Spring is here! Everyone in a good mood? Okay, a better mood?
Time to take a little inventory on Bridgeport’s mayoral race approaching full mode. Mayor Bill Finch, for one, is in full campaign mode, raising tons of money, weighing the opposition scenarios, fighting to maintain a financial livelihood he’s never had before. For Bill, a lot is at stake. He’s not a man of wealth. His mayoral salary and the associated benefits–insurance, car, gas, etc.–represents a package that far exceeds anything he’s earned in a professional position. When you have two young boys to raise it especially pushes into focus the stakes for the incumbent. Bill has made a career of relying on his political friends to set things up for him. This is not exclusive to Bill. Many have followed this route.
The opposition for a September Democratic primary is John Gomes, Finch’s former deputy chief administrative officer, who has formed a candidate committee. Mary-Jane Foster, a driving force behind the sports and entertainment complex that became the ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard, has formed an exploratory committee. So has Charlie Coviello, a Finch supporter in 2007, and himself a former mayoral candidate. What about Joe Ganim, who’s moving around like he’d like his old job back? If Joe gets in the game, he certainly changes the dynamic.
Now let’s get to a subject matter a number of OIB friends have asked me about here, in private emails and phone calls over the past couple of days–a confrontation started by the mayor’s wife Sonya following a fundraiser for Bill at Testo’s Restaurant directed at Democratic Party Vice Chair Dottie Guman, one of the most decent, most respectful folks you’ll meet in politics or in life. Why haven’t I written about this? I don’t like writing about spouses/family members of politicians, unless I think spouses/family members impact the political future or performance of public officials.
What happened the other night is important for readers to understand in this context. Dottie Guman is Bill Finch’s political fairy godmother, the person who looked after him when few others would. Dottie Guman has a mind of her own to the point that she never allowed even her husband, the late John D. Guman Jr., who served as Bridgeport Dem party chair, to influence her concern for Bill. Dottie’s husband was never a fan of Bill Finch for a number of reasons which don’t matter in the context of this column. “Why are you always bleeding for that guy!” John Guman, the husband, would bark at his wife. Dottie looks beyond human flaws like no one I’ve met in politics.
In her political life, especially the past 20 years, Dottie has helped Bill Finch in extraordinary ways. Bill Finch faced serious financial hardship in the 1990s when she stepped up to help him: campaign work, city work, transit authority work, business community work. Bill had bounced around from job to job before that. The core of Bill Finch is good and decent, but he had a way of sticking foot in mouth (still does) that upset a number of past employers. Bill tends to puke up what’s in his head irrespective of the consequences. Sometimes, it’s better to be discerning.
Sonya is upset that Dottie’s 44-year-old son, smart, well educated, former City Council member, an accountant by profession, dared to become treasurer of Mary-Jane Foster’s exploratory committee. John Guman, the son (like his dad and his mom), has a mind of his own. He thinks Foster would make an effective mayor. If John Guman thought Foster wasn’t the goods, he wouldn’t bother. He’s got better things to do. Serving as treasurer of a campaign committee is a huge pain in the ass, requiring tons of time. He is volunteering his time in this capacity.
Despite John Guman’s support for Foster, Dottie Guman continues to support Bill Finch evidenced by working hard on the most recent Finch fundraiser that has netted roughly $80,000. Now let’s examine the reason Sonya spewed an expletive-filled rant on Dottie, that according to witnesses was way over the top, especially against a 72-year-old woman whose way of swearing is calling someone “full of prunes.” Finch supporters like to claim John Guman owes Bill Finch because Bill supported John Guman’s run for mayor in 2003. The fact is John Guman for mayor 2003 put food on the table for the Finch family. Sonya was well-compensated for the work she performed on behalf of the campaign. She did not volunteer. She was paid. Bill benefited financially from his involvement and his wife’s involvement in John Guman’s run for mayor.
Some perspective is in order. There’s nothing wrong with earning a payday for working on a campaign. There is a lot wrong for a wife of a pol to verbally assault the mother of a son who dares to support someone else, especially when Sonya earned a handsome payday from John Guman’s campaign for mayor. I sense much high anxiety from supporters of the various mayoral camps. I hope everyone in this process takes a deep breath, focus on the things that matter and not allow the past to poison the present.