The game is on as we close in on Aug. 12 Tsunami Tuesday. Over the next several days we’ll take a look at some of the intriguing primaries. Let’s start with the battle royal between State Rep. Bob Keeley and former City Council and Board of Education member Auden Grogins.
Taking out an established incumbent such as Keeley, the longest-serving legislator in city history, is a mighty task. This race is spirited because of Grogins’ door-to-door campaigning and phone work. When the candidate works hard results follow. Grogins also has a strong mail plan that contrasts her voting record on the City Council with his in the legislature. When you’ve been in Hartford as long as Keeley it’s impossible not to vote for tax increases. Goes with the territory. If you want stuff for your district you’ve got to play along.
Keeley has weapons. He’ll play Santa Claus in the final 10 days bolstered by outgoing House Speaker Jim Amann who’ll try to reinforce all the stuff Keeley does for the district. Amann’s running for governor and Keeley’s pledged his loyalty. The Keeley camp will return the mail fire by linking Grogins to her tenure on the Board of Education, not the most well-liked body in the city, and support from Mayor Bill Finch who’s not popular with taxpayers.
I expect Grogins to be competitive at her home base Black Rock School and in Longfellow School, a turf that District Leader Danny Roach, a Grogins supporter, knows well. She may also run up a small advantage with absentee ballots.
The bigger question is how close can Grogins stay to Keeley in his home base at Central High School–home to Brooklawn, West Side and lower North End–the biggest piece of the legislative district where he is known best.
Keeley has the support of Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa who ousted party leader John Stafstrom, a Grogins supporter, in March. (Yeah, I know Cynthia King was technically party chair, but it was Stafstrom’s show.) The area of the city Stafstrom has the strongest standing is Central, also his home turf. He represented that area on the City Council and the recent Democratic Town Committee primary in that district showed that Stafstrom still has strength there.
The Central voting precinct has roughly 2,000 registered Dems between the 132nd and 133rd City Council Districts. Pols supporting Keeley that know the area include Councilman Bob Walsh and City Council President Tom McCarthy. City primary turnouts have been pathetically low. Will even 20 percent turn out at Central? What is that, 400 votes? Is Stafstrom worth 40 or 50 votes for Grogins? Probably. What can Rabbi Stein deliver for Grogins from his congregation on the West Side? Another 30 or 40? What other votes can she pull from door-to-door and phone identification? Can she manage 150 votes to Keeley’s 250 votes at Central? That’s doable.
That places the burden on Black Rock School, the highest percentage turnout area in the city, and Longfellow, one of the lowest, and an absentee ballot operation to make up the difference. Can she win Black Rock School by 60 or 70 votes? And Longfellow by 30 or 40? If so, it’s a tight one. If not, ball game.
For the most part, the camp that identifies its friends and drags them to the polls wins.
News release from Mayor Finch:
Mayor Finch Orders Revamping of City’s Bidding Process
BRIDGEPORT, CT (July 31, 2008) – Mayor Bill Finch today ordered the city Purchasing Department to revamp certain aspects of the city’s bidding and selection process to ensure consistent fairness for all bidders.
“I have been very concerned about the process since I took office in December,” said Mayor Finch. “Revamping the process will decrease the chances of an accidental mishandling of the paperwork, allow for additional training of those conducting the bidding and selection process, and will allow bidders and proposers to correct deficiencies in a timely manner to the extent that the law permits. In the end, the process will be fairer for all bidders, ensuring that Bridgeport is served by the most qualified bidders at the best price.”
The impact of the mayor’s order is that a number of outstanding bids, including the selection process for a construction manager for the planned Discovery Magnet School , will be redone.
“The city is always committed to choosing the best and most qualified vendors, but it also wants to ensure that its processes are as fair as they can possibly be,” said Bernd Tardy, director of the city’s Purchasing Department. “At the direction of Mayor Finch, the city is revising its process for the selection of professionals and consultants to be more inclusive by preventing technical and other defects in bid submissions from eliminating otherwise qualified vendors from consideration.”
To this end, Tardy said, the city will be:
1. Modifying the Request for Proposal (RFP) form to highlight required components and provide a correction period;
2. Releasing an Evaluator’s Guide for selection process participants;
3. Facilitating a best practices workshop for selection committees to make the selection process more consistent across the board; and
4. Encouraging joint ventures with minority construction firms in the bidding and the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process.
“I commend Mayor Finch for his steadfast commitment and for stepping up to the plate to guarantee that all qualified bidders have the opportunity to be included in the selection process,” said Deborah Caviness, director of the city’s Office of Small and Minority Business Contracting.