Paging Mario Testa, Is Maria Pereira The New Chris Caruso?

Pereira, Figueroa, Alicia
Maria Pereira, left, enjoyed her March DTC primary win with slate members Angel Figueroa and Eric Stewart-Alicea.

When Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa set the party endorsement date for mayor and other municipal offices last July in the comeback summer of Joe Ganim, he organized it on the first possible date allowed by the election calendar in what appeared to be a nod to Ganim to enjoy the maximum amount of time allowed to secure signatures to wage a primary against incumbent Bill Finch who landed the endorsement in a tight and raucous party convention. Standing outside his Madison Avenue restaurant in the quiet hours after the vote, Mario had also publicly crossed his Rubicon with Finch after years of the chief executive “showing no respect to the chairman.” He was heading back to his Italian birth place–the reason he offered for setting an early endorsement date–and upon return he’d teach Finch a lesson in political gamesmanship. He was all in for Joe.

The chairman, as he enjoys being called to validate the “respect” thing, is now the kind of political leader to his liking, a mayor who visits him, asks for input, even if it’s not as much as Mario would like, far more than he was accorded by Finch. Mario is now poised as chair in a legislative cycle in which half of the city’s eight-member delegation face primaries.

Testa 2016
Mario: e tutti lo respetta!

May 23 is the date for two State Senate conventions, but Mario did not choose the dates where incumbents Ed Gomes and Marilyn Moore face battles from school board chair Dennis Bradley and City Council President Tom McCarthy respectively. The Democratic state party selects the dates of the party conventions when the primary involves more than one town. The endorsement will come from delegates to the respective conventions at a site to be determined. For single town State House races–that’s the case for the city’s six districts–town committee members are the endorsing authority and Mario notches the endorsement calendar.

According to the state election calendar, see here, endorsements for State House races can take place between May 17-24. With Finch gone, Mario has identified someone new on his political pelt chart, school board member Maria Pereira, the self-styled piranha of city politics unafraid to sink her teeth into the political establishment. Pereira led an insurgent slate that won all nine seats in an Upper East Side DTC March primary battle. Mario supported the slate that lost. Some Pereira supporters in the district, in a protest against Testa, were the only DTC members to oppose Mario’s reelection as chair in March.

Charlie Stallworth
Rev. Stallworth has helping hand from DTC.

Mario keeps score. Now the page has turned to Pereira’s State House battle against incumbent Charlie Stallworth, a city minister and mayoral appointee. “We need to teach her a lesson,” Mario has been telling political operatives. Stallworth won the seat in a 2011 special election when long-serving incumbent Chris Caruso received a state job from Governor Dan Malloy. You wanna talk about blood wars in politics? Testa and Caruso had a crimson collision for 25 years. It was not uncommon for Mario to pretend it was Caruso he was hitting when hammering his veal into thin scaloppine slices.

Caruso, in his day, just like Pereira, was a noisy establishment fighter. Mario put up candidates against Caruso who prevailed in State House races for 20 years. Mario, why don’t you just leave Caruso alone, you’re only building him up by going after him? When it came to Caruso Mario was testa dura (hardheaded). Anti Testa forces saw Caruso as a vehicle to take out the establishment and on two occasions, 2003 and 2007, Caruso nearly became mayor. Perhaps Mario had a little satisfaction knowing his fundraising and absentee ballot operation made a difference in stopping Caruso from the mayoralty.

Chris Caruso
Chris ‘Big Wave’ Caruso during his days in the State House was a force back in the day.

Pereira, like Caruso, travels to the beat of her own political percussion. She loathes the big-money charter school advocates that finance the campaigns of the political establishment. Campaigning ferociously, she has built a nice Upper East Side voter base in Connecticut’s serpentine 126th State House district that stretches across the city to take in Lake Forest and part of the North End including the African American-rich Wilbur Cross precinct that powered Ganim to a primary win. This is new campaign territory for Pereira to toil, but this is also new territory for Stallworth who’s never faced a relentless campaigner like Pereira well on her way to qualifying for Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races.

Stallworth, backed by the DTC, will be the endorsed candidate. The only way for Pereira to challenge him in a primary is to secure signatures from five percent of the registered Democrats in the district. The last day for Mario to set the endorsement is May 24. That would allow Pereira the minimum two weeks to submit her signatures. What will Mario do?



    1. Hey Lennie. WTF, you ask such a question and put up the picture of the Three Amigas giving the thumbs up and not the one showing the Three Amigas sticking the middle finger? The middle finger picture is enough for you to answer your own question. Put up that picture.

  1. The comparison is weak. Chris likes pasta; Maria just wants to boil at BOE meetings.
    When it comes to Bridgeport parents, Maria Pereira is messing with their money; their religion and their children’s education. I hear she’s a ferocious campaigner. I’m a ferocious volunteer.

    1. “The comparison is weak. Chris likes pasta; Maria just wants to boil at BOE meetings.”

      Laughed so much tears came out of my eyes. Thank you for that, my friend Local Eyes on the other side.

  2. If the comparison is they are both a thorn in the side of Mario Testa, then they share a common trait. However, that is where the comparison ends. Caruso is an established politician with a strong following. He greets all his constituents at every venue he attends. He doesn’t burn bridges and understands compromise. Maria Pereira is determined and smart! She does her homework. When she picks a battle she is a pit bull. I respect both of them. Maria Pereira is not looking for an endorsement from Mario, Joe or myself. Maria prides herself in going against the grain and she does it very well. As for Chris Caruso, I think he is certainly not done with making his mark on the city he loves and I know many who believe he will be Mayor one day. Both individuals are like needles in Mario and that’s what makes Bridgeport politics so interesting. I am certain Charlie Stallworth is aware of his competition and is planning accordingly.

  3. *** It’s like comparing red apples to yellow lemons, no? Ms. Pereira would have to establish a political citizen’s following first, as well as stand up for the local resident taxpayers without looking for personal media fanfare nor exposing a look at me, I’m doing this type of attitude! Personally I think she has a long way to go to be compared to the same type of local political independent spirit C. Caruso had and his anti-political machine feelings overall. Not to forget all his political accomplishments over the years! ***

  4. First of all, let me start by stating I respect and admire Chris Caruso. Whenever I speak with him I have always found our conversations to be productive and helpful.

    Second of all, the only person I am trying to be like is Maria “Piranha” Pereira. However, if I were to choose the one person I would like to emulate the most; it wouldn’t be a historical or national figure, it would be Judge Lopez. She is intelligent, articulate, fearless, honest, ethical, principled, and has incredible instincts about others that cannot be matched.

    Third of all, since I entered the world of Bridgeport politics in July 2009, either as a candidate myself, or in the support of other candidates; my record of success is 10 consecutive primary/election victories and zero losses.

    Fourth of all, if you include the Charter Referendum, I have 11 consecutive victories in less than seven years.

    Yet, I have several men involved in politics significantly longer than myself critiquing and criticizing my abilities and accomplishments. Not a single one of you can state you have three consecutive victories in the same seven-year timeframe.

    This is exactly the lack of respect I have referenced previously in which men involved in Bridgeport politics do not recognize the obvious contributions of women in Bridgeport politics.

    Now sooner or later I am going to lose a primary/election I am either a candidate in, or I am supporting, but as long as I don’t become a “loser,” I’m good.

    I’ll leave most of you with that little tidbit to mull over.

    Steve, you, not so much. 🙂

    1. Maria Pereira, now you have said something I’m in total agreement with you and that is your second point about Judge Carmen Lopez and there are some things you mention about her you need to mirror.

  5. I know most of you who have commented so far, and I like and admire all of you; especially the two I served with. I just can’t understand why you’re all criticizing a woman you don’t know personally. You have read about her, you’ve heard men who are intimidated by her demean her, yet with the exception of Joel and Steve, you don’t know the person. Joel, you’ve witnessed her compassion and empathy because you were just as generous as she, I saw that myself. She ruffles a few feathers, and thank God she does or we’d be left with another administration that has burned more bridges in six months than Finch did in six years. No she’s not Chris Caruso, no one is, he fought and struggled with inequities for years, on the council, as State Rep. and as an advocate of fairness. I supported Chris in ’07, and he stood for the very things we see in Maria. Give her a chance, she represents what she believes in, she’s hurting no one, she expects no reward for her successes, so why is she being singled out? She has the right, as we all do, to pursue public office, she doesn’t have her hand out and is independent, there’s no price on her head. That’s where she can be compared to Chris Caruso. She’s not going away, win or lose, so lighten up and put your focus, for awhile, on a lot of the tired, recycled men who fear her tenacity and would do anything to try to make her go away. She’s not going anywhere because she’s not afraid of losing and is not driven by ego.

  6. I have been reading this blog for several years. It is my go-to source for the word on local politics and the first place I check for results on local races.
    I have been following the above contributors for years. Mojo/Joel/Ron, et al. I have not always agreed with them, but respect their opinions and insights since they have all personally been involved in BPT politics. They can defend themselves, but the idea or inference they are critical of MP due to gender is not right. Whether it is the intent to paint that picture of them or not, gender has nothing to do with their critiques. Go through their history, they have had some of their most brutal comments directed at male politicians/public figures. I say this because MP is positioning herself as her vs. the MEN’S CLUB. On some levels that is correct, but that is not 100% the case. She has crossed more than her fair share of women in politics who would be critical of her as well.

  7. Ultimately, success in politics boils down to one’s ability to work with people, even when some people don’t share your views. If anyone thinks they can pull everyone over to their side of the line in the sand permanently, they are sadly mistaken. Passion goes a long way, but after the smoke clears the only thing that will really move the needle for reform is collaboration and decent communication. There are only so many personal attacks people can take before they start to withdraw or fight back. Most people don’t want to live their lives in a constant battle posture. Dictatorships are only as successful as the period of time they manage to break the wills of followers. True progress is only achieved through compromise. All else is a temporary uprising.

  8. Lifelong Bpt and Frank, your comments are fair and thought out. If Maria visits the blog today, I hope she takes both comments as constructive opinions. That’s how we learn and change by intelligent input, not meanness. Lifelong Bpt, may I just add a personal note; for decades I held political office, interacted on just about every local level with men and I never gave a thought that there was a gender difference. As I look back now, I realize how hard I had to fight to stay standing, to push back the attacks and attempts to get rid of me, they were all men. They literally ganged up on me with no shame. They couldn’t do it, I fought them with all I had, I didn’t have the luxury of support from other women or most men for that matter. Maybe she just sees what I didn’t back in the day. I’ve said it many times, Ron Mackey knows me and witnessed how I handled myself. He was a man I could count on then and now. Maria will grow into her role as a strong political woman, a little encouragement will go a long way.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. In no way do I want to diminish your service and the what you encountered and the battles you fought. I do not doubt gender played a role. It’s the same for minorities in corporate roles. Sometimes the battles are just philosophical differences, but there are times when racial differences play a role.
      I just wanted to be clear that I did not think the comments on this story were gender influenced. Thanks again for your constructive feedback.

  9. Lisa, you understood the art of and need for compromise. Maria has to develop this quality in her maturation of becoming a public elected official.

  10. Lisa, Maria is no Lisa Parziale, Your notice of the comments here that are very good suggestions for Maria to follow but I don’t think she will take it to heart. Maria needs to know how to win friends and influence people, something you did well.


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