The door knocking, phone calls, mail pieces, lit drops are coming to an end. One last final push is on for control of the Board of Education. On the top line for Tuesday’s (today) Democratic primary endorsed candidates–Kathryn Bukovsky, Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark–backed largely by the Democratic political establishment, Mayor Bill Finch and education reformers who like the direction of the school system under school chief Paul Vallas. On line two a challenge slate opposed to Vallas and party leadership–Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey–supported by education unions the Bridgeport Education Association, Connecticut Education Association as well as the Connecticut Working Families Party with three of its candidates on the elected school board.
Both sides have dumped a lot of mail, pumped thousands of phone calls to serial Democratic primary voters in what is expected to be a low turnout. Activists for the challenge slate argue our candidates are independent-minded and unencumbered by the party apparatus. No one owns us. Operatives for the endorsed candidates respond, oh really, if you elect the challengers financed by the unions they will reward union leadership with fat pay raises for their peeps, increasing your taxes.
What’s on the line? Future control of the school system and the largest chunk of the municipal budget. If the endorsed slate wins two of three seats Tuesday it nearly assures a school board coalition sensitive to reforms implemented by Vallas. If the challenge slate wins three seats on Tuesday opponents to Vallas nearly assure coalition control of the school board with like-minded interests of the Working Families Party. Democrats aligned with Finch and Vallas currently control a 5-4 vote on most contentious issues. Democrats on Tuesday can vote for up to three of the six candidates. The top three vote producers move on the November general election as prohibitive favorites.
Absentee ballots could be key in this primary. More than 800 Democrats have voted by absentee ballot. Political operatives of the endorsed Democrats expect to have an absentee ballot lead to start the day. This places a premium on the challenge slate to win the machine count high enough to offset the absentee ballot margin.
Control of the school board, however, does not end on Tuesday. The Working Families Party and Republican Party trying to regain viability will each field three candidates in November, joining the three Democrats for five open seats. The Working Families Party and Republicans will slug it out for the two seats reserved for state-mandated minority-party representation.
In addition to the citywide school board primary, four district primaries for City Council are on tap:
In the West Side 132nd District, Bob Halstead and Trish Swain face incumbents John Olson and Evette Brantley.
In the North End 135th District, Mary McBride-Lee and Richard Salter against incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney.
In the East Side 136th District, Richard DeJesus and Alfredo Castillo oppose incumbents Carlos Silva and Angel DePara.
In the East Side 137th District, incumbent Lydia Martinez and Milta Feliciano take on endorsed ex-councilwoman Maria Valle running with Aidee Nieves.
Polls are open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
No sure where you vote? See the Secretary of the State’s polling locator.