Musto-Moore, Ayala-Hughes, How Long Will Civility Last In Primary Races?

Something was really weird at Testo’s Restaurant Monday night amid the political divisions casting votes for their respective state senate candidates at the Democratic Party convention: it was all so civil. What’s this political world coming to? After all, we were inside the restaurant of Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa where food fights, politically speaking at least, could break out at any time.

Andres Ayala
State Senator Andres Ayala. State Senator Anthony Musto at right.

Testo’s is one place you don’t mind a plate of linguine and red clam sauce right to the chops. Mario serves tasty dishes at affordable prices. The town chairman popped in and out of the first endorsement session Monday night when delegates selected freshman State Senator Andres Ayala for another two-year term. Ayala’s opponent, City Librarian Scott Hughes, showed some surprising political strength for someone with limited experience in the city schmoozing political regulars, and that may say something about the jagged state of the city’s Democratic political organization these days. Hughes enjoyed plenty of delegate support to wage a primary.

For the past 11 years, Ayala has built his political profile as City Council president, a member of the State House and now as state senator following his 2012 primary win over incumbent Ed Gomes and former State Senator Ernie Newton. Discontent over a variety of issues including personality clashes, education, patronage positions and political decisions has fueled insurgent resolve in some neighborhoods. Hughes is benefiting from political hostility in the Upper East Side where insurgents grabbed a majority of Democratic Town Committee seats in a March primary, as well as prickly relations in the East End, led by Newton and District Leader Ralph Ford, with Mayor Bill Finch. The mayor and Newton, once close, have had a political falling-out. They met a few days ago for a possible political patching, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be warm and fuzzy in the near future, at least.

Ed Gomes
Ed Gomes.

Newton is expected to receive the endorsement Wednesday night for a return to the State House seat he once occupied. Incumbent Don Clemons has decided not to challenge Newton. Clemons placed Ayala’s name into nomination, perhaps a show by Ayala he has some support in the East End. Newton won the East End precincts in the 2012 primary against Ayala. Newton is supporting Hughes.

The mayor’s political organization aided Ayala’s election two years ago and right now Ayala is the favorite for another two years. If Hughes is to be competitive he must qualify for public financing that will trigger an $83,000 grant under the state’s Citizens Election program. That’s a nice pot of dough to wage a battle. Without that, you’re less the all-important one-third chunk in the goal to convince MOM–money, organization and message–to drive your race.

Lurking at Ayala’s convention was that mischievous political operative Americo Santiago who managed Ayala’s campaign two years ago. These days Americo preens love, peace and diplomacy in his approach to politics, an elder statesman who spends many months of the year in Puerto Rico, returning for a show of support.

With Ayala seemingly in decent shape, the mayor’s political operation this cycle has two primary goals: the election of the city’s anti-blight czar Chris Rosario to the State House seat occupied by Christina Ayala and the return to the State Senate of  Anthony Musto who was endorsed for another two-year term. He will face political activist and healthcare professional Marilyn Moore in a return of their close 2008 primary.

There were no surprises Monday night. Musto went in expecting the endorsement and Moore went in knowing she had enough support to qualify for a primary. When things go as expected it limits the chaos.

The Moore-Musto primary is the classic insurgent versus political organization matchup. The mayor’s people believe they can keep it close in Bridgeport and croak her in the suburbs. Moore is tapping into the voter anger that vanquished the endorsed candidates for school board in last September’s primary. She served as candidate campaign manager for the effort that brought together a coalition of forces opposed to Finch’s education agenda.

Moore will not win Trumbull numerically but in elections winning is relative. In 2008 Musto receive about 90 percent of the vote in Trumbull while Moore performed strong in Bridgeport. Musto now has a voting record to sell. Moore also has his voting record to exploit. Moore must improve her Trumbull voter performance. The mayor’s people promise she will not.

This primary carries an interesting dynamic for Governor Dan Malloy who’s facing a tough reelection and needs a strong turnout from Bridgeport in November. If you’re a Malloy political operative, who’d you rather have on the ballot for state senator in November, a suburban legislator with no core constituency in Bridgeport or an African American women who’s built coalitions in the city? Musto, in his acceptance speech last night made sure to reach out to Moore supporters, asking for their support if he makes it to the general election. It was also a nod to Moore supporters ripping mad by the confusion over the date, time and location for the convention based on the inconsistency of notices sent.

After the convention, sitting at a table adjacent to Testo’s bar was former State Senator Ed Gomes with his political supporters from the African American-rich Wilbur Cross precinct, Gomes’ political base. Gomes is supporting Moore. Three years ago Hartford political bosses carved Wilbur Cross into Musto’s district to help save him from a Republican in the general election. The move blindsided Gomes who was in a hospital bed recovering from heart surgery when the decision was made.

Gomes pointed out the moment, this will be the first time electors in Wilbur Cross can vote in a primary for State Senate since the redistricting plan moved them into a new senate district. Gomes, a man of pride, stings from the insult of removing him from his base. Then he broadened that crocodile smile of his. “You just wait and see what happens in this primary at Wilbur Cross. Anthony Musto’s in for a big surprise.”



  1. This city has had enough of the Ayala clan, it’s time for a change. Scott Hughes ran a good campaign in the 138th for town committee. My wife and I will work and vote for him again.
    Andres Ayala has been a water carrier for Finch since Finch won office, before that it was Fabrizi. Somebody please tell me when Ayala took a stand on any issue. Ayala is a member of the NBA club.

  2. It’s difficult to imagine Moore as an insurgent.
    It’s easy to paint her as a gender-specific healthcare pro who runs a government-funded nonprofit business, enjoys plenty of “establishment” support and has already primaried Musto. She’s “been there, done that” and wants to do it again–this time with anything-but-radical support.

    1. Ron, I’m hearing from Wilbur Cross voters, many of them African American, that they feel they had no voice in the decision by Hartford bosses to remove Ed Gomes as their elected representative. OIB chronicled this decision in several stories a few years ago that had other political leaders questioning the move that came as a surprise. Margaret Morton, then Alvin Penn, then Ernie Newton and then Gomes all were familiar elected state senators for the voting precinct. I think part of it is a bunch of guys from Hartford no one knows decided one day Wilbur Cross votes could rescue a Democrat in a tough general election in the multi-town district, who cares who their elected representative is, so it’s not sitting too well with some African American voters that they were shifted into a new district. Musto has now represented them for a few years so we’ll see if he has built up prestige among voters in Cross. The primary is a good test of his standing.

      1. Lennie should know better than to talk about “Hartford bosses,” Hartford hasn’t been in charge at least since Lennie was an operative.

        The redistricting was controlled by Chris Donovan and Don Williams (hailing from Meriden and the Middle of Nowhere, respectively) on the Democratic side.

        Do you really believe those two were out to bag Gomes, a bona fide union man, in favor of some guy from Trumbull? Not even remotely believable, unless you’ve got a better explanation.

  3. LennieGrimaldi, thanks for your reply. I knew the answer but I was just playing devil’s advocate because if I said what you said word for word people would be in an uproar I was playing the race card.

  4. Ron Mackey took a perfectly good webzine page and caused an uproar by playing devil’s advocate while trumping the race card in the Wilbur Cross section of Bridgeport.

  5. As everyone knows, Musto and his crowd including Nancy DiNardo engineered the changing of boundaries because Musto was going to lose in Bridgeport because of the jail he proposed for Virginia Ave. What better target to go after than an old senator who ended up in the hospital and could not fight this move. I am glad he no longer represents us in the 138th.

  6. What makes Hughes qualified to get my vote and be my state senator?
    I’m sure he will do right by his libraries, but will he do right by the people who elected him?
    Does he even have the money to qualify?

  7. What made anyone qualified to get the vote when they first went out seeking elected office?

    When I first ran for elected office, I challenged a 16-year incumbent who hadn’t done much as demonstrated by the condition of the district. The least we should question are those seeking office and instead one must focus on what the incumbent has or hasn’t done. Is he or she part of or supported by the status quo with a consistent record of failures and poor delivery?

    The library belongs to and is there to serve the public. There is very little doubt about the improvements and good services delivered by the Bridgeport Public Library during the last six years. This was possible due to a group of dedicated men and women who always kept the general public’s needs in sight. Scott Hughes is one of those people who served and did it well, he earned his way up the career ladder to reach the pinnacle in leadership of our library.

    Does he have the money to qualify? What kind of question is that? Are you suggesting Scott Hughes is going to use his own money to qualify for the SEC Grant? You must have been part of the Andres Ayala 2012 team as that’s exactly what Andres Ayala did in 2012 to come up with $15,000 (In merely four weeks) to qualify for the CEP Grant among many other violations. Scott Hughes doesn’t have to have the money to qualify–he has to ask and collect it. I have a check ready for him. That’s right! I said a check, not untraceable cash.
    Do your homework, BPT REBEL! If you need help, I’m sure the library can be of some assistance.

    1. Your whole rant means nothing, you always bring up you, you, the one who cut his finger off on purpose so excuse me if your credibility means squat.
      I’m glad YOU will gives Hughes a check but will anyone else as no one has ever heard of him.

      1. By the way, you never answered what makes Hughes a good candidate or how he is going to get the money to qualify.
        You brought up YOU and YOU will give him a check and what YOU did years ago and made my point, he will take care of the libraries.
        Like I said, YOU and YOUR credibility sucks. All I got out of YOUR rant is YOU ratted out Ayala for using his own untraceable money, rat.

        1. BPT REBEL–I’ve been saying for some time now and I’ve called him out on it. Joel somehow manages to make it all about him. He’s a legend in his own mind.

  8. I do know this, Hughes will be there to do what’s right for the residents of Bridgeport. Ayala is there to do what the administration wants; nothing more, nothing less. Actually he does nothing very well.


Leave a Reply