Two weeks until the August 12 Tsunami Tuesday with loads of primary action out there involving Democrats locally and Republicans statewide. This is one of those cycles with implications that could extend into next year’s mayoral election.
Statewide, State Senator John McKinney’s trying to pick up steam in the closing weeks against Republican-endorsed Tom Foley who’s hoping for a gubernatorial rematch with Dan Malloy following his razor-thin victory in 2010 after Barack Obama packed the Webster Bank Arena three days before the general election that set off a ballot-shortage frenzy in the state’s largest city. The president’s polling numbers, however, are hurting even in sure-blue Connecticut. Will Malloy and Congressman Jim Himes who benefited from the visit four years ago want him back? Bridgeport resident David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general, is running for lieutenant governor against two other Republican opponents.
The state’s largest city will feature two high-profile primaries for State Senate and State House respectively, with more than $400,000 in public campaign funds for the spending. Hey, it’s good for the local economy, right?
Political activist and healthcare professional Marilyn Moore is challenging three-term Democratic State Senator Anthony Musto in the city-suburban district that covers Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe. This is the seat Bill Finch occupied prior to his election as mayor in 2007. The Bridgeport portion covers the North End, West Side and Black Rock, the higher-turnout areas of the city. If you’re placing bets put your money on Moore to win Bridgeport and Musto to win his suburban base. How well each performs in the other’s base will decide this. The good news for Musto? He has a record to run on. The bad news for Musto? He has a record to run on. Can Moore exploit his record to her advantage? Musto has the support of the city’s political establishment, Moore the backing of reformers opposed to the direction of the city.
City Librarian Scott Hughes hopes to turn the page on freshman State Senator Andres Ayala. Connecticut’s 23rd Senate District encompasses roughly two-thirds of Bridgeport and a portion of western Stratford. Ayala, former City Council president and State House member, knows how to work absentee ballots among his Latino voter base as evidenced by absentee ballot requests flooding the Town Clerk’s Office. There’s been little direct public engagement between the two campaign camps, opting to make their case in mail pieces, door knocks and phone calls that generally decide primaries. For Hughes to win this primary he must perform well on the machines to offset Ayala’s absentee ballot advantage.
Andres Ayala’s cousin State Rep. Christina Ayala is trying to piggyback on his absentee ballot operation to fend off three opponents, party-endorsed Chris Rosario, Fire Commissioner Dennis Bradley and Teresa Davidson in Connecticut’s 128th State House District. The Ayala political family can often be coy about familial support. “Our family is our family and the people will decide.” That means even when they don’t get along (and sometimes they don’t), it still provides wiggle room to access respective support, thus Christina knocking on the doors of absentee ballot folks toiled by her cousin. Rosario, the city’s blight chief, enjoys the support of Mayor Bill Finch’s political operation. They, too, know how to scour votes in the lowest-performing voting area of the city covering the East Side and Hollow neighborhoods. Bradley is trying to pick off votes of anti-establishment electors. Can the fire commissioner powerwash the city establishment?
Rarely in city politics do complete opposites square off like in Connecticut’s 124th State House District. Incumbent Don Clemons backed away from reelection when former legislator Ernie Newton decided to seek his former State House seat. Newton won the endorsement, but then elements of the party opposed to Newton prevailed upon Board of Education member Andre Baker, including supporters of Finch, to take on Newton in a primary. Newton, the self-proclaimed Moses of his peeps, seeks a comeback following his incarceration on federal corruption charges nearly 10 years ago. Newton is a media lightning rod with deep roots in the city’s East End. Baker is a low-key owner of an East End funeral home. Newton and Baker had worked together on common candidates they supported, but now they are going toe to toe. Baker has a spending advantage with more than $30,000 courtesy of the state’s Citizens Election Program that bars Newton from participation. Newton, who’s raising money outside the program, says he doesn’t need as much with his following.
What does all this mean for next year’s mayoral race? Moore, Hughes, Christina Ayala, Dennis Bradley and Newton are not exactly members of the Finch fan club. Win or lose, will they galvanize against the mayor? Depends on the opposition against a well-financed incumbent.