but certainly all six would be invited within the next day or so. She also said forum organizers had not yet settled on a moderator, but she would perform that function if necessary.

The three endorsed candidates, according to the news release, say they were not invited. Part of the sticking point could be the late notice of the event and the actual value these forums present for candidates. Attendance for these forums are generally comprised of supporters of the various camps, leaving to chance media outlets reporting candidates positions to the electorate. Some political operatives believe there is more value for candidates to reach voters directly through door knocking and phone calls than attending forums, especially in low-turnout primaries.

On the top line three candidates, Kathryn Bukovsky, Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark, have the backing of Mayor Bill Finch and traditional interests of the Democratic Town Committee experienced in churning out a vote. On line two three candidates, City Councilman Andre Baker, Dave Hennessey and Howard Gardner, are supported by disaffected political operatives as well as the Bridgeport Education Association representing teachers and the Connecticut Working Families Party that seeks coalition control of the Board of Education. The WFP has three of its candidates on the nine-member school board. It has endorsed three candidates for the November general election including Andre Baker.

Two weeks ago five of the six school board candidates attended a forum hosted by the political action group Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport.

Katie Bukovsky, one of the three endorsed Democrats for school board, is scheduled to appear on the Bridgeport Now cable access show co-hosted by Jennifer Buchanan tonight 8 p.m. on Channel 88.


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35 Comments so far ↓

  • JMart

    What a screw-up if true or maybe they think they have it all locked up and don’t need to go.

    • gailj2

      I am a member of Bpt Area LWV. This was supposed to be a co-sponsored event. The LWV was not in the driver’s seat and communication from its partner Common Cause was almost non-existent in the days before and during Labor Day crucial period. It is my understanding the invitations were made by phone calls. Also, Adam Wood left for Scotland and may have been distracted or run out of time to deal with a phone call approach. LWV procedures for invitations are stricter. So lots of reasons for failure and yes it is embarrassing.

      • The Fixer

        Gail, were the candidates called directly or did you go through Adam Wood? I’m wondering if the candidates were allowed to make their own decisions or if Adam conveniently “ran out of time to deal with a phone call approach.” Gail, nothing happens by accident with the Finch administration. Everything is planned and calculated for their personal political gain. Adam played you. He knew his candidates were not prepared to speak publicly so he “lost” the phone message, left the country and blew off your debate. The LWV is showing their naivete. This is not Trumbull or Monroe. This is the Bridgeport machine. You’d better wise up or stop attempting to organize Bridgeport debates.

      • BlackRockGuy

        Why would Adam Wood have anything to do with a primary election campaign even to begin with? Sounds like the Mayor’s people are trying to dampen coverage of the election to dampen voter turnout. This whole thing sounds very bizarre. And if they weren’t invited why would they not have contacted the LWV to find out why, after all they are the party-endorsed candidates. Very weird excuse to bow out of a candidate forum, and very stupid.

        • The Fixer

          The mayor’s people are trying to keep their candidates hidden so no mistakes can be made prior to the primary. That’s why Castillo was given his marching orders to stay quiet. I agree with Dave Walker. The LWV should have apologized for any miscommunication and gone on with the debate. Anyone who doesn’t show gets an empty chair. To not hold the debate plays right into Finch’s plan.

  • Dave Walker

    They should have three empty chairs with their names on them at the Forum. This no-show approach is typical for Finch and the DTC political machine in Bridgeport. My wife and I still plan to attend. Hopefully the endorsed candidates will reconsider.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Very disappointing news.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    There is a real good reason for them not to attend–fear of the questions that may be asked. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”–Mark Twain

    Keep in mind Rev. Castillo did not show up for the forum at the library about ten days ago. Many candidates who didn’t have to be there (those not facing a primary) took the time to attend the event.

  • Local Eyes

    Your screen is your new aquarium. Too many sharks in the water. Control this one with your cursor:

  • Bond Girl

    Wow. Really? This is especially disappointing news to those who were hoping the endorsed slate would not even take the first sip of the paranoia Kool-aid. I am with Dave. I hope some or all will reconsider this decision.

  • carolanne curry

    Well, everyone familiar with the OIB blog cannot count the times when I assail the moral and political ethics of the Finch-Wood-Testa trio, and it would be this very trio who would be the first to admit it privately to themselves their “endorsed” candidates are simply placeholder puppet votes.

    They couldn’t answer their way out of a paper bag with regard to the crisis that is the current level of the public school system … once regarded with respect across the country.

    No, they’re not anywhere near ready for real honest questions calling for real honest answers. They weren’t “endorsed” for their smarts about Bridgeport’s huge public education crisis. But we already know that.

    No, they were nominated to become endorsed to become elected and once elected … to say yes or no automatically the way the Finch-Wood-Testa trio demands.

    So you can call it whatever you want but tell your voters quickly and effectively how these three “endorsed” candidates are running from the truth … they’re scared and they’re not prepared to serve the needs of this City’s public education system.

    Under the current Elected Board Of Education, leave no child behind has come to mean for Bridgeport every child is left behind.

    • Bob

      Well said, Carolanne. They are only pawns of the current administration and probably couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag when it comes to sensible and productive education.

    • Local Eyes

      Carolanne Curry is unwise to presume the Finch-Wood-Testa trio “would be the first to admit” their own endorsed candidates are puppets.
      But she is wise to believe an unelected BOE would be better. In 2013, no child left behind is yesterday’s mistake and irrelevant to today’s discussion.

  • donj

    I was not even planning on voting in this primary but damn, no show??? I will def be voting now early at 6am though I have to work until 9, I will wake up early to make it to the polls by 6am to vote against these clowns. I urge all people who vote at Longfellow and Black Rock to also vote in November against those two Democratic council people. We have a bar problem in Black Rock and a drug problem as well, every night drunk people are driving down our streets fast and out-of-towners are coming on our side streets buying drugs. I have witnessed this drug dealing numerous times and a few years ago Black Rock was not like this. The two council members have not addressed this issue, not even once. I am a Democrat but I will vote a straight Republican city council ticket come November. I have my issues with Torres and never voted for him for mayor but I will give him a try in November.

  • Grin Ripper

    Endorsed slate proved they are dunces. They are afraid to answer tough questions.

  • Mustang Sally

    This is not even close to surprising. Not well played at all, Finchwood. Not at all. It’s so typical I am actually bored.

  • Ron Mackey

    Let me see if I got this right. “Jean Rabinow of the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters informed OIB Monday night the forum scheduled for Tuesday night for Democratic school board candidates has been cancelled. ‘We regret that we cannot go forward with the forum,’ she said. ‘It was our understanding that all candidates were notified. Out of fairness to all candidates we have cancelled the event. It’s our policy not to be involved in a forum that would be one-sided.” Jean Rabinow said “out of fairness,” what fairness, she’s backing Mayor Finch’s candidates when she cancelled the event. All the candidates knew the dates, place and time and one slate decided not to show, so what, you go forward with the debate with three empty chairs or just ask the questions the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters were going to ask all of the candidates, this is a bad decision by the Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters.

    • Dave Walker

      Nice job on this one, Ron. This is a big embarrassment for the League of Women Voters. The fairness rule requires that everyone be invited. That was met. When weak candidates who are allied with the political machine do not want to face the public, you can’t allow their actions to cancel the entire public event. This cancellation was inappropriate and a disservice to the voters in Bridgeport. It should be re-scheduled ASAP.

    • Ron Mackey

      This is from the “League of Women Voters”:
      Improving Elections–We work to improve how elections operate at all levels and support proactive reforms to keep our nation’s elections free, fair and accessible. We seek to modernize registration and voting processes, streamline the administration of elections and promote transparent and accountable redistricting.

      Registering Voters–League volunteers hold thousands of voter registration drives across the country each year and encourage all citizens to vote. We concentrate our registration drives at locations that reach large numbers of unregistered voters, including high schools and community colleges, sporting events, naturalization ceremonies and more.

      Educating Voters–We work to educate voters about candidates running for elected office and the state-specific rules governing the election process. In efforts to foster civic engagement, League members host hundreds of candidate debates and forums across the country each year and prepare straightforward voter guides on candidates and ballot issues. We equip millions of voters with critical information about the election process in each state, including information on voter registration forms and deadlines, polling place locations and ID requirements, through both print materials and VOTE411.org, our online one-stop elections information hub.

      • Ron Mackey

        Bridgeport Area League of Women Voters has disgracee LWV. This is great organization that worked to get women to vote at all levels. Their website reads:
        Rooted in the movement that secured the right to vote for women, the League has worked to foster civic engagement and enhance access to the vote since we were founded in 1920. Over time our work has evolved from efforts to gain and foster women’s suffrage to ensuring that all eligible voters–particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities, including first-time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, minorities, the elderly and low-income Americans–have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote.

  • Black Rock Barb

    Calling Emily Post–I was not personally invited to a public event that announced I was invited and expected, is it all right to announce publicly I am not attending?
    Dear Calling, Why not call the sponsor and clarify before you decline? It might be in your best interest to get the details and make your decision before your press release so no one has egg on their face.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    “It was our understanding that all candidates were notified. Out of fairness to all candidates we have cancelled the event. It’s our policy not to be involved in a forum that would be one-sided.”

    Let’s say Lennie and Mo decide to get married and they both invite members of both sides of their family and friends. Lo and behold, Mo’s side of the family decides they are not participating in the wedding because Lennie is a bloody liberal and Mo’s family consider themselves conservative. They love each other and want to share their wedding experience with all invited. If Lennie and Mo were to follow Jean Rabinow’s logic, there would be no wedding because it would be a “one-sided” wedding.

    “It was our understanding that all candidates were notified.” Sounds flaky to me. It “was” their understanding or is it their understanding?
    The campaign manager of the endorsed candidates obviously knew there was a forum scheduled which I suppose is the reason she announced the candidates are not going to show up.
    Did the challenge slate receive an invitation cc’d to endorsed candidates? Was the communication or invitation made by e-mail, letter or phone call? Our understanding? If the sponsors of the forum have the documentation to prove they all were invited, then it’s a fact not an understanding. It’s a forum like the one held at the library about 10 days ago. Was it less of a forum because Simon Castillo didn’t attend? Would it be less of a forum if one side decided not to participate? No, it would not be less of a forum. It would be different if it were a scheduled debate instead of a forum. If some or the entire group of one side decided not to attend by choice, the candidates present could do like Clint Eastwood and talk to the empty chairs.

  • Mojo

    *** It really comes as no surprise the endorsed slate is not showing. It’s not the first nor the last time any slate or individual candidates in general have not shown to the Bpt League of Women Voters forums. Not prepared and afraid of the possible bad press from the media would be a good reason, no? So who would the League support now at such a short time before primary day? In which way have they supported in the past, “endorsed or challengers?” Inquiring minds would like to know, “ladies!” ***

  • gailj2

    LWV does not endorse candidates ever. It is a basic tenant of LWV to be non-partisan. Anyone who is an elected LWV leader has strict rules to follow regarding taking positions or making contributions. Members have normal rights as citizens regarding their actions in the public arena. I am a member, not a leader.

  • yahooy

    This is a clear demonstration the Calamarians are clever and crafty at the art of sleazy politics. As a result, worthy reform-minded candidates are beaten in primaries time after time after time. Examples are Chris Caruso continually shooting himself in the foot by surrounding himself with advisers who knew little about orchestrating a successful campaign and Mary-Jane Foster running an amateurish effort and losing despite overwhelming public support. I think it would be well worth while if the reform candidate slate unites and hires a highly experienced political campaign expert who could devise a strategy to bury these cheap-shoe politicians once and for all.

  • Ron Mackey

    To the voters of Bridgeport, it has been made clear the Democratic endorsed candidates for the Board of Education, Kathryn Roach Bukovsky, Rev. Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark, who announced today they will not be participating in a candidate forum, are nothing more that “PUPPETS” for Major Finch who are waiting for the strings to be pulled so they can speak, can you imagine how they would act and vote if they ever got on the BOE? And they are going to look out for the school children of Bridgeport, what a joke.

  • Baffled in Bridgeport

    I can’t get over how incredibly lame the excuses are for the endorsed candidates not showing up. I think it speaks volumes about transparency, availability and willingness to work collaboratively. A bunch of divas who won’t show up for a debate the League of Women Voters offered to host. The League of Women Voters is so neutral, so safe. You really have to be scared, arrogant, a puppet or just dumb not to participate.

  • Mojo


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