UPDATE: The Rev. Charlie Stallworth, aided by the might of the Greater Bridgeport Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, won the special election Tuesday to fill the state legislative seat vacated by Chris Caruso who took a job with the Malloy administration. Bridgeport police officer Verna Kearney, led by backers of Caruso, finished second. Stallworth won by 99 votes pending count of absentee ballots, according to Democratic Registrar of Voters Sandi Ayala who said the turnout in Connecticut’s 126th State Assembly District was roughly 10 percent.
Absentee ballots were not a factor in this race. Only 44 absentee ballots were returned. Stallworth, with 460 total paper ballot votes, won Wilbur Cross, Hallen and Hooker precincts. Kearney, with 361 total paper ballot votes, won Read School and Park City Magnet. Former State Rep. Bob Keeley finished a distant third with 184 total votes from the five precincts in the legislative district that includes portions of the North End and Upper East Side.
Stallworth, pastor of the East End Tabernacle Baptist Church and a member of the city’s Police Commission, won the backing of Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa and Mayor Bill Finch. The work of the ministerial alliance, a group of city clergy long active in city elections, was key to Stallworth’s success, especially in a low turnout. Ministers urged their flock to support one of their own in the weeks heading into the special election, and the Wilbur Cross precinct was key to the turnout success. Many voters in that North End area worship in the East End. Stallworth, as the endorsed Democrat in the race had the top line with “Democratic” next to his name. All the other candidates, except Republican James Keyser, had “Petitioning Candidate” next to their names. Perhaps vote top line Democrat was enough to put Stallworth over the top. Stallworth was also the only candidate to apply and receive public financing, giving him a large spending edge over the other candidates.
The ministers, Testa and Finch can feel good about this win. But within a loss the Caruso forces looking to deliver Verna Kearney won two precincts out of the five. That is something to build upon for the forces opposed to Testa and Finch. Stallworth received 460 votes out of 1263 total cast in the special election, roughly 36 percent of the overall vote in a seven-candidate field. Another way of looking at this is that the anti-party vote was split up allowing Stallworth’s victory.
Other petitioning candidates in the race were Mark Trojanowski, Carlos Silva and Tom Lombard.