Marilyn Moore’s Historic State Senate Win Completes Ed Gomes’ Revenge

Moore, Blumenthal, Ganim, Malloy
Marilyn Moore campaigning with U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, Probate Judge Paul Ganim and Governor Malloy in front of Wilbur Cross School on Election Day.

State Senate-elect Marilyn Moore never crafted her campaign as something potentially historic, she just went about her business putting in the retail work–lighting up phone lines and knocking on doors–so required in these types of elections when the biggest prize at the top of the ticket is governor. Last Tuesday she became the first black woman to win Connecticut’s 22nd State Senate District, which makes the victory even more compelling because she got there knocking off an incumbent in a primary then defeating her Republican opponent handily in the general election in the split city-suburban district that covers all of Trumbull and portions of Bridgeport and Monroe.

In 1980, Margaret Morton, the transcending funeral home director from the city’s East End, changed the face of city and state representation defeating in a Democratic primary party-entrenched State Senator Sal DePiano in the neighboring Bridgeport-centric 23rd State Senate District, becoming the first black woman to serve in the state’s upper chamber.

Moore, Barack
President Obama juiced city turnout for Democrats two days before the election.

Moore entered the primary with a city message of reform against the political establishment supporting three-term incumbent Anthony Musto and a suburban message of bridge building on behalf of the three communities in the district. She stitched together coalitions that included anti-establishment pols, government reformers, activist members of the Connecticut Working Families Party and progressive groups led by her campaign strategist Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.

Essentially her city primary message focused on the tin ear of the incumbent unresponsive to the voices of the people, particularly a proposed government reform bill, torpedoed by Musto, to close a loophole in state law preventing enforcement of the city charter’s prohibition of city employees serving on the City Council.

Ed Gomes
Ed Gomes loved his Wilbur Cross moment on election day.

One of Moore’s key allies, Ed Gomes was himself a former state senator from the city’s Whiskey Hill area of the North End. In 2011, while he was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery, Hartford political powerhouses decided to carve a piece of Gomes’ 23rd district, specifically the African American-rich Wilbur Cross precinct, into Musto’s turf to rescue him from a tough general election. They had swiped Gomes’ voter base. When he lost a three-way primary won by Andres Ayala in 2012, Wilbur Cross was in Musto’s district.

Ed Gomes, an intense man of pride, vowed to get even. Careful what you wish for, political interlopers in Hartford. In a titillating reversal of political fortune it was the Wilbur Cross precinct that ultimately lanced Musto in the primary with Ed Gomes working day and night, with the help of other political operatives in the district to maul Musto at the polls. Overall Moore won the close primary by roughly 80 votes. Her Wilbur Cross plurality was roughly 300 votes, her largest precinct win.

The general election matched Moore against Trumbull Town Councilman Rick Costantini who was raised in the North End of Bridgeport. In a dramatic leap, Costantini political handlers tried to frame Moore as a party-entrenched pol aligned with the city’s big bad Democratic machine. Instead of introducing Costantini to voters with a positive message focused on what he’d do as a state senator, his mail pieces drew a negative contrast. Big swing and a miss.

Meanwhile, Moore told a very personalized story about how she brought people together with the creation of the Witness Project that services needy women suffering from breast and cervical cancer. She illustrated her background as a bridge-building message to suburban voters. In campaigns winning is relative. There was no expectation given Republican Tom Foley’s suburban advantage over incumbent Democrat Dan Malloy that Moore would win the suburbs outright. But could she crack 40 percent of the vote in Trumbull and Monroe? She did.

She accomplished that by personal phone calls to unaffiliated voters in the district. She enhanced her expected voter performance by five percent, according to Trumbull Democratic Town Chair Tom Kelly. Meanwhile, Moore ran up huge numbers in the Bridgeport portion of the district that includes the North End, West Side, Brooklawn and Black Rock, winning 76 percent of the city vote.

Blowout wins in four city precincts covered the suburban losses, including a 1000-vote plurality in Wilbur Cross School.

Later that night, at a victory celebration at Miss Thelma’s Restaurant  Downtown, Ed Gomes, now 78 years old but still with some political spunk in the tank, leaned back in his seat, cracked that crocodile smile and savored the moment. “They took the district away from me but we took it back.”

Ed Gomes had completed his revenge … in his old voter base … Wilbur Cross School.

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20 comments

  1. Every now and then there is some justice. I guess that’s what keeps some of us plugging away. Marilyn and Ed are two of my favorite people and this was a well-deserved victory.

  2. As I predicted, Malloy begins his betrayal of both teachers unions within hours of winning re-election. On Wednesday the SBOE voted to ask the legislature for another $21 million to open eight new charter schools over the next two years. They also want to increase the number of Commissioner’s Network schools from a maximum of four schools per district to six. The Commissioner’s Network is what gave us Family Urban Schools of Excellence at Dunbar School where they hired a convicted sex offender to work with children. The founder was found to have lied about possessing a doctorate, plead guilty to forgery, tax evasion and embezzlement of taxpayer dollars. They are currently under investigation by the FBI. Just this school year alone the BPS is losing $4 million dollars in federal Title I funds, transportation and special education costs to the five state charter schools located in Bridgeport. It is time to prepare for battle with Malloy, the legislature, the SBOE, Mayor Finch and anyone else who wants to help millionaires and billionaires privatize education and rake in millions of taxpayer dollars on the backs of impoverished minority students.

  3. Congratulations to the CEA and AFT for helping to re-elect Malloy, the very person who has done everything in his power to weaken your organizations, denigrate your members, cheapen the teaching profession and promote the massive expansion of charter schools. A special thank you to Rob Traitor BEA President who voted to endorse Malloy on the CEA Board after his delegates voted unanimously not to endorse Malloy.

  4. Here is the link to the CT Mirror article about Malloy’s continued efforts to expand charter schools.
    ctmirror.org/state-education-board-wants-to-open-eight-new-charter-schools

    Just three weeks ago I witnessed Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN enter the City Hall Annex to meeting with Mayor Finch. Hmmm, I wonder what that meeting could have possibly been about?

    Last year the SBOE approved two new charter schools to open in 2015/2016 although the legislature had not allocated any funding for these additional charter schools. One of the charter schools will be Dr. Perry’s, “The Most Twisted Educator in America.” They are now seeking funding for those two schools plus they want funding for one more to open in 2015/2016.

    In 2016/2017, they want additional funding for two more local charter schools. This is the same type of school Excel Bridgeport’s Nate Snow and Carl Horton tried to get the BBOE to approve in 2012. They are fully funded by the BBOE and they are eligible for an additional state grant of up to $3,000 per child. So while our true BPS children only have $13.5k per pupil, the local charter school students get up to $16.5k per student. Sweet deal, huh? On top of that, the BBOE does not govern the local charter school, they have their own governance council like traditional charter schools. They get 100% of our funding but the BPS does not have one say in the management of the school.

    They also want funding for three new charter schools for 2016/2017 or $8,140,000.

    While Hartford spends over $18,000 per child, New Haven spends over $17,000 per child, Bridgeport only spends $13,500 per child. We are severely underfunded and our 21,000 students are treated like they are worth less than the students from urban cities of similar demographics and size, yet Malloy, the SBOE and Finch support giving millions of taxpayer dollars to unproven charter schools instead of to the 21,000 students of our true public schools.

  5. I came away with a very different experience in my view of the candidates in this race.
    The message from Costantini was very positive, albeit naive perhaps. I recall one mailing piece showing Moore with Finch and others, expressing concern about her loyalty. It was a reasonable attempt to remind voters, after all, she is a Democrat. Costantini also knocked on our door and asked for our votes.

    On the other hand, a record may have been set for campaign mailings by government employee unions. Nearly all the mailers we received for Moore were sent by government employee unions, often showing her with government employees praising her for her (likely) future support. Another thing I recall from the 22nd Senate district race is the visits by paid Democrat party campaign workers, even offering absentee ballot applications.
    Yes, Moore’s win in Bridgeport was huge thanks to the Democrat party focus on getting out the urban vote and reports such as Lennie’s, regarding her hard work and effective tactics.
    Will she help deliver a state statute amendment that will eliminate conflict of interest on the city council or will she support a version that says it cannot be, but allows it to continue? We shall see.

    1. Was there another Rick Costantini in this election? One who did not send five mailers, three of which were pop shots at Moore to my house? One whose campaign tagline was not “Moore of the same?” One who actually had a campaign slogan that was something positive about his goals instead of one who attempted to make his opponent look bad? Where was that candidate?

          1. Oh yeah, swashbuckling–that’s me. I just want to know who the mole with a camera at Moore headquarters was.

      1. Did you notice on one of the mailers Mr. Costantini (or his campaign people) completely forgot to put his name on it? That may be a first. A mailer without the candidate’s name on it (except for the “approved by” disclaimer in small print).

          1. I know someone who has a copy and I can try to get it if you want to see it. I think someone dropped the ball there big time.

  6. One interesting fact: In comparing turnout statistics for those whose races included the whole city of Bridgeport, I find Sandi Ayala received 12,578 votes compared to Malloy’s 16,863 and Himes’s 16,798. This represents 4,285 and 4,220 voters respectively, who left Ayala’s oval blank. What does that tell us, kids?

    1. What this tells me is the Latinos went to sleep in the general election.
      Lennie, can you tell what the turnout was for the primary versus the general at some of the East Side schools?

  7. Congratulations, Marilyn!
    The voters decided and many of them I’m sure after talking to you face-to-face because people can see you are the real deal when they meet you the first time. I personally have dealt with you a few years now and seen some “moments of truth” where you proved it to me as well. I know the Mayor well and that he would photo bomb anyone and try tacky tricks anytime and that is what he was up to. I also know as anyone who has a clue knows, that you have supported Public Act 5724 right from the start and continue to this day. So glad to see you won!

    1. Bob Halstead, thanks, you are right on point, “I know the Mayor well and that he would photo bomb anyone and try tacky tricks anytime and that is what he was up to,” oh how true. Marilyn Moore was former State Senator Ed Gomes’ top aide and she has those same values. As for Ed Gomes, he’s the best.

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