On Tuesday It Was Personal, The Machinations Of Town Committee Elections

Standing outside her home precinct Hooker School on the Upper East Side, multi-layered clothing protecting the day-long chill of campaigning, political warrior Maria Pereira who knows her voters as well as anyone in the city, observed presciently in advance of the results. “I’m seeing people here I’ve never seen before.” A few miles away her political antithesis, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, manned the other precinct in the 138th District JFK, greeting voters with a gentle nudge to support his slate of candidates. Mario Testa acknowledges that he’s a lightning rod in city politics, but during a lull in voting he emphasized making him the boogie man was not a way to win town committee primaries. “They’re making it about me. It’s not about me.” Judging by the results, at least, Pereira and Testa were both right.

Pereira suffered her first loss in her district. She will fight another day. But as much as Testa is a lightning rod in city politics, Pereira’s anti-establishment bent is not far behind. Testa and his band of supporters worked hard to take her out of district control. Not an easy task considering her string of victories there, be it town committee, state races or her runs for Board of Education.

Town committee races are strange ducks, as retail as retail can get, in this case two slates of nine candidates totaling 18 campaigners. Sometimes, you can find slate members able to drag out friends who’d not normally vote in a town committee race let alone know what it’s all about. These are the people who endorse candidates for public office and choose party officers. City pols, and sometimes from around the state, pay attention to them. Testa and his supporters had one goal in mind. Defeat Pereira and you take out her entire slate with it. The reference Pereira made about seeing new faces at Hooker helped materialize her defeat.

Overcoming someone like Pereira is no picnic in the park. She’s a worker who frames arguments impressively. You must identify voters alien to her support. Pereira’s detractors assert she contaminates relationships, cannot work with anyone, is a disruptive force. Pereira’s rejoinder? I don’t work with people who break promises.

In city politics there can be long stretches of winning but at some point there’s a reverse trend. You win, you lose and sometimes you come back again.

Tuesday was hugely important to Testa and political combat in arms Mayor Joe Ganim. It sets up a strategy, win or fail, that would have been lanced if insurgents had their way. Testa, as town chair, influences the selection of Bridgeport delegates to the state party convention in May where Ganim requires 15 percent support to net an August ballot spot in the Democratic primary for governor. After New Haven, Bridgeport enjoys the largest delegation. Testa can plan a trading strategy with other delegations around the state. You want our support for this, we want your support for Ganim. A big DTC win also helps Testa in the cause of raising money for Ganim. But there’s something else to glean from Tuesday’s results.

If a burn of anger seethes Democratic electors for this mayor it did not find its way to the polls on Tuesday. If anything it has buoyed Ganim and Testa for next year, a  mayoral reelection year, if Ganim’s Runyonesque run for governor derails.

Across the city in high-turnout Black Rock, another battle with Testa as the target spewed a whole bunch of insults and anger. The extended object was the slate led by Danny Roach, a Ganim friend and government appointee. The opposition slate basically asserted that the incumbent slate received a blood transfusion from Testa. It was pox on all your houses. To some voters it was “nasty,” “dirty,” “cheap shots,” “lies.” Each slate had good people, but the challenge slate spent most of its time hammering guilt by association. It failed. Voters are pretty choosy in Black Rock and a number of electors there split their ticket. The way it works is you can vote for any nine of the 18 candidates. A lot of silent voters cast ballots for the Roach slate, or cherry picked those they liked. This is classic neighborhood voting with a premium placed on personal relationships. It got personal.

Slings and arrows from anti-establishment pols will not abate when it comes to some. The larger question is how you go about your attacks.

Back at JFK precinct Tuesday afternoon, I asked Testa if he was returning to his restaurant on Madison Avenue to field results. “Yes, back to the restaurant for a few drinks,” he said. “I am going to enjoy myself tonight.”



    1. Today is Stubby’s 24th. Birthday. A few days before Stubby was born I got elected with 8 other Democrats on district 131 Town Committee. Don’t be sad on such a memorable day. Frank Gyure, I read your post on facebook. You’re taking the loss harder than the candidates themselves. You refuse to be my friend when I understand how y’all feel better than most political junkies. From around 2000 to 2008, no one in Black Rock or in the entire 130th district, dared to step up to the plate and challenge the DTC. I took a shot at it in 2008 and another in 2014. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Regardless what my critics say, I’m not insane. If the 130th. challenge slate picks up 1 or 2 seats, that’s better than the result in other past challenges. Thank you for voting for Line B Frank Gyure. Now, let’s all sing Happy Birthday.

      1. Joel,
        Did you mean your “thank you” to Frank for his voting for Line B or Line C, in this case? Is it time for you to tell folks about “passion” and “principles”, the story of Stubby? Time will tell.

  1. I personally lost by 9 votes and am headed for a recount.

    Someone once told me that if you’re irrelevant, Mario won’t spend a second of his time talking about you. Mario Testa has had meetings to talk about me and had a meeting specifically about how to defeat me at 999 Broad St.

    All this attention Testa and Ganim fawn all over me tells me that I am effective and a force to be reckoned with. If I wasn’t, they wouldn’t waste their time.

    1. “I personally lost by 9 votes and am headed for a recount.”

      Can you see the Irony? That’s one vote for every finger I have. By the way today is Stubby’s 24th. Birthday.

  2. That’s it Derek, they confused winning a few battles with winning the war. Forgive the baseball anolgy, but politics aren’t a one inning game and you can’t take your bat and go home after one inning. Those savvy politician’s of the DTC knew that and banked on over confidence.

  3. *** Maria, try & remember that in slate or group elections its not about “Me,or “I”, its about “We” or “Team”. Being proactive is much needed in local community politics & there’s nothing better than stirring the political pot when our local politicians get too comfortable, forget their local missions that are suppose to help their communities in general & the residents that live there! That’s one of the reasons why state & federal legislators up in there capitols should only be aloud an 8 year term limit. Ten years or more means a “vested rights pension” payed for “their” lifetime by taxpayers. Ten years or more, sometimes many POLS get too comfortable or sometimes too powerful & become “out of touch” with their communities and voters that put them in those political seats. The only time you heat from them in the mail, etc. is during an election year! But at the same time,its the voters fault for not doing there political homework on these POLS seating in these political seats year after year. Their political attendance during meetings, there votes on important issues, what bills or legislation have they supported or authored that was positive for your community, its residents or the town or city as a whole? Or is it possible that after seating on that political seat for a few years & being under a false impression that you are part of the present ruling machine, that you have lost your way & now are nothing more than a rubber stamp for the ruling administration on most of their major legislative political needs & wants without any real needed info. or questions & answers by the voting members siting in those POL-seats that are there to oversee & protect the best interest of their community, residents & overall town or city? *** How many residents know what a political local district town committee is, what their function & political power is, when & where do they meet, how does a local resident & voter get involved? When you hide & shelter knowledge & accessibility from the district local public, you eventually become part of the system that in time will need to be changed cause they’ve lost their way! ***

  4. The DTC old guard won because voters supported their friends and neighbors, not the best candidates for the job. Many complain, loudly, about the corruption indemic in Bridgeport politics. It is an established fact. A vigorous free press and the criminal convictions of Joe Ganim and several individuls doing business with the city are all the proof anyone could, should or would need.

    1. TBK – it was crazy. In the 138 Joey and Testa sunk some relatively serious coin into an internal district race with one goal in mind – stack the DTC so they will endorse Ganim for Gov. What has become overly clear is there has to be better controls and reviews on who submits for, and who receives absentee ballots.

  5. An interesting election for the % who paid attention. Roughly 80% of City Democrats OVERALL did not pay attention although specific numbers are hard to come by at this moment.
    For instance, I heard that in the 131st the Challenge slate won six seats, but recount process may be called.
    I worked on soft sheets at Aquaculture for five hours on Election Day. What surprised me were the handful of people who showed up to vote, told to get to the polls to vote, yet they had already voted ABSENTEE. Isn’t that strange? How could that happen? These were not old or disabled folks. They were young, not in the military, for sure not out of town on Election Day, accessible to the polls next door to their residences. Apparently not long term or chronic sickness, either. What was their eligibility to vote Absentee? Maybe they did not know the criteria when they went through the process? Maybe a canvasser saw eligibility where there was none? Maybe everybody wanted to help someone else despite the rules? Maybe there was some material incentive, as has been rumored for years? How do we change the impressions of right to vote absentee, as well as its practice, that causes so much questioning? TIME WILL TELL.

      1. JML is a class action lawsuit for this illegal activity possible from across the districts.
        In 132 we won decisively on the machines but fell victim to the fraud playbook of the Dems on ABs. Same as Black Rock
        Using Marios fraud DID work, Lennie. !

          1. I think when we heard them read that night it was an average of 30 to 35 plurality tot each of our challenge slate at Madison and about 50 to 50 split at Bassick. But it was not close at Madison right? Thanks

          2. Your slate won handily on machines at Madison. The opposition slate ran stronger at Bassick. The machine counts combined, according to unofficial returns, was close. ABs a much different story.

      2. In a moment of quiet with only poll officials present, I spoke my observations and there was a quiet humor about the attempt to vote again. We reviewed the eligibility criteria, known by many of the poll workers, and were content with knowing that the sheets at the checker’s desk had indicated Absentee ballots received, thus preventing them from voting that day. (My sheets for soft sheeting purpose did not have those notations.) So no harm was done at that moment. But it does say something for those who are likely not eligible to vote Absentee. I wonder if each of those who showed up were provided ABS by the same person? Time will tell.

        1. JML, are you saying that people who had voted by AB showed up at the polls to vote in person and were not allowed to do so? They were supposed to be allowed to vote and their ABs should have been voided.

          1. Joel,
            I was only a quiet soft sheeter/observer, wearing no name tag or other symbol of ELECTION DAY AUTHORITY. They were not offered another bite of the apple in these cases. Is that really the rule? Then you would have had to depend on communication to where ballots are counted to eliminate. Not simple for a system with as many hiccups as ours.
            The folks certainly showed. And claimed that they were being instructed to go out and vote. But had no comeback to officials when they were denied. Tough to be pushed around at election time, even if it is by your own team? Time will tell.

          2. You are wrong do you know the nightmare that would cause. The people that were refused should have been and still can be questioned by authorities. Please dont tell me they were confused,

    1. We have to work harder to document these instances of Absentee Ballot “confusion” to state it in the most positive way. Many of the voters I talked to had no idea why they had been asked to fill out an AB application. They could not tell me what the election was for, when it was happening (so how did they know they would be unable to vote in person on that day?) or who was running. They only knew Top Line.

      1. Blueslyn, have you ever heard the expression “Keep it simple, stupid”

        That’s exactly one must do in elections. TOP LINE, is all you need to say.

  6. I suppose 80% of voters don’t know what the Town Committee is. Didn’t even know there was an election or how important the election was. Some is due to disgust and apathy. Most is just this election was not even put in the Connecticut Post before the fact. It’s disheartening

    1. Bob the voters in Bridgeport qualify as the dumbest in Connecticut 3/4 of the people in Bridgeport are dumber than dirt and keep letting thieves run the city. I say this FUCK the voters in Bridgeportt.

  7. Lennie.. I am going to challenge you about your assessment and characterization of the 130th race. You assessed it as “insults and anger”
    but I was right in the middle of it. Lennie …who were you talking to? 95% of the time it was focused on issues and responsibilities. I am ready to name the one person who took it into the sewer. That person was Bonnie Roach. She was the one who took it into the sewer.

    1. Frank, most of the challenge slate message on their Face Book is Mario and all the 130th DTC slate are part of a corrupt machine cheating and winning elections with absentee ballot fraud. What’s not insulting about that?

    2. Frank, I spoke to a number of voters from both 130th precincts who explained the tone of the challenge slate was a turn off. They’re not making up stories. They simply stated how they felt about it. Good people on both slates. Your slate lost. Why? Please don’t tell me, oh, it’s the dastardly political machine. That dastardly political machine has gotten its butt kicked many times in recent years. As for Bonnie’s face off with Pete Spain, it speaks for itself. Bonnie has no filter.

      1. “My slate” lost because Roach has 500 votes every election. Go look at the pattern. So,time will be needed to get to the 600 votes plus that is needed to beat Roach in the 130th. This is a long game. 2019 is up next. Anyway,the DTC is losing relevance but it still needds to be cleaned up. Entire families on City of Bridgeport payroll. We know what needs to be done.

        1. Frank, Danny Roach doesn’t have 500 votes. He wishes he had that. Joe Ganim received 184 votes at Black Rock School in the 2015 Democratic primary running well behind Bill Finch and Mary-Jane Foster. Finch also won the Aquaculture precinct in 2015. 18 candidates were on the ballot on Tuesday, that’s what drives turnout.

          1. Lenny.. I looked at the City Council primary(Smith/Spain and Burns/the tall one and I looked at the last DTC election two years ago in the 130th. 500 seems to be the magic number.

          2. In the 2016 August primary for State Senate, Danny Roach supported Tom McCarthy over Marilyn Moore. Moore received 507 votes combined in the 130th District. McCarthy received 274 votes with Roach’s support. I gather that Moore had the magic number that day.

      2. Good information for the public! The numbers on the election results of 130th DTC election on 3/6/18. For example, 33% of all votes cast were via absentee ballot in the Aquaculture precinct, while just 5% for the other precinct (Black Rock School).

        Why do you think did the voters in our district who voted at the polls yesterday split pretty much 50-50, while the ones who voted by absentee ballot split 70-30 in favor of the incumbents?

        1. Sonny, Black Rock School is not an AB precinct. Aquaculture School has emerged as one based on the work forged by operatives of the Bill Finch mayoral years working P.T. Barnum Apartments and Twin Towers. The challenge slate, no doubt, worked ABs pretty good in Aquaculture, and, in fact, the demographic slate of the challengers better reflected the makeup of the entire district. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent, working ABs takes years of building up a serial base of voters. Irrespective of this, I still examine the results at Black Rock School where members of the Roach slate performed much better to your liking. In fact, district wide former City Council member Scott Burns led in votes. That means there’s some nostalgia for Burns who lost a tight primary to Pete Spain last year. I like Pete, but the results demonstrate that he’s turned off some voters. Why is that?

          1. Lennnie, the endorsement of Jim Himes, Rep. Stafstrom played a key role. It’s not much a do about Pete Spain losing support. keep in mind that Mrs. Smith got more votes than Spain. The Challenge Slate failed in the AB operation element of their campaign.

  8. If greater controls can go on absentee ballots maybe our elections can begin to be somewhat ethical? I would suggest a mandatory class to anyone before they can handle even one ballot on the eligibility and penalties surround absentee ballots. I would also suggest an audit of people who submit absentee ballots to ensure they are either to be out of town or too sick to go to the polls. And if we want to be forward thinking, why not have locational early voting so folks don’t need to come to the polls and absentee ballots can be reduced. Considering there is curbside voting on election day, it isn’t too far fetched. Does the CC have the will? Can they be persuaded by the people? Or, is Bridgeport just that far gone from saving?

  9. LOL..couple of weeks ago I “binged” on the “Godfather” tryptych. One of the memorable line was “This is not personal,just business.” The other great line is “Make an offer that cannot be refused”.

  10. The DNC is pumping a few million dollars into the state’s Democratic campaigns. That ought to buy a few dinners at Testo’s and Joseph’s.

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