Political Machine Or Sputtering Jalopy? Democratic Party Endorsement Often Overrated In Primary Battles

McCarthy at Bass Pro
City Council President Tom McCarthy at Bass Pro opening last October.

The facts speak to this as well covering Democratic Party endorsements in recent years for high profile races. For example:

In 2015, the Democratic Town Committee endorsed, albeit a close vote, incumbent Bill Finch over Joe Ganim for mayor. Ganim lanced Finch in the primary. Finch became the first incumbent mayor in city history to lose in a primary.

In 2015, Ricky DeJesus won a controversial endorsement over Ed Gomes in the special election race for state senate. Gomes, running on the Working Families Party line, clubbed Dejesus at the polls.

In 2014, incumbent State Senator Anthony Musto won the Democratic endorsement handily. He was defeated by Marilyn Moore in a primary.

In 2013, the three endorsed Democrats for school board lost in a primary. The same year the endorsed candidates for City Council who had primaries also lost.

In 2012, Democratic-endorsed Ernie Newton finished second to Andres Ayala in a state senate primary.

There are more examples.

Ganim, Bradley
Dennis Bradley, right, won a school board seat supporting Joe Ganim.

As political operatives gear up for this state legislative cycle, it appears two incumbent state senators Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes could be pressed hard for the party endorsement by potential challengers. City Council President Tom McCarthy is considering a run against Moore. Board of Education Chair Dennis Bradley is poised to challenge Gomes. Delegates advanced by district leaders and party chair Mario Testa are laden with supporters of McCarthy and Bradley. Conventions will take place in May to endorse candidates. Challengers would wage an August primary.

Bridgeport’s so-called party machine at times has acted like a sputtering jalopy with a few blown tires.

Under the best of circumstances the party endorsement means automatic ballot spot, campaign workers and fundraising assistance. Campaigns are all about dear ol’ MOM–Money, Organization and Message. Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races has changed the financial landscape for state races. If challengers qualify for state dough they will generally spend evenly with the endorsed candidates, providing resources to potentially stitch together the elements of a successful race. Challenge candidates on both a state and local level (where public financing is not available) have also run effectively against the party establishment as political outsiders.

Maria Pereira, the self-styled piranha of city politics, has often taken a bite out of the political establishment, be it her own races, or candidates she has supported without the party endorsement.

Moore, Gomes
State Senators Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes, right, could have primary challenges.

McCarthy and Bradley, if they get in, bring intrigue to the state senate contests.

McCarthy, City Council president for more than eight years, is well liked in his North End council district. A state senate run, however, is a different animal, particularly in Connecticut’s diverse 22nd Senate District that covers all of Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe. In taking on Musto two years ago in a primary, Moore was able to overcome Musto’s strength in his hometown Trumbull by running up large pluralities in Bridgeport. Unknown two years ago, Moore received just over 20 percent of the vote in the suburbs. Now that she has served the district for a term, how much good will has she generated to improve her suburban vote? If she garners additional suburban votes, it places a premium on McCarthy to run much stronger than Musto in Bridgeport where Democrats outflank suburban Dems by about two to one.

Bradley is considered by political operatives an ambitious comer. A handsome smooth talker, the young attorney lost a State House primary to Chris Rosario two years ago but in doing so finished ahead of incumbent Christina Ayala who was under fire for a series of election law violations. Bradley turned around and won a citywide school board seat running on Ganim’s line in the Democratic primary last year.

Connecticut’s 23rd Senate District covers about two thirds of Bridgeport and a small section of Stratford. As an incumbent, Gomes lost his seat in 2012, defeated by Andres Ayala with party-endorsed Newton finishing a strong second. It appeared Gomes’ political career was toast at age 76. But in the strange world of city politics Gomes was resurrected when Ayala was appointed by Governor Dan Malloy commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Gomes entered the special election to replace Ayala, lost a controversial endorsement to DeJesus but had secured a line on the Working Families Party and torpedoed DeJesus suffering a series of controversies including back tax and child support issues.

The Democratic Party endorsement certainly is not a foregone conclusion for primary success. Depends on timing, the fire of the respective candidates and dear ol’ MOM.



  1. The one and only thing the town committee is good for is to get their endorsement so your name appears on the top line where it says Democrat. The reason that is important is because the people of Bridgeport will automatically vote for you. If you put Rootie Kazootie there as an endorsed candidate, he would win.

      1. There are very few, in fact I can’t remember any. I can tell you this, if Ann Barney and I had the party nomination we would have won that election despite the party putting up a third set of candidates to take away the black vote.

        1. Andy, at one time it was perceived that being on the top line had an advantage. But that’s all it is, a perception. I don’t feel the nomination or being on the top line makes any difference in the outcome anymore. It’s all about self-promotion, getting your message out, and organize and just old-fashioned hard work. I’m a perfect example of what I’m saying. I just lost an election and my slate was on the top line. I had the worst slate imaginable, one of my members actually moved in the middle of the primary, I never saw Howard Gardner, they say he showed up at 6:00 p.m. primary day, John Ricci was the worst the only vote he had was his own, the rest didn’t pull 10 votes each. All my fault, I chose them, but I make my point, the challenging slate was on the second line, they worked, secured the help of John S., Tom McCarthy and Mario, and they won. While I realize this scenario in and of itself is rare, with the right plan in place the second line works. One more reasonable example, when I challenged John S.’s slate about eight years ago, I was on the second line, and I knocked him out. The TC nomination means nothing anymore. With public financing most candidates are on a level playing field as far as financing is concerned. All they have to do is work, work, work.

  2. Bridgeport obviously has not been served very well (with some exceptions) in the DTC over the past three decades.

    Quite a bit of fresh blood with new ideas and real Bridgeport-based agendas needs to get on the upcoming GA Bridgeport ballot.

    The current list of names being mentioned, as a whole, does not bode well for the future of Bridgeport. Too many clueless and/or bought-off candidates too eager to accommodate or appease the ‘burbs, or too eager to just have that impressive GA license plate and the extra $ and bennies that go with it.

  3. So is that an offer of support, Bob? (But as you you know, I’m not a fan of regionalizing our infrastructure in order to get Trumbull votes, so I guess I might not be able to count on your support.)

  4. Bob: Just wanted to re-post your comment on the “Trumbull Poop” segment of OIB from a couple of days ago. After a lifetime in Bridgeport and 25 years in Bridgeport politics, you can’t actually believe what you posted. You are obviously apologizing for the betrayal of Bridgeport by our GA representation.

    Bob Walsh // Mar 31, 2016 at 3:24 pm
    “The concept can work as it has elsewhere. The solution lies in all parties coming to the table agreeing to find a fair and equitable solution for all.
    The minute any party starts trying to pull a quick one over on the other, the process will fall apart.
    They need to agree upon an impartial third party to establish the value of the assets and the methodology of calculating fair rates going forward.”

    Where else has this type of regionalization worked to a city’s advantage? Why did the people of Stratford fight so hard against regionalizing with New Haven last year?! And how has taking Trumbull’s poop worked out for Bridgeport so far? How did so much of our downtown retail wind up in Trumbull Shopping Park after we let Trumbull connect to our sewage system back in the ’60s?!

  5. *** From ex, do-nothing political positions to the state capitol where we already have enough deadbeats representing Bpt. No thanks, I’d like to give Ms. Moore just a little more time to get some positive things done, instead of just the short fill-in amount of time she’s had up there so far, no? *** WHOOP ***


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