Ralph Cennamo, multiple mayoral candidate, was one of a kind in city politics. Maverick, opinionated, independent, his span in city politics went back to the era of Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy who served from 1933 to 1957 right up to the current era. And even in 2008 he was a potential factor holding a spot for then-Mayor John Fabrizi to run on his Bridgeport Independent Party line if Chris Caruso had defeated Bill Finch in a Democratic primary. Cennamo passed away on Thursday. He was 92.
Fabrizi described Cennamo as “a real great guy with a strong passion for the city and a fiscal watchdog. I got along well with him especially when I was mayor. I remember the early years with Mandy he gave a lot of folks heartburn because he wanted to hold folks responsible.”
In his day Cennamo was a regular speaker before the City Council castigating politicians for injustices against the little people. He was not bashful about telling journalists too what he thought.
Cennamo, running as an independent, was part of a historic general election for mayor in 1983. In 1981, Republican Lenny Paoletta defeated Democratic incumbent John Mandanici by 64 votes in a wild and crazy election season that featured car firebombings and Mandy wearing a bulletproof vest. Two years later Mandy sought his party’s endorsement, but gridlock at the convention forced an open primary that included Mandy, Charlie Tisdale, Tom Bucci (who would become mayor in 1985) and John McNamara, who had served as Mandy’s city attorney. Tisdale won the primary becoming the first African American in city history to win his party’s nomination.
Arthur DelMonte, a city police commissioner, had reserved a spot as a mayoral candidate on the Bridgeport Taxpayer Party line. He gave up his spot to Mandanici. So the stage was set for a four-way general election: Tisdale, Paoletta, Mandanici and Cennamo, also running an an independent. The turnout, about 70 percent, was among the highest in city history with Paoletta securing about 16,000 votes, Tisdale 15,000 and Mandy 10,000. To compare modern municipal turnouts, Bill Finch was reelected last year with under 9000 votes.
Cennamo death notice:
CENNAMO Ralph J. Cennamo, age 92, of Shelton passed away peacefully at Bridgeport Hospital on Thursday, June 7, 2012. He was the beloved companion of Adeline “Addie” Santamaria. Ralph was born in Bridgeport on September 23, 1919 son of the late John R. and Anna (Jones) Cennamo, Sr. He attended St. Mary’s School, Warren Harding High School and Sacred Heart University and was an excellent athlete, being a member of two state championship teams. Ralph was a proud US Navy veteran and later worked as an engineer for AVCO. He was very active in Bridgeport politics and was an advocate for people’s rights having written many letters and documents for these rights that he believed in. Ralph established a Bridgeport Independent Party and was a political campaign manager. He was an excellent ballroom dancer, specializing in the Tango and Foxtrot and won many contests with his longtime partner, Addie. He coached the Radio Hospital championship girls basketball team in the Bridgeport Recreation League. He was the loving brother of Rosemary Garrett and Carol Moran and her fiance, Harry Ellam. He also leaves a sister-in-law, Delores Cennamo and several nieces and nephews. he was predeceased by a brother, John R. Cennamo, Jr. A memorial service will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 11am at the Riverview Funeral Home, 390 River Rd., Shelton, CT. Committal of his ashes will follow at The Lakeview Cemetery in Bridgeport. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association , 5 Brookside Dr., Wallingford, CT 06492. To leave online condolences to Ralph’s family, please go to www.riverviewfh.com.