Republican Campaign Strategy For School Board, Individual Candidacy Versus Team Approach

What must Republicans do to win seats on the Board of Education? Judging by the GOP strategy so far running as a team is not on the list. The three candidates for Board of Education Joe Larcheveque, Steve Best and John Weldon are presenting themselves as individual alternative choices to the status quo rather than as a viable slate. Dubious campaigning? Or smart strategy?

Democratic school board candidates Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey continue to run as a team after upsetting the Democratic primary endorsed candidates with their B.E.S.T.-slate slogan Better Education Starts Today. The Connecticut Working Families Party that currently fields three of the nine members on the school board is also running candidates as a team that include Baker (he’ll appear on two lines), Eric Stewart-Alicea and incumbent Sauda Baraka. So what gives with the Republicans?

The school board operates under state-mandated minority-party representation. That means two of the five seats on the ballot November 5th will go to the highest vote producers among the Republicans and WFP. Theoretically Republicans can win up to three seats but in pragmatic political terms two is the best they can grab. Will they really run ahead of the three Democrats who enjoy a 10 to 1 voter registration advantage? If they fundamentally run as individuals they’re saying we’re really running against each other because only two of us can win. But in running as individuals do they dilute Republican enthusiasm? They don’t have to run as a “Republican” team publicly, but they must run as a team directly to 4500 GOP voters through mail pieces, phone calls and door knocks. You transcend party label in a public message to reach unaffiliated voters and disaffected Democrats, while appealing directly to GOP voters. When you run as a team you also pool resources. Running as individuals spreads money thin.

The beleaguered GOP, shut out of seats on the school board and City Council for years, have an opportunity to rebuild relevance on Nov. 5th. They must do three primary things to win:

1. Enthuse Republican voters with an inspiring message to turn out.

2. Tap into voter anger that found its way to the polls for the September Democratic primary.

3. Frame themselves to unaffiliated and disaffected Democrats as the alternative to the Working Families Party.

Based on recent city elections the voter turnout Nov. 5 will be similar to the percentage four years ago when WFP candidates Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka did a nice job appealing to Democratic and unaffiliated voters to win seats. They were also aided by Democratic Party regulars who wanted to stick it to the Republican candidates just for the sport of vanquishing the GOP. Turns out Pereira and Baraka did not support the Democratic school board agenda of state control of city schools (overturned by the Connecticut Supreme Court) as well as reform initiatives of Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. As a result, school board sessions have sometimes been a lesson in hostility.

In 2009, the last off-year cycle that featured school board and City Council races, the turnout was 10 percent. Nate Snow received the most votes among the GOP school board candidates with 1234 votes. Baraka, in winning a school board seat with Pereira on the WFP line, received 1846 votes. Snow and Baraka were the closest among the minority-party slots. The three Democrats on the ballot, Bobby Simmons, Leticia Colon and Pat Crossin, averaged roughly 2800 votes. Elections are about dear ol’ MOM–money, organization and message; they’re also about matchups and vote swings. Had 325 electors who cast a vote for Baraka voted for Snow, he would be seeking reelection today.

The Democrats are prohibitive favorites to win three seats. Barring Republicans winning the two available minority-party slots, the WFP will have coalition control of the school board. And that’s part of the competitive argument Republicans must make to voters suspicious of the current state of affairs in the city. Whom do you want deciding the future of the school board and the single largest piece of the city budget?

It’s more difficult to present a winning message as individuals than as a team pooling resources.



  1. The Republican Party in Bridgeport is lost, with no direction. Sauda Baraka won her seat on the BOE as a Republican and won but they dumped her when she ran the next time around so she ran with the WFP and won, nice going Republicans, you had a winner with a black female but you didn’t want her.

    1. Ron, if you were a Republican and participated in the nomination of the RTC candidate process, I would give your post credit. Are you sure she sought the RTC endorsement after her first election? Next, just what has the BOE accomplished while she has been on the board? Have our schools improved? Has the BOE Board been effective and productive? Just because someone can win an election does not make them the right person to hold office if their record is less than what was promised once they have been in office, no matter what sex or race the person is. If you think she’s done a great job on the BOE and you are pleased with Bridgeport schools and your taxes being raised, please, vote for and support her.

      1. Jennifer Buchanan, you seem like a nice person so I will not attack your reply but you need to read what you wrote, then think about it. What do Republicans have and what have they done? NOTHING, and do you thing the way the Republican Party treated Sauda Baraka, they will be able to recruit blacks into their party? Even if she was the worst BOE member (which she is not), she had something you and the Republican Party don’t have, the ability to get elected in this city by the voters who think of her as a good BOE member because she still gets elected. The Republican Party in Bridgeport will NEVER have any power here because they don’t know how to be a big-tent party, blacks and Hispanics have no reason to support or vote for any Republican here. So let’s blame Sauda Baraka.

  2. The RTC needs to do its part by activating the Republican voting base.

    The RTC should be putting out mail pieces, distributing lawn signs, dropping literature and making calls. They should also have polling support at every school for election day. This is how it’s done, folks. Get busy.

    This is your chance to grab a seat or two and start to reestablish yourselves in a City that badly needs balance. Chances like this don’t come around these parts often. The Democratic Electorate in Bridgeport have handed you a dance card. Get up and boogie.

    1. Jennifer, sounds to me as if you’re laying all the blame of an ineffective Board of Education on Sauda. You try being in the minority and we’ll see how productive you are!

      1. The WFP has a record of being obstructionist, and she is part of that party. I do not see in her record any effort to unite the board and improve the schools.

  3. The Bridgeport School District ranks 165 out of 165 Connecticut school districts. The Bridgeport community has done a outstanding job of keeping its children down and in the dark, maybe that $800,000 fruit and vegetable grant will do the trick.

  4. *** Just an opinion of course from the “outside” looking in; for her time on the Bpt BOE Ms. Baraka has appeared to be a anti-school administration and Finch non-supporter along with a few others of the WFP board members. But in that role, “good or bad” she has played a part in also “accomplishing very little” in the way of all-around positive success while on the BOE! Asking for further info in writing or clarifications on agenda items, looking for other ways or ideas that may be better or cost effective in the end as well as not rushing to judgement, etc. are all wonderful while making important decisions that concern the BOE! But in the end, when the BOE business at hand needed decisions to be made one way or another in the way of votes, did she deliver or was she just another obstructionist merely slowing down the process and overall school system and BOE business which in the end amounted to nothing more than do-overs and do-nothings? There is a big difference between going forward, staying still or going backward which has been a big question when trying to figure out what exactly has the Bpt BOE’s agenda been the last 6 years! *** As for the Bpt Republican Party in their case, “teamwork” is better than “Individualism” when running in local elections. If they haven’t figured that out yet, they’ll be reminded Nov. 5th for sure; this is why Torres and Blagys have a chance ’cause there running as a team. Even if only one wins it’s still a victory of sorts and helps open other doors towards simple “change!” ***

    1. Just a suggestion Jennifer, perhaps you should put yourself out there and run for a political position. I think, according to your judgmental comments, you need a jolt of reality. It’s so easy for observers to assume they know the difficulties, time, devotion and the strong stomach it requires to strive to be effective in this twisted City. Get a few notches on your belt, and then I’ll show some respect for your opinions. And by the way, you’re entitled to say and feel as you wish. That I respect.

      1. Only if you agree to be my campaign manager 🙂 Lisa, I do understand it is a hard, thankless job, however I do judge on the record, and in 8 years the schools have been in turmoil in part due to the BOE, my firm belief is a new board needs to be elected. Five seats open and I for one am in favor of five new board members.

        1. Jennifer, I agree with you and I worked very hard in this past election with the hope what you’re saying happens. My point is the past board members all played a part in the debacle. And yes, I will be more than happy to help you if you ever decide to put your foot in the waters of politics.

        2. Jennifer Buchanan, you really need to understand what Lisa Parziale is saying. She said, “You try being in the minority and we’ll see how productive you are!” If your candidates or even if you did run for office and got elected you still cannot change anything. You and your candidates are lost in the one-district world of Black Rock. You have never expressed a desire to reach out to blacks and Hispanics, remember they are the majority of voters in Bridgeport. So how do you expect to gain support for your issues and concerns when people of color use your value system and judge you and the Republican Party on the record? I think you do need to sit down with Lisa to get a better understanding of the system.

  5. I had the privilege of serving 20 years on the City Council; ten of those years as Council President. If it were not for the minority candidates I served with, I would never have had the experience of holding that position. I had the opportunity to cross into all districts in the City and work with minority candidates and their challenges. So you see Bond Girl, it is about diversity! In order to be effective and survive in this City, you’d better understand the system. There is no difference among the various political districts; they all have unique needs. And to Jennifer, expand your horizons and only then will you understand what it takes to serve.

    1. There is nothing about race in the writeup Lennie did. It was simply strategy, and what buttons to push, and what to spin in order to get through to voters and get the vote out.

      The post became about race in the comment string. I don’t think it should have gone in that direction.

      1. Bond Girl, the title of this topic is “Republican Campaign Strategy For School Board, Individual Candidacy Versus Team Approach.” So it’s easy to see how race comes into play, what is the Republican Campaign Strategy to elect BOE candidates citywide? Bond Girl, the majority of the voters in Bridgeport are people of color so what is the Republican Campaign Strategy?

        Bond Girl, you and Jennifer Buchanan need to understand Bridgeport is not the makeup of Black Rock and the 130th district.

  6. *** Some people can never step away from the idea of race as being part of the overall picture when it comes to any type of human struggle, misunderstanding or disagreement. Artists usually paint their pictures choosing the brushes and paints they desire so whatever colors they see in their mind’s eyes can be transferred onto the canvas. However if you only see and use black & white paints, over time your concepts of other colors will become distorted, no? *** CHOICE OF COLORS ***

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