State Senator Marilyn Moore’s an intriguing study in tamping down ambition. She eschewed a running-mate offer by Governor-elect Ned Lamont, placing her next in line historically, as a black woman, to lead Connecticut. She could easily position herself as a state commissioner, something Lamont would embrace. The Connecticut Department of Social Services, given her health care, nutritional, senior citizen and child advocacy credentials, would fit. Nope. Not right now, anyway.
She enjoys being one of 36, the number of state senators in Connecticut, with an influential position on the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee that directs the flow of money to her district.
For now, Moore’s very selective in what she piles on her plate, one of them, in the short term co-chair of Lamont’s Women’s Policy Transition Committee coming off Tuesday’s Policy Summit at Eastern Connecticut State University.
“As the incoming governor develops priorities for our state, it’s critical that the voices of Connecticut’s women–especially women of color–are at the table,” she says. “I am honored to be asked to co-chair the Women’s Policy Transition Committee and I look forward to working to identify areas that impact women and making recommendations to Governor-elect Lamont on ways we can improve.”
Now 70 years old, Moore sports a persona much younger than a septuagenarian. Her decision making embraces a form of existentialism, cutting against the grain of the political establishment. Her supporters are urging her to go for it … for mayor. If she thinks the moment is right she will.
Such was the case in 2014 when Moore earned her campaign stripes defeating incumbent Anthony Musto in a Democratic primary largely on a reform message. Connecticut’s 22nd State Senate District is about as eclectic as they come, combining one third of Bridgeport, all of Trumbull and a portion of Monroe. The suburbs did not know Moore. She drew a line in the sand in Bridgeport while reaching out to the suburbs with an accessible ear.
Moore was perplexed that members of the city’s legislative branch, including City Council President Tom McCarthy, worked at the pleasure of the mayor. How can the legislative branch provide a check when paychecks are tied to the chief executive?
Moore’s political establishment opponents argued she had manufactured an issue. They missed a key point that resonated with city voters. State Rep. Jack Hennessy had proposed a legislative fix on behalf of reformers who wanted true checks and balances in government. His bill was blocked by Musto on behalf of Bridgeport’s political insiders who were just fine with the status quo.
Moore connected Musto to the defeat of Hennessy’s bill. She promised, as a state senator, to advance the legislation. She was true to her word and the bill passed the upper chamber in her first year, but never made it out of the State House.
The issue, however, had legs. Lo and behold, in the ensuing years, city council members on the public payroll were weeded out, either by defeat at the polls or foregoing reelection.
By the way, in 2016, McCarthy sought revenge of Musto’s loss. Moore croaked him in a primary.
Since that time Moore has built prestige. Rejecting high profile state positions, Moore’s thinking about running for mayor, pushed by a cadre of supporters and insurgents (paging Bridgeport Generation Now) who view her as the messiah of their government sensibilities.
If Moore goes for it, this is a much different animal than taking on Musto.
Musto (we’re talking pure campaign skills now) is no Joe Ganim.
Ganim’s an exceptional retail politician who emerged from six years in the joint in 2015 to reclaim the office he was forced to leave following his 2003 conviction on federal corruption charges.
Name someone else who did that.
Campaigns are about matchups. In 2015 Ganim matched up well against incumbent Bill Finch who alienated black voters. Along the way Ganim received a few breaks, courtesy of an incumbent disconnected from a portion of his constituency. Long story short they felt Finch, a talented policy wonk, talked down to them. They did not connect with his green-technology mantra boasting the juxtaposition of the sun to the solar panels in Seaside Park.
What? How about some basic stuff: paved streets, new sidewalks, a grocery store, a new library? Talk to us, don’t talk down to us. And for crying out loud, when our people get shot don’t say, “crime has never been lower.”
It happened and Finch became the first incumbent Bridgeport mayor in history to lose a primary.
Campaigning on a citywide basis in Bridgeport is like a controlled frenzy. It takes strength, endurance and yes, good ol’ MOM–money, organization and message.
Ganim certainly faces a poised anti bloc of voters, following his misplaced run for governor after city electors brought him back, as well as his first budget that featured a revaluation of taxable property that tax-smacked some neighborhoods. Taking him out, however, will not be easy given the power of incumbency, his campaign resources and retail skills.
Can she do it? Depends on a number of factors.
If Moore’s gonna pose a serious challenge to Ganim, barring anything kooky occurring, she must spend the next two months building an organized, passionate campaign infrastructure focused on MOM.
She must also juggle a mayoral campaign with her role as state senator in a lengthy legislative session that starts in January. Not easy. The decisions she makes in Hartford–be it budget, jobs, education, infrastructure improvements–hit home in Bridgeport, something Ganim will pounce on if he sees her as a threat.
So stay tuned into Moore’s potential mayoral mission.