If you enjoy ferocity in campaign battles, check out the Democratic Town Committee war for control of the Upper East Side. Dem voters in the 138th District could have 27 candidates from which to choose. Three slates, one organized by Board of Education member Maria Pereira, another that includes City Council members Anthony Paoletto and Nessah Smith and a third led by veteran political operatives Charles Hare and Leticia Colon will compete for nine seats March 1.
The district largely will have a new look no matter the outcome. City Librarian Scott Hughes who served as district leader following a primary battle two years ago has stepped aside saying he has a lot on his plate with new libraries coming on line. Former City Council member Melanie Jackson, a district committee member, is also not in the running. Voting precincts are Thomas Hooker School and J.F.K. Campus.
Pereira had supported Paoletto and Smith for City Council, but she was turned off by their support of Tom McCarthy for another term as council president after she said they had committed not to vote for McCarthy. She is also opposed to city councilors serving on the town committee.
Pereira is a lightning rod in city politics with a fire-breathing campaign intensity rarely seen in municipal elections. While controversial to some high-information voters in the city, her hard work and independent streak has built a sturdy base of support in the Hooker School voting precinct that has produced winning results on behalf of herself and candidates she supports.
Pereira has assembled a slate in which no one can be a city employee, nor their parents, spouses or children.
“I sought out those I felt were honest, intelligent and articulate,” Pereira says. “Those in political power cannot control these individuals because they have nothing to leverage against them. All these individuals have already demonstrated they care about the 138th and have done some advocacy or volunteer work within the 138th and/or the city of Bridgeport.”
The Pereira slate includes education advocate and ex school board candidate Eric Alicea, Angel Figueroa, active in improving conditions at Success Village, Helen Losak who’s taken on adult entertainment establishments in the neighborhood as well as residents involved in little league and parent advisory council.
This primary is a test for council members Paoletto and Smith who supported Joe Ganim for mayor. No incumbent council member wants to absorb a district primary loss shortly after winning election. Long-time district leader Martha Santiago and committee member James Morton III are also running with Paoletto and Smith as well as Robert Curwen Jr. whose father represented the district on the City Council for more than a decade and Kelly Perez, an administrative aide to Ganim.
Hare has run for a variety of offices throughout the decades, Colon has served on the City Council and Board of Education.
Slates must submit signatures from five percent of registered Democrats in the district by January 27. If signatures are approved by elections officials the respective slate of candidates will appear on the March 1 primary ballot. This is not winner take all. The top nine vote producers among all the candidates win seats on the town committee. Absentee ballot voting among a large proportion of senior citizens could be key in this district primary.
Bridgeport’s 90-member Democratic Town Committee is comprised of 10 districts. They select a chairman and endorse candidates for public office.