Outside For Decades, Internal Struggle Of Local Republicans Takes Shape, Plus: Decision Time For Ganim’s Dem Challengers

Dishon Francis

What, a split in the Bridgeport Republican Party? The machinations of local Republicans this mayoral cycle are certainly personality based with one wing of the party trying to grow the organization and current leadership in Town Chair Mike Garrett describing them as agents of the Democratic Party.

Former party leader Charlie Valentino has reemerged in GOP politics after his 2015 arrest involving car-tax delinquents in his role as a state marshal.

Former City Sheriff Joe McLaine has been highly critical of Garrett in the OIB comments section for not reaching out to African Americans.

Ethan Book
Ethan Book

Last week Dishon Francis, a 23-year-old salesman, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for mayor. He has some mayoral candidate company in veteran operative Ethan Book who also is not a fan of the current Republican leadership.

Garrett, no fan of Valentino or McLaine, says the party has not yet galvanized behind a candidate. “We have plenty of people who have indicated they would like to run for mayor,” says Garrett who will set an endorsement window for the 50-member RTC between July 16-23, according to the election calendar set by the Office of the Connecticut Secretary of the State.

Mike Garrett. Photo: Cathy Zuraw / Hearst Connecticut Media

“I am no Il Duce,” says Garrett, a reference to Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa who’d probably consider that declaration–the title of the former Italian leader Benito Mussolini–a credential.

Bridgeport Republicans, outnumbered by more than 10 to 1, have not won the mayoralty since Mary Moran became the city’s first female mayor in 1989. She lasted one two-year term defeated by Joe Ganim, now in his second tenure as mayor seeking another four-year term after his return to office in 2015. Bridgeport voters approved a four-year term during a charter referendum vote in 1998.

Testa too will set the Democratic Town Committee endorsement date within that state-declared window. The chairman generally schedules the convention at the back end of the endorsement calendar that provides challengers to endorsed candidates just a two-week window to hustle and submit petition signatures to elections officials. Ah, the gamesmanship of city elections.

Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa addresses crowd at recent Joseph’s Steakhouse fundraiser for Mayor Joe Ganim.

Ganim has two announced Democratic challengers in State Senator Marilyn Moore and State Rep. Charlie Stallworth. Moore has not yet specified if she’ll wage a September primary or go straight to the general election as a petitioning candidate or as the candidate of the Connecticut Working Families Party where she is well-liked among leadership.

What will Marilyn Moore do, primary battle or straight to general election?

Bridgeport has about 47,000 registered Democrats. Primary challengers would need verified signatures from five percent, or roughly 2,350, of registered Democrats in the city to qualify for a citywide primary.

In addition to mayor seats are up for Board of Education, City Council, city clerk, town clerk and city sheriff slots.

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12 comments

  1. Ode to Local Election: 2019 Bridgeport, CT

    Got work that pays for food, roof and coat,
    Skilled tools in the heavy old sack that I tote,
    And attend full mind to real news of note.
    I read, view and learn, and click the remote,
    So I can be wise, when it comes time. I vote.

    ‘Politics is dirty’, at least many folks say,
    ‘Cuz those elected work to make the job pay,
    For them and their own; all others mere prey!
    All are not equal; and ‘believers’ get betrayed.
    Especially the aged and weak left to pray.

    We serve in uniform when we’re called to fight.
    We work to help others when storms cause all fright.
    When the old and broke make plans for flight,
    We then see things b’coming more wrong than right.
    Are we just folks divided, to face a sorry plight?

    Who’ll raise a voice, a vote and some cents?
    To support the few who are honest, make sense?
    “Defeat Hate, Educate, Vote” works with patience,
    To sweep out corruption, greed, and incompetents.
    ‘Cuz our biggest all around sin is: public ignorance.

    John Marshall Lee
    Copyright, June 9, 2019

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    1. When it come to politics in Bridgeport, JML is OIB’s most serious poet. He directs traffic at the intersection of journalism and local politics.

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  2. The Bridgeport Republican Party should disband and become Democrats and fight their fight inside the DTC because there is a wing inside the DTC that wants change.

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    1. Ron that’s not a bad idea!! Infiltrate the machine, cause havoc and mayhem among the “insiders” and see how it shakes out. It may take a couple of election cycles but probably has a better chance at real change than belonging to the opposite party.
      Just don’t eat the calamare or cannoli during the infiltration meetings tab the restaurant.

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    2. Why disband? ) What do you think they been doing since the signing of the Civil Rights Act . The Democrat party of hate that dominated the South, fought the Republicans in the Civil War. The party of segregation, Jim Crow, the KKK, all those Confederate statues, The Democrats, the party of brotherly love, the champion for blacks and minorities, at the drop of a hat of the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 🙂 https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/10/12/donald-trump-forgot-to-sign-executive-order-moos-pkg-erin.cnn

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  3. If Joe McLaine is correct about the animos of Black’s by Town Chair Mike Garrett, Dishon Francis doesn’t have a chance in hell to be the Republican nominee for Bridgeport Mayor. Maybe they’ll nominate Joe Ganim for a job or some scrap metal money rather than Mr. Francis. Paging Joe McLaine or Ethan Book!

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  4. Did I miss something here but where did race get into this? To disband the Republican Party Town Committee has nothing to do with color, race or sex.

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  5. I suspect that Mike Garrett may endorse a candidate in name only. The inner circle of the Bridgeport GOP has a long record of inserting names of candidates on the ballot who have no intention of running a competitive campaign. This has been done in previous municipal elections with the exceptions of City Sheriff and Registrar of Voters as these are paid positions and are guaranteed wins under the City Charter and State laws.
    In addition, Garrett has also put up names of candidates for state representatives who have no intention of fundraising or participating in the Citizen Election Program (CEP). In doing this, Garrett has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funds to Democrat candidates as the CEP grant award would be significantly reduced if there were no GOP competition. The Bridgeport GOP has become the biggest fundraiser for the Bridgeport Democrat legislative delegation by putting non-competitive candidates on the ballot. This is a conversation for another time.
    Regarding the race issues of Mike Garrett, I can only speak from past experiences. I have seen the way he has treated African American and Puerto Rican members at meetings. I asked an African American member of my district who had been subjected to the chairman’s disrespectful behavior if he felt it was racially motivated, he responded “Garrett’s behavior is partly because he is a racist, but mostly because he is an asshole”. I agree! It has led me to the conclusion that Mike Garrett would only be satisfied and active in a David Duke campaign for Bridgeport Mayor. I had filed complaints in the past with the Republican State Central Committee Chairman JR Romano about Garrett’s racist behavior, however Romano never investigated or responded even though on one occasion Romano personally witnessed this behavior. Another problem that hopefully will change with a new state party leadership.
    I suggest going forward, new voters register as Republican, Unaffiliated voters re-register as Republican, and on Primary Day all registered Republicans VOTE THE DISHON FRANCES SLATE. Anyone interested in defeating the cancer that runs the BRTC and creating a Bridgeport Republican Party of equal opportunity should support Dishon and his team in their effort.

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