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Finch Hits Midpoint Of Second Term, Builds Warchest, Potential Opponents Weigh Options

November 18th, 2013 · 36 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council, City Politics, Education

Finch and Bass Pro supporters

From summer 2012, Finch with supporters and officials from Bass Pro Shops slated for new construction on East Side.

With nearly $120,000 in campaign cash in the bank, Mayor Bill Finch is off to a mighty fundraising start at the midpoint of his second four-year term. Raising money will not be a problem for the mayor as he prepares for reelection in 2015. The larger questions: how will the next two budget cycles play out? And can the mayor generate enough economic development momentum to hold voters he could lose to challengers?

Names floating for mayor:

Mary-Jane Foster

Mary-Jane Foster.

Mary-Jane Foster, Finch’s 2011 Democratic primary challenger, proved she could raise the dough necessary to wage a competitive race. She did not, however, begin to raise money until early 2011. If she decides to make another run will she start raising money sooner to scare off potential primary challengers seeking pots of money opposed to the incumbent?

John Gomes

John Gomes.

John Gomes, Finch’s former deputy chief administrative officer, was an underfunded candidate for a while in 2011 before throwing his support to Foster. Gomes has the same issue as 2011, can he raise money? Did he miss an opportunity by not seeking a City Council seat this year that would have raised his profile? One thing’s for certain, Gomes has built alliances with Democratic operatives opposed to Finch. He hosted victory parties following both the September 10 Democratic primary and Nov. 5 general election at his popular Red Rooster deli.

Fabs and Finch

Fabs supported Finch in 2011. Will 2015 be different? CT Post photo.

John Fabrizi, who served as mayor prior to Finch, would love his old job back. Fabrizi plans to retire from the school district where he serves as head of Adult Education at the end of this school year. Fabs has never been in the position to actively raise money for public office. As a mayoral candidate it was done for him by the party establishment. If he wants to make a serious run for mayor he’ll need to raise moolah on his own.

Andres Ayala

State Senator Andres Ayala.

State Senator Andres Ayala, who works for Fabrizi in Adult Education, will seek another two-year term in 2014. Could that be a launching pad for a mayoral run? Former State Representative Americo Santiago, who managed Ayala’s hotly contested senate victory, is positioning to build a political power base in Hispanic districts. Is his larger plan an Ayala run for mayor?

Paul Ganim

Probate Judge Paul Ganim.

Probate Judge Paul Ganim, whose brother Joe served more than 11 years as mayor prior to Fabrizi, is considering his options as he’s poised for another four-year term for probate in 2014. Assuming reelection to his judgeship a mayoral race could be a free run for Ganim. Rules of conduct for probate judges come with restrictions on active fundraising so Ganim will need to figure out that piece if he decides to go for it.

Pattis and Lopez

Carmen Lopez with Attorney Norm Pattis during Paul Vallas court hearing. CT Post photo.

Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez would certainly make for a fascinating race. She has the ability to walk the courtyards with common folks or walk into a courtroom to file a lawsuit to challenge governmental injustice. Lopez’ name floating as a candidate is likely more wishful thinking by her supporters than her actual desire to run.

Chris Caruso

Former State Rep. Chris Caruso.

Former State Rep. Chris Caruso, an appointee of Governor Dan Malloy working in the State Labor Department, isn’t saying no when people ask him about another run for mayor. Caruso came up short twice in 2003 and 2007. The Big Wave had served in the State House for 20 years before accepting the Malloy job offer where he now earns more than twice as much as his prior elected position. If Malloy wins reelection in 2014 will Caruso retire from state service to try another run for mayor? If Malloy loses Caruso will be out of a job, but could then take his state pension.

Andre Baker

New school board member Andre Baker.

Andre Baker, newly elected to the Board of Education, was a lonely voice of opposition on the City Council once Bob “Troll” Walsh retired from the city’s budget and legislative body. Baker became one of the faces of the anti-Finch movement that registered at the polls this year in transforming the makeup of the school board and City Council. Baker, a funeral home director, brings a base from the city’s East End whose political leadership includes District Leader Ralph Ford and former State Senator Ernie Newton, both opposed to Finch.

Other potential candidates could become relevant as well. (Feel free to float your own suggestions.)

The conventional wisdom in a large field of candidates generally holds advantage incumbent with candidates splitting up the anti vote. But that’s not always the case. It depends on the candidates in the field. Recent elections show the mayor bleeding support in Black Rock, Brooklawn and the North End, the highest-turnout areas of the city. If this trend continues, it places a premium on the mayor holding support in other neighborhoods. But it becomes problematic for the mayor if candidates emerge who also play well in those neighborhoods he needs.

Finch will go about his business raising money, trying to advance economic development projects with a priority to hold the line on taxes the next two years. Not an easy task. He’s still in play for reelection. A lot depends on government initiatives and candidates galvanizing organized opposition.

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36 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Lennie,
    Good of you to keep our eyes on upcoming elections. People are always more interested in celebrity factoids than they are in what makes one or the other long-term better than others for certain types of work, especially public service.

    And while Bill Finch is “showing us the money” in the pot for a next run, he is less likely to “show us the money” called for monthly (and presumably accurately after the errors in July and August reports from Anne Kelly-Lenz) and no Council person has bothered to ask for a FINAL JUNE REPORT in the past two years. Our acting finance director smiled at me when I asked about this several months ago and told me she didn’t know they would want one.

    Ann, I think there’s a new group of Council persons coming in. Some of them are likely to want more than the last Council was getting. Just a guess on my part. And they may want to know why you have to violate the Charter with late reports each month, also.

    And not for nothing, they may look for that annual Capital Budget meeting that is not held but is called for in the Charter. That could be a rather large “show me the money” event.

    And finally, if I had one Christmas gift this year it would be Tom Sherwood sharing the results of the external audit for June 2013 as prepared by Blum Shapiro. The public would have copies and Tom along with all financial personnel would be expected to respond. Now that would be a special “show me the money” moment, wouldn’t it?

    Time will tell.

  • John Marshall Lee

    My OIB friends, I am sorry to have neglected other major “show me the money” events upcoming:
    ** Upcoming valuations will stir the pot a bit, or at least they usually do.

    ** Have the City experts who have been in Court for years against our largest City taxpayer, Wheelabrator, throw in the ceremonial towel indicating City valuations are at least $100 Million too high? The cases may be on appeal until mid-century but how will such a hit be absorbed?

    ** Where is the top hat for the Mayor to dip into to fund the City share of this year’s “MBR” for education?

    ** How are the givebacks assumed in the budget this year developing?

    ** What magic do you resort to in putting the 2014-15 budget into place if you have had trouble controlling expenses and response to events while you have been channeling funds into wasted areas like “unaccountable” ghost positions and such in recent years? Is there more magic in the hat you are wearing or will Frosty leave town with it in worse shape financially than before he hopped aboard?

    Time will tell.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Omg. Only in Bridgeport can you recycle candidates like we do. I’m thinking off the bat, Finch need not worry about Ganim, just the name alone gives me the creeps. Caruso, get real. Baker, yes maybe in 6 years, Carmen Lopez, nah, too polarizing. Mary-Jane Foster and John Fabrizi, I like them both, the question would be why? I do not see them at council meetings, I do not see anyone criticizing Marina Village replacement units at the arena at Harbor yard. Silence is acceptance. I do not hear any complaining about David Kooris supporting Marina Village replacement housing or that he is now a city council member in Stamford. John Gomes, I have respect for John Gomes and he is a real nice guy. And then there is me. Lol if I have to knock on every door in this city to stop this insanity I might as well run for Mayor. :-) One thing is certain. If Mayor Finch has significant development in the works, I see no reason why anyone would change leadership. If this Marina Village replacement housing moves forward I cannot see anyone with half a brain supporting an administration that would put Marina Village on Main St. by Ralph and Rich’s, the arena and Harbor Yard. Any potential candidate not addressing this now would never have a chance. This is the time to stand up and state your position. I’ve stated mine and I’d love to hear from all the potential candidates, but honestly, I am only interested in Mayor Finch’s position. He is the Mayor and the development would be poorly placed in the heart of an area on the cusp of revitalization.

    • Mustang Sally

      Taxes are ridiculous. Schools are a joke. No significant economic development in six years. Finch has had plenty of time to leave a mark. And he has. Time to give someone else the key to the city and see if they can unlock the potential.

      • Steven Auerbach

        MUustang, honestly, there are things going on in every corner of the city. New schools going up. You’re going to blame Finch for the sorry state of our schools? There had better be a platform for any candidate to run on. New schools. Steel Point and downtown revitalization. A supporter of the arts and an attempt to be the environmental Mayor. Any potential candidate better have a platform, talking about taxes is redundant and without a plan is a sad waste of time. Then, there is the money. Who is going to contribute to a candidate who lacks passion and vision? Finch still has time to cement his position. Marina Village could well be his demise.

        • Mustang Sally

          Now did I say I blamed him? No, I did not. I just said he has had his time, let’s see if someone else can do better. Maybe he inherited some of the problems, but let’s see if another choice can find a way to improve things.

          • Steven Auerbach

            My ears are open. My eyes can see. I am not interested in realizing other people’s dreams. Change for the sake of change is not the answer. People coming out of the woodwork a year before election doesn’t impress anyone. Mayor Finch will not dance back into office, but he will not be walking up a hill either. Again, other than Marina Village replacement housing in the heart of Bridgeport’s redevelopment efforts, he has been doing a commendable job. People are beginning to feel good about the city again. I love this city and I want the best person possible at the helm. So far, Bill is the one in office and he needs to defend his record. Ganim, Ayala, Lopez, Caruso etc. need not apply. Fabrizi will have to explain why we should pick him again. My friend Mary-Jane Foster needs to decide yesterday where she stands and get busy with a platform that resonates. It is always best having sincere supporters than disgruntled Finch people. I know if I were running I would want individuals who believed I could effect positive change, not people who used to kiss the Mayor’s ass and all of a sudden want him to fail. That goes for all of the candidates. Some people are just so needy and need a pat on the head. Good luck to all the potential candidates. Mayor, squash the Marina Village replacement units by the arena and Harboryard. I am not in the mood to walk the entire city. :-)

        • OlofsonD

          Then there is ICS that wants to build a 12- and a 5-story building in downtown north, yet the city is dragging their feet. GET IT DONE! A company showing interest in your city and of course they are making it seem like they could care less.
          www .ctpost.com/local/article/Plans-for-financial-services-center-in-Bridgeport-4931114.php

          • Steven Auerbach

            Totally agree! Get it done so we can focus on new development. This project should have had a groundbreaking yesterday and our office of planning and development should focus on job-producing economic development plans and not Marina Village replacement housing on Main St.

      • BOE SPY

        Wait a minute. You can’t really blame Finch for the schools. He tried to take over the BOE and we would not let him. He did ‘flat fund’ the BOE for some years but at that time BOE spending was out of control and unaccounted for. I would agree if someone called it ‘throwing good money after bad’ out the window. The BOE says the city did not meet its minimum education spending obligation but the city is paying for custodial, security, crossing guards, trash pickup etc. in in-kind services.

  • Ron Mackey

    Lennie, you left out Independent/Republican David Walker, served as United States Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, and is Founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative. The most popular resident in Black Rock with his CW4BB group, Walker would have no problem with money, he knows more than anybody else and if you don’t believe it just ask him or his spokesmam John Marshall Lee.

    • JMart

      He can certainly run circles around Lennie’s list of potential candidates.

      • Ron Mackey

        JMart, if you know him, talk him into running because I would love to see him talking over ethnic groups besides those at Harborview Market or in Black Rock.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Ron,
          To “see him talking” you would have to come out from wherever you are and meet in public or private, something you evidently do not do. Just saying …
          And then there is your subject matter: “talking over ethnic groups” something he has not raised over the several years I have been acquainted with him. On this blog, you seem to be the “specialist” in this subject.
          Or is there someone else you would defer to in terms of knowledge and experience? Still waiting for that call on my line 203-259-9642 when you are well enough to emerge back to public life. Otherwise it almost looks like you are lobbing grenades from a foxhole, you know?
          Time will tell.

          • Ron Mackey

            John Marshall Lee, yes, I would love to see and hear Dave Walker “talking to other ethnic groups” instead of a almost totally white group and the same for those Republican candidates. There is no love with me and Mayor Finch and the DTC but the “devil” you know is better than the “devil” you don’t know.

  • Mustang Sally

    Will all due respect Steve, call it whatever you want. I call it change for the sake of being able to keep my home. I think we should try someone new. You may not share in the problems my household faces, but they are real to me nonetheless.

    • Steven Auerbach

      With all due respect Mustang, I am certain my position is worse than yours and I am positive if you believe there is a candidate out there who is going to lower your taxes or believe Finch is having a field day raising your taxes then I would say you are deluded. I also am not Finch’s cheerleader, he will be able to attempt that on his own. Just remember Mustang, the answer to all of our problems is economic development. It will take years to see the fruit. I do not hear anyone other than myself talking about the obvious. Maybe I should run for Mayor. Offer everyone a $1000 credit on their taxes and then apologize for not being able to pull it off. Finch’s claim will be development and new schools. What will someone else use as their passion? Talking about Vallas? Talking about taxes? Now there is a topic that hasn’t been discussed–lolololol come on, Mustang, be clear on what you are hoping for and then ask can this person get elected. JMART made an interesting observation as to Lennie leaving Dave Walker out. Certainly he is qualified enough but can he get any votes? The answer would be no, so you can also add him to the “need not apply” category and that is sad but he is a Republican and unless Finch is embroiled in a serious scandal, a Republican has no chance.

      • Mustang Sally

        Let’s just agree to disagree, Steve.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Steve, I know Finch is not having a field day raising taxes however he is not doing anything to lower them.
        I have attended the budget hearings for the past 3 years and saw no effort to cut the budgets submitted. In three years not one department’s budget was cut. In the years 2011 & 2012 ghost positions were in the budget that accounted for $5 million per year not counting benefits. The ghost positions were jobs that were not filled and the city by their own admission had no plans to fill them.
        This year the B & A refused to review the budget for the mayor’s office. No one knows where the money went.

        • Steven Auerbach

          Andy Fardy and JML, thank you. Someday, someone is going to take advantage of the time and effort you put forth and incorporate it into city policy.

  • Grin Ripper

    Bill and Adam want a wide-open field in a primary to siphon off the anti-Bill vote. Some people are going to have to cry “Uncle!”

  • John Marshall Lee

    Steve,
    You want passion? We have seen two years of passion and pragmatism in the Bridgeport Superintendent’s office. We have a balanced budget … OPEN information on where and how it is spent with great detail … ACCOUNTABLE fiscal information, timely and in greater detail than Bridgeport is accustomed to … and TRANSPARENT, too!!! The public governance is more favorable than on the City side I have reported but no one thinks that is important, but it is … When those developers get to know how controlled the levers of power are while we have descended regularly to lower financial strength and how high taxes are, they are slow to sign, to begin, to commit to Bridgeport. Schools are built with mostly State money. But taxpaying economic development has got to make sense for a business, unless you are in Stamford or Hartford where the State provides the financial crutches.
    So Steve, give me a call in your spare time, let’s have a cup of coffee and start you on the trail of SHOW ME THE MONEY. I want to see your passion for this City continue, but I would love to have you combine it with a lot more curiosity and pragmatism about the reform road necessary to get to Camelot. Become part of the corrective action necessary. When you are rebuffed for info, when things fail to add up, when common sense points in a different direction than you understand, get Bill to take corrective action. How about it? Time will tell.

    • Bob Walsh

      Is JML suggesting his boy Paul Vallas for mayor?
      Maybe.
      If he loses in IL.

      • John Marshall Lee

        Bob Walsh,
        Paul Vallas is certainly his own man. He was pragmatic and productive with a real talent in working on financial matters that would channel necessary resources to accomplish the task at hand. It is possible the Mayor and he talked about such an assignment, but probably that would mean opening too many cabinets as well as books and have to create stories for what slithers and creeps out, right?

        Meanwhile, he managed to put together a necessary plan, with a balanced budget for five years WITHOUT terminating teachers, WITHOUT closing any schools, WITHOUT Mayor Finch’s steady financial support, WITHOUT any drumbeat or expressed community support from the BRBC who worked six years to improve the situation with some audit recommendations.
        Vallas took less than two months and has kept the plan going with adjustment and tweaking for two years now. That is a winning formula for the City. Tell me Bob, what man or woman with whatever accreditation and certification is satisfactory to the State of CT and to the Bridgeport BOE will want to follow this up, knowing the financial lay of the land as well as the appetite for our community to personalize criticism without attending to substantive discussion? Time will tell.

        • David Moore

          Put away your knee pads, JML. You should be Vallas’ PR man. The man left a mess in every school system he has run and I predict the crap will hit the fan once someone else is in charge. And what slithers out will be out of Vallas’ cabinet once he himself slithers out.

          • John Marshall Lee

            You cannot even respond to the substance, can you. Truth and facts are alien substances for you. So your ignorant insults do not resonate with me or anyone, I suspect.
            The fact is Mayor Finch has a public relations person. Chief Gaudett does too. Vallas has none. He has more employees in the education department than the other two combined as well as 20,000 youth daily. And he balances the budget (and the Mayor has not done that recently) and the Chief of Police has not done that recently.

            So I am a volunteer enthusiast for what I see in the City. I compare and contrast rather than make predictions as you did above. “Crap will hit the fan once someone else is in charge” means what? The BOE will not find someone of capacity to pursue educational gains in the City? Or new leadership will pursue old ineffective strategies that will cause multiple crises including financial? It need not happen. Open your book, Moore. Go to the Five-Year Plan and the second-year adjustments. Give us your impression of what stays and what goes AND WHAT THE COSTS WILL BE. Can you get your mind around the PROBLEM? It is not Paul Vallas.
            The only time I have worn knee pads, Moore, was when I played college hockey. I lost a couple of teeth in that play. What play are you talking about, something you have experience in, no doubt? Time will tell.

          • Ron Mackey

            John Marshall Lee, Paul Vallas is a politician, he doesn’t need a spokesman, you are more of a Vallas cheerleader. Now as for David Walker, he is in no way a politician and he needs you as a spokesman for him.

  • Bob

    On all levels, Bill Finch is a poster boy for TERM LIMITS!!!
    Being in government was never intended to be a lifelong career. It was civic duty and then back home to your job.

  • Bob Walsh

    Steve A,
    Have you filled out a job application form for Bass Pro Shops? I didn’t know if they were accepting them yet. Less than a year from their next missed deadline.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Actually Bob, I have not. I am not sure I want to be a retail manager again after 11 years with Home Depot. I would consider it. I am optimistic Bass Pro will open later than expected but with great fanfare, of that I am sure. It will be huge news. Every newspaper will cover it as well as every politician will be there for the Photo Op. The headline will read the beginning of the Billion Dollar Dream and optimism will be at an all-time high in the city. After that all the political wannabes will be trying to create a buzz amongst a tidal wave of news and well I guess you know the rest. Don’t you, Bob?

  • Bob Walsh

    Sorry, Steve. From the website of Bass Pro Shops:
    Hourly Opportunities CONNECTICUT (Bridgeport)
    We are not accepting applications for hourly positions at this time.

    Once we begin our recruitment for Bridgeport, we will the Management positions on this website.

    Please check back periodically for more information. We are excited to become a part of the community.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Lennie, so far the takeaway from this post and the 34 comments so far … not one individual commented on any of the candidates posted and that speaks volumes.

  • Mojo

    *** Whatever political parties that are interested in backing a candidate for Mayor of Bpt in 2015 had better get cracking with picking someone and raising some “BENJAMINS!” *** NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TIME! ***

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