Leave us out of this. That seems to be the common declaration from an assortment of incumbents and challengers on Tuesday’s ballot that features historic spending for a charter revision question that if approved by city voters will grant Mayor Bill Finch the power to appoint school board members, Finch’s mayoral priority prior to the havoc of Sandy that’s added a new dimension to this presidential campaign. The mayor says if you’re going to hold me accountable for schools give me the authority to appoint board members.
Democratic State Rep. Jack Hennessy has made it clear where he stands: he calls the ballot question a power grab to control contracts and jobs. So far Democratic Congressman Jim Himes and Republican challenger Steve Obsitnik have postured no public statements on the ballot question, irrespective of OIB’s prodding. Himes, understandably for the next few days, will focus on his Sandy damage tour throughout cities and towns of the 4th Congressional District. Don’t ya just love the power of incumbency?
This ballot question is tricky for Himes. If he comes down on the side of an appointed school board he risks alienating thousands of voters, particularly the African American community that understands the historic struggle to win voting privileges. If he sides with a democratically elected board he opposes a mayor with whom he has a strong working relationship.
Obsitnik taking a position, however, has no real risks, especially with a message that could cut into Himes’ base and place the incumbent on the defensive. Seems like a no brainer, from a pure strategic position, to come down on the side of democracy. “The last thing Bridgeport needs is more politicians sticking fingers in the board of education pie”–or something like that. Unless of course in his heart and his head Obsitnik embraces an appointed board. Tell us how you really feel, Steve? Same thing for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon who’s making a play for city votes unlike so many Republicans who write off the city. It’s an opportunity to put Democrats in a Democratic city on the defensive.
Interestingly, just about all establishment Bridgeport Republicans, be it GOP Town Chair John Slater or an assortment of town committee members, are working to defeat the ballot question, including State Rep. candidate John Iannuzzi who has a simple message: vote no on the ballot question, vote yes for Iannuzzi. Now, Iannuzzi has a mountainous climb trying to take out Democratic incumbent Ezequiel Santiago in a heavy Democratic State House district, but at least Iannuzzi is putting up the good fight bringing attention to a ballot question in which supporters and opponents will spend roughly $750,000 combined to make their case.
Wouldn’t it be nice if other candidates weighed in?