Rob Russo’s Ride, Plus: Musical Chairs

State Senate-Elect Rob Russo, just off a huge win Tuesday night, will be sworn in Friday afternoon in Hartford by Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, breaking the veto-proof majority Democrats had enjoyed. Russo rode a strong economic message that resonated in all three towns of the 22nd State Senate District, Trumbull, Monroe and Bridgeport. A Republican has not represented the district since Lee Scarpetti, who was defeated by Bill Finch in 2000. The impact of Russo’s win, including a strong showing in Bridgeport, is showing itself in the race for control of the city’s Democratic Party. See below.

Town Chair News

I’ve been calling Democratic political operatives about the selection for the next party leader. Sounds like former Town Chair Mario Testa has the most votes. He’ll need 46 votes to become party leader. Selection should be scheduled in the next week or so. To be successful Black Rock District Leader Danny Roach must convince party leader John Stafstrom to throw his votes to Roach. The question is, how many of Stafstrom’s votes are transferable? Stafstrom, a bright operative, still is holding out hope that he can find a way to solidify his position. Stafstrom’s position was weakened Tuesday night when Tom Mulligan got mauled by Republican Rob Russo to fill the state senate seat vacated by Bill Finch. Stafstrom’s having great difficulty delivering candidates. Well, didn’t he help get Finch elected? Not exactly. Finch defeated Caruso in a September primary because Caruso ran a crappy race. Had Caruso ran a Russo-like race he’d have defeated Finch. The Finch forces do not know how to run an effective race.

The only way I see Stafstrom holding on is if Finch promises the world to every town committee person who needs a job.



  1. Mario has the votes to take out Stafstrom & King. Roach is what he always was a minor role player with big ideas. Roach showed his true side by backing out on his deal with Testa. The deal was that the person with the lowest number of delegates will give the person with the higher count his backing. Roach had 2 meetings with Testa at Testa’s at which time this deal was made. Roach has since backed out saying it never happened.
    Testa backed the challengers in the 137th and worked for them also and they took all 9 seats.
    Lisa took 3 seats from Stafstrom.
    By my count thats 12 votes Stafstrom lost that he was counting on. Roach by my count has 13 votes as Diaz will go along with his mom and Scinto at best can come up with 5 votes. WHAT did Scinto pay (politically) for that part-time job?
    The one thing amongst many that will happen under Testa there will be one party and not all these little self-centered groups that are out there now (Robles take note). Political payback is a bitch. One more thing Finch will be getting sound advise on political matters something that Stafstrom has not been able to give.

  2. Tom: When it becomes increasingly difficult to get your agenda thru the council it will then become apparent that you need to provide leadership and leave the politics to others. Under Stafstrom Bill was not getting sound political advice and it was consuming all his time. Testa will give him sound political advice and make Bill’s life easier.

  3. Wondering -Good points. Only problem is will Bill listen to sound political advice and stay away from the politics and spend more time being the Mayor and providing leadership and better managing the city.

  4. I have written this as slow as I can so I hope you can understand it.
    The town chairmen takes care of the democratic party business. He makes sure that the polls have workers, candidates get nominated in each district and more importantly get elected. He deals with the Democratic State Committee and also the DNC. It is a job that requires compromise and knowledge. The present chair John Stafstrom has not been able to do any of the above and the party has fallen into disunity. Like him or dislike him Testa was able to do that in the past. Before you go into corruption theory I don’t think there has been anyone more thoroughly looked at by the FBI than Mario Testa and they have come up empty. BTW Mario Testa is a decorated war veteran and a very successful restaurant owner.

  5. Hello to all my friends be foes !!! Lennie nice site !!! I did admit I was wrong about Mulligan winning for those that didn’t see my earlier posting !!! Now let’s talk about SASSYSTROM leaving !!! With this new set-up I’m sure a lot less assholes will post !!!

  6. Hi, Lennie and all – Nice new web site, Lennie. I hope you might have more control of some of the nasty homophobic comments that get posted. Too bad about Mulligan, he was a very responsive councilman and a decent guy. Finch of course is mostly to blame for TM’s loss and the Dems sure did not help Mulligan’s cause at all.
    Best of luck, Lennie!

    Joan Nutmeg
    Bridgeport In the Know
    The only independent Bridgeport online discussion group with over 360 city web
    links and events calendar

  7. I think Mr. Stafstrom doesn’t have the votes, but we need to forget about all of this political BS. We need to think about getting city business done.

    Congress Street bridge wasn’t fixed while Testa or Stafstrom were Town Chairmen. Let’s wake up folks!!!!!!

    The Beancounter is in the house 🙂

  8. Wondering & Tom K – Here’s my problem(s) with Mario Testa as Town Chair. Let’s assume the man does not have a corrupt bone in his body (and for the purposes of this discussion I am willing to do that.) That means he was either not aware of what Ganim was doing – even though he was probably Ganim’s closest political ally and was moving heaven and earth (and lots of money) to get Ganim elected governor or that he did have at least some knowledge of Ganim’s actions and turned a blind eye to them. Either way, there is a problem here.

    Add to that the cloud hanging over Testa because of his association with Ganim, particularly now with front page headlines from the Conroy trial like today’s – “Pinto: I was bribing the mayor.” and I have to wonder why the DTC would choose this person as their leader and public face.

    If the DTC does go ahead and elect Testa Town Chair I also have to wonder if they are just blind to all this, or maybe it’s that they just don’t care. Either way that’s not good for Bpt Dems or, more importantly, Bpt as a whole.

    Nationwide this is the year of change. But for the Bpt. DTC it’s business as usual – no imagination, no courage, no change.

  9. John
    I understand and agree with your frustration. I think Mario passed the smell test with the Feds. The problem is the DTC.

    I believe that the triumvirate that was involved in a criminal enterprise did not go around telling people what they were doing. One could even argue that Lennie was a victim of his own circumstance and economically extorted by Ganim and Pinto. No Pay No Business.

    Mario’s situation was a little different. He was hell bent on getting Joe elected Governor. He raised money and twisted arms for money and spread the wealth around the state currying favor for Ganim. Mario is not my choice but do you want Stafstrom circumventing the law or Danny who has poor leadership skills and his word is not as good as his beer.

    Too bad there isn’t a new face or leader who could lead the party. In fairness to Mario he was never indicted and if Joe Ganim had never demanded a payoff we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I just hope that the leaders of the party will understand that we can have our primaries but after the primary we need to bring everyone back into the fold. Under Stafstrom this has not happened and look at the results.

    Finally after all is said and done the DTC ain’t the be-all and the end-all so progressives like yourself with imagination, courage and conviction can bring about the change.

  10. Hey Tom – You’re right “the DTC ain’t the be-all and the end-all.” There are other avenues and I believe this summer some of us will be pursuing them.

    However, this is going to be a good show. Do you know when and where the DTC will be meeting? I definitely want to be there – perhaps in the same way people are often drawn to a good train wreck.

  11. John from BR–no word on when/where the DTC meeting will be, but it promises to be like a war zone. The way it looks now is that some people are still playing political musical chairs! I’m still reeling over Mulligan’s loss, he’s a good man. Now let’s see how Russo makes good on his tax cap, I’m skeptical at best. That was his big selling point in Trumbull, but I’m not sure its feasible. =^..^=

  12. Mario elected Democrats but he did it at least partly by enriching himself and the people around him. He was just smart enough to not be a show-off (he did live in Monroe) and stay under the feds’ radar. So perhaps the FBI never called out Mario … but then, the FBI never really left town. The return of Mario would give those guys a little work to do … In any case, it hardly matter which of these guys cuts a deal to put together a bare majority to elect himself DTC chair. The internal fighting will not end. With the city facing a desperate budget situation, the winner will feel intense pressure to appropriate ever-larger chunks of the dwindling patronage pile to secure his position. This leaves one of two untenable situations for the Bridgeport Democrats: a) the infighting continues, paralyzing the party as it did for this Senate race and opening the door for a well-organized opposition to score further victories; or b) the Mayor gives away the store to restore order in the Party but causes so much budgetary pain he runs the danger of being chased from office after one term. Choosing sides was a fatal error for Finch … but he never could resist a good scrap.

  13. John I am not sure about the year of change. If you mean we have a woman and a black man running for president then I understand.
    We tried change here in Bridgeport where we elected a gay man as head of the party. This change led to a fractured party that as of today has several little fiefdoms. Under Testa that will change. This will be messy and there will be a lot of people left on the outside looking in.
    The problem is that the mayor’s salary which is around $110K is too small to attract top talent. We practically had to drag Finch kicking & screaming into the race.
    The mayor’s job is a 24-7 job and covers many areas. We hire a school supt at $200K-plus a year. The Police chief & Fire chief make almost as much as the mayor.
    You can’t expect young, intelligent men & women to seek this job when they can make a hell of a lot more with a hell of a lot less effort in private industry. I worked in private industry and made more than the mayor. I did not have to put up with half the BS a mayor does. As the saying goes you only get what you pay for. The mayor’s job should pay at least the same salary as the school supt.

  14. In my opinion, the worst possible scenario for the City of Bridgeport is to have Bill Finch as mayor and Mario Testa as the chair of the DTC. I suppose we will have to endure the postings of the Testa Testimonial Society much like we have to put up with the incessant pollyanna posts of the Finch Fan Club. This blog is fun and provides a good opportunity for continuing, albeit conflicting dialogs. But, it must be understood that the basis of this blog is not to be the conscience of the city. There is too much slant. The Nose knows some good stuff with which I agree. Those members of the Testa Testimonial Society who think that the FBI has placed a bright blue ribbon on Testa’s file and awarded him a cluster for his “good conduct” medal need to understand that much has yet to be reconciled with respect to activities in Bridgeport that may not have been in the best interest of the people. Please pay careful attention the the absolute fact that the ONLY business in Bridgeport that has shown any significant growth in the number of additional employees and the amount of office space occupied is the FBI.

  15. Aboost: You are 100% right you will have to endure Bill Finch and you will have to endure Mario Testa. Finch for 3-1/2 years and Testa for at least 2. The one thing that you don’t have to endure is the Testa Testimonial Society and you can do that by just not signing on to the blog. Simple choice.
    The Feds have had how many years to get Testa and have not done so. Are you saying that they haven’t gotten him because it was not in the best interest of the people? That is a bunch of baloney. In my past life having worked with the Feds and other Federal Agencies they do things that are beneficial to themselves and the public be damned. If you don’t think getting Testa would have been a big feather in their cap you are wrong. They have roughly the same number of agents here they had 5 years ago and are in the same office space.
    I invite you to get off your ass and get involved.

  16. Aboost insightful post but you have to understand that Finch was drafted into a job he really did not want. See my earlier post on salary and the like concerning qualified people. As far as the FBI I’ve been to their offices (Official business) and it’s about the same size as it was 5 years ago and is staffed by many local cops assigned there on a temporary basis as part of their various taskforces. BTW thanks for the Sonny label it’s well appreciated by this old guy.
    BTW Testa has the purple heart.
    Just this thought name me a politician that doesn’t put himself first. Please don’t refer to any of the Kennedys. It’s human nature in politicians to put themselves first. How many times have politicians made votes that were against their constituents’ wishes because they thought they knew better. In the real world a politician who is going to change the system either learns the art of compromise or he goes off on his change the world philosophy and perishes.

  17. It never ceases to amaze me that the Testabum’s continuing solution for contrary opinion is to suggest that the dissenting viewpoint disappear.

    I’m not going to disappear. I am not a member of the Finch Fan Club. I think he is a hand-picked jerk strategically placed so as to front the agenda of the self-interested. I certainly do not share your admiration for Mario Testa either. I agree that if he is indeed a “decorated” war veteran, that fact deserves my respect. I further agree that Testa would appear to be a successful restaurateur … his place isn’t the worst at which I’ve dined. I would be interested in learning more about his combat experience. Given his age he would have served in Viet Nam. I have known of him for many years and have not heard that he served in Viet Nam.

    In summary, I think it stinks that we have Finch and Testa in positions of influence at a time when our city could experience great change. Neither, in my opinion, possess the decency to put the needs of the people ahead of their own agenda.

    It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s just business.

    BTW … you’re wrong about the FBI. Try factual posts. People might think you know what you’re talking about.

    With great anticipation, I respectfully remain …

  18. There is no better way to demonstrate patriotism then by serving your country especially in a time of war. I am further impressed by the fact that Testa took advantage of a little known immigration law that allows immigrants to gain permanent resident status leading to citizenship by volunteering to serve in the armed forces. Good for him. Very good for him. I’m making a reservation at his place for this evening and will be sure to goose the tab up a bit as a silent act of admiration for learning of his sacrifices for our nation. This doesn’t change a thing. I still think he is a bum and should not be allowed to have anything to do with Bridgeport politics.

  19. I think he is a hand-picked jerk strategically placed so as to front the agenda of the self-interested. post by Aboost

    Aboost, insightful post, but you have to understand that Finch was drafted into a job he really did not want. post by Wondering

    kindred spirits?

  20. No I can’t resist the name-calling. I’ve been around this town a long time. I have seen Testa with the Bucci boys, the Mandanici mob, Ganim’s gophers, Fabrizi’s fanables and Finch’s fools. You can be as smug as you want but you will never convince me that Testa has not been at the epicenter of all of the issues that have made our town what it is today. I gave it a shot, but I just can’t equate your boy with Ozzie Nelson.

  21. Pinto back on the witness stand, Ganim testifying from prison, Willinger on the hot seat, Moonbeam perched in soon-to-be-sold City Hall, and the imminent return of Mario! The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!

  22. Wondering: Not sure I completely agree with your statement blaming low pay for Bridgeport’s dismal record in attracting qualified candidates for mayor.

    A lesson I learned in business is that just throwing money at a problem seldom gets you the solution you needed or expected. That’s especially true when it comes to filling top management jobs with people who seem to have the right skills and experiences … but whose motivation and drive for money just doesn’t square with the goals and values of the organization.

    Pay, as long as it’s equitable and competitive, is seldom a barrier to attracting top talent. This is certainly the case in the public sector where rewards are defined as much by opportunity for professional growth and accomplishment, personal recognition, and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. A focus on high compensation (need to get rich) usually distorts both the purpose and the outcome of an individual’s career in the public sector. Bridgeport has some great examples that prove the truth of that statement.

    Whether $110K for the mayor’s job is too high, too low or just about right is not the real issue. The real issue is identifying someone with the unique mix of experience, skills, integrity, motivation and guts to serve as mayor and to lead the city in new directions. Then working hard to convince that person that being Mayor of Bridgeport is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity … an opportunity to make a real difference in the city’s future. Seems to me that’s the responsibility of the respective town committees. If Bridgeport has suffered from a lack of qualified mayoral candidates, it’s because of a failure on the part of the DTC and RTC to aggressively recruit and develop those candidates. Either that, or their selection standards are set abysmally low.

    So before anyone suggests that paying more is the ONLY way to attract a stronger candidate for mayor, let’s solve the problem at its source. Fix the way the DTC and RTC identify, select and support individuals for Bridgeport’s most important elected positions. And insist that they raise the bar and set the standards higher than they’ve ever been set before. That shouldn’t be too hard to do.

    But don’t hold your breath. It’s a lot easier to maintain the status quo than to push for this type of change. Can you see anyone in the DTC or RTC being the leader who will make it happen?

  23. Bruce Hubler, I agree that higher pay does not guarantee greater achievement. One can’t blame the RTC for what the DTC (abysmally low selection standards) does. It is the voters of Bridgeport who should pay careful attention to the qualifications of candidates.
    Bridgeport has been pretty much a one-party system, why not maintain the status quo?

  24. Bruce: Very good post and I agree with much of what you say. My idea of higher pay was a thought based on the people that I have seen step forward as potential mayoral candidates over the years. In talking to many well qualified people about running for the mayor’s spot the common lament was I would be taking a pay cut. I realize that paying more money doesn’t always get the best candidate but my thought was it would raise the number of people seeking the job.
    In this past mayoral period there was only one person who reluctantly stepped forward and that was Finch. There really was no selection process. I do blame that on a TC that for the past 4 years under Stafstrom has done nothing to bring in and foster young intelligent talent. The one young person that has stepped up in one way or another is Tom McCarthy; however he needs to be groomed and educated in the political ways and he is not getting that from Stafstrom or the people aligned with Stafstrom. Many of the young people involved in politics today do not want to put in the time that is required to learn the political process. I am hoping that in the next few years that the DTC and for that matter the RTC can develop people that want to put in the HARD work it requires to manage this city.

  25. Bruce Hubler

    You are beginning to sound like a serious candidate. Let me be amongst the first to pledge my support. You or people like you could make a significant difference in this town and bring Bridgeport to the prosperity that anxiously awaits.

  26. WARNING:

    This is a warning to all Bridgeport City Employees serving as members of the Democratic Town Commitee.
    Before you vote for your choice of TC Chairman, think about your future. Think in increments of two years, keep your mind in 2010 when there will be other opportunities for Town Committee races. Those District Bleaders that don’t support Stafstrom/Finch can expect a challenge in 2010 as Finch will be more interested in that race than in the past one. Those serving as Elected officials/City employees/TC members, have a lot of thinking to do. The 2009 race cycle will be upon us soon and you don’t want Stafstrom/Finch interfering in your race. So your Best and Safest choice is to support Stafstrom or suffer the future consequences. Besides, Mario can’t blame you, He was the one who ran away fearing a challenge from Caruso and you all took on the challenge and won. As a rule of thumb, don’t believe your District Bleader when he/she says, “John Doe has the votes, so we have to go with the winner.” Don’t believe (or base your vote on) other TC members when they tell you who they are supporting. If they don’t have it in writing, it’s not happening. Don’t VOTE your future away.

  27. Joel you are so clueless it’s amazing that you ever got elected to anything. A challenge from King/Stafstrom in 2 years with their track record in elections that is an empty threat. That’s almost as empty as your run at 130th TC seats. Consequences? What consequences?
    Mario running away from Caruso get real. When Testa was TC and Caruso ran a primary he got his ass beat by a lot more than 270 votes.
    Joel do us all a favor join the RTC you are going nowhere in the democratic party. These rants that you put on the blog are just so much BS.


Leave a Reply