Russo Drops Out, Endorses Debicella, Plus: Boys Club Fight Looms

Former Bridgeport State Senator Rob Russo dropped out of the race for Congress today and endorsed Shelton State Senator Dan Debicella for the Republican nomination in Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District, a 17-town region that takes in the state’s largest city and heavy GOP Fairfield County suburbs.

Money-challenged and facing an uphill fight for the nomination, Russo’s endorsement will help solidify organizational support in several communities in Debicella’s quest to stare down Easton First Selectman Tom Herrmann and several other GOP contenders seeking to challenge Democratic incumbent Jim Himes in November, including former Bridgeport GOP Chair Rick Torres. This is a nice boost for Bridgeport native Debicella who’s fundraising is approaching $500,000, the most raised by GOP candidates. Russo’s support came from Bridgeport, Trumbull and some Fairfield party operatives, many of whom are expected to gravitate to Debicella.

News release from Debicella:

Former State Senator Robert Russo today endorsed State Senator Dan Debicella for Congress in Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District.

Russo, who had been a candidate for the seat, announced that he is ending his campaign and giving his full support to Debicella.

“Fairfield County needs a Congressman who understands their needs and their concerns,” said Russo. “Dan Debicella has the experience and ideas to get our economy growing and eliminate our federal deficit by reducing spending. As voters get to know Dan as I do, they will realize he is the right person to be our Congressman.”

Rob Russo served the communities of Bridgeport, Trumbull, and Monroe as a member of the State Senate, and said he has known Debicella since before either of them were elected to office. “Dan has always put people first. When we take Dan’s commitment to the residents of this state together with his ideas on issues like the economy and healthcare, we have someone we need to support for office.”

Debicella is a second-term Republican State Senator representing the eastern part of Fairfield County, including Shelton, Stratford, Monroe, and Seymour. He grew up in Bridgeport where his father was a police officer and his mother was a secretary. He was the first in his family to go to college full time, attending the Wharton School and receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School. He has spent most of his career in business, having worked for management consulting firm McKinsey in Stamford, as Director of Strategy at PepsiCo in Purchase, NY, and as Assistant Vice President of Marketing at The Hartford Financial Services.

Rob Russo was among the field of Republicans seeking the nomination to challenge Jim Himes for the seat long-held by Republican Christopher Shays. Debicella is the only candidate to be endorsed by another candidate in the race.

“I am proud to have Rob Russo as a friend,” said Debicella. “He has always delivered results in his service to his hometown of Bridgeport and during his time in the State Senate. He will be a key part of my team both in this campaign and once I am elected to Congress.”

The Club Fight

The fight for control of the Boys & Girls Club on Madison Avenue is heating up. See legal-threat letter from Michael Voytek, lawyer for the club, who claims a City Council resolution seeking a new operator for the club on city property is a land grab for a developer to be named later.

City Council President Tom McCarthy says the resolution is nothing more than an effort to support the mayor to make something happen with an underutilized facility for young people.

Dear City Council Members McCarthy and Vizzo-Paniccia:

We have been retained as Special Counsel to the Boys & Girls Club of Bridgeport, Inc. in connection with a potential dispute it may have with the City of Bridgeport. It appears that the City Council is considering a resolution sponsored by each of you that takes the position that the City of Bridgeport has the right to take the Boys & Girls Club facility located at 555 Madison Avenue (the “Property”). We strongly urge you to reconsider this proposed course of action.

Your resolution takes a huge legal leap in assuming that the Property has somehow reverted back to the City of Bridgeport. This position is mistaken and your proposed resolution is based on the false premise that my client has ceased operating at the Property. This is clearly not the case and can be proven so in a court of law if need be.

Since the time that the City of Bridgeport deeded the Property to the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport in 1949, it has in fact been operated as a “clubhouse for the social, educational, physical and moral betterment of girls and boys of Bridgeport.” Most recently, for example, there was an Easter egg hunt on the premises, and plans are currently in process for Summer programs for the youth of our City at the Property. We will readily produce additional evidence of the continuous operations at the Property should you go ahead and attempt to take it from Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport.

In addition, although my client has been informed that the Mayor has nothing to do with your proposed resolution, our evidence clearly indicates otherwise. At the appropriate time, should this matter be pushed forward further by you, we will prove that the Mayor’s office is complicit with this naked land grab during both discovery and in court.

As you are both aware, the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport has secured a bond authorization in the amount of $2.8 million. They are in the process of meeting the grant requirements to get that money released to them. With that money, my client will, among other things, make improvements to the Property. The actions by the City Council and the Mayor are interfering with their obtaining these funds and from operating as a duly authorized nonstock corporation in the State of Connecticut. These actions are causing the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport very real and substantial monetary damages. Again, we have strong evidence of this interference by the City.

In light of the above, we are hereby demanding the following:

1. That the City Council and Mayor CEASE AND DESIST from further interfering with the Boys & Girls Club’s obtaining of the $2.8 million Grant from the State of Connecticut and cooperate with it to obtain that grant.

2. That the City Council and Mayor CEASE AND DESIST any actions that interfere with the lawful activities of the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport, such as entertaining and passing the resolution authorizing the Mayor to take the Boys and Girls Club Property, which we will prove is illegal.

3. That the City of Bridgeport IMMEDIATELY RELEASE the $30,000 “weed and seed” funds to the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport.

The Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport has a long and storied history in the fabric of the City of Bridgeport having been founded in 1887. It has shaped the lives of many boys and girls in our City for over 123 years. To now be interfering with the Boys and Girls Club of Bridgeport’s mission is ill-advised and will end up costing the taxpayers of Bridgeport money in legal fees as we intend to do whatever it takes to protect this tradition of service to the boys and girls of Bridgeport.

We have set forth our position regarding your proposed resolution with respect to the taking of the Property. We will vigorously, vehemently, and vociferously challenge any attempt by the City Council of Bridgeport and Mayor Finch to “grab” the Property. GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY. We sincerely hope to work this matter out with you. If we cannot, please consider yourself as having been fairly warned of the repercussions.

Very truly yours,


By:_/s/ Michael T. Voytek, Esq. /s/_

Michael T. Voytek, Esq.



  1. At the Fairfield Train station? You would have thought Bridgeport or Stamford. I have already decided who will get my vote and that is Ned Lamont, Moore, Himes, Alpert. Most likely Moore, Lamont and Alpert will run on line B and for some reason my candidates are always on line B so on Primary day Line B will have my vote. If Ned loses I will not be upset because Malloy will get my vote in November and the same goes for Blumenthal. Like Steele says there is no reason for a person like me to vote Republican. If there is one thing I can give gwb credit for is he drew a lot of Hispanics to the Republican party but the Sarah Palin Republican party is driving them away. I don’t see how the Republican party can survive if they do not get Hispanic support. Hispanics are Democrats in general but a large chunk are Republicans but the way I see it now they will be like Black voters and vote heavily Democrat. Hispanics, Blacks, white women, Asians, young voters are all enough to put Dems on top. Without support from one of those groups I see it hard for their party to survive!!!

  2. Strong letter from Attorney Voytek. I don’t know the full story here but the Boys Club and the City should sit down and work it out. If they don’t, the only ones who profit are the lawyers. And the only ones to lose are the kids.

  3. Nothing works in Bridgeport. I have gone to 2 tag sales at the boys club in the past year. I spoke to Ken Bruno who told me about the grant and his hopes for remodeling the boys club. It’s been a year and still no grant money.
    It seems to me maybe we should get the people from Black Rock to run this facility. The people in Black Rock seem to be the only ones who get things done and done right.
    Let’s see they are getting a new or updated Park at the foot of Ellsworth St. They have a beautiful library with lots of activities. They have a very nice community center that has just worked a deal with Wakeman Boys club and the list goes on. I know I have been critical in the past but you can’t deny Black Rockers are active and work at their community.

  4. So the Boys/Girls club has been closed for 2+ years, it has a director who goes to work every day (I presume) to a place that is closed–nothing to do; my kind of job.
    Questions: Is he paid? Who pays him, my taxes? How can you be a director of nothing?
    Something tells me we are in Bridgeport.

  5. This is what I was talking about earlier when this first came up … That place has looked like a dump and been underutilized for quite some time … With the same Exec Director.

    Nothing against Bruno whom I do not know but sometimes there are just better people out there and new direction needed. Nothing lasts forever.

    Bringing lawyers in like this seems so freaking typical of B’pt mentality … Perceived persecution runs rampant

  6. Here’s a plug for a concert/fundraiser Saturday and Sunday at The Acoustic Cafe on Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock.


    Money raised will go to replace the trees that were vandalized at St. Mary’s, a case that’s apparently stymied Bridgeport’s Finest and fallen off the radar of my former colleagues at 410 State St. Good music, lots of local talent and a great way to enjoy the weekend.

    On another unrelated note, my sympathies to old friend Chris Caruso on the passing of his mother Tere. Rest in Peace Mrs. Caruso.

  7. Good morning Lennie, I only know what I read in the newspaper and that is usually not all that accurate. Recently, I was talking to someone who was telling me all the real estate in downtown is being bought by a few different partners and in fact these partners may also be partners. One of the parties is closely related to Penske, the automotive empire.
    It seems to me in spite of the inept government in Bridgeport, perhaps someone or a group of someones has their own master plan. I certainly would appreciate insight to this mystery.

  8. *** What comes to mind about the Madison Ave. Boys & Girls club is, why after @ least almost 3 years of the club being underutilized & needing help is the city suddenly interested in its lack of operations & building use? I know there are always 2 sides to a story but it seems that there’s a case of too little too late type of action on both sides of this equation! *** Glad to hear Russo has decided on “not” running for Congress, he wouldn’t beat Himes anyway! However, running for state senate is a different story in which he would have a very good chance winning. *** Funny thing, I have been seeing a bit of a change in a particular OIB blogger that used to take “some” time to check out the ins & outs of political candidates running for election. Now it seems as long as they’re Democrat, they’re okay! Which is the very thing that’s hurting this city, voting for the party & not the “right” individuals instead! ***

  9. “Russo Drops Out,” you say? How about: Russo Drops Out X 2.
    Drops out of the Board of Education and now the Congressional Primary. Russo did what he felt was best. Debicella’s advantage has been and will continue to be, being an incumbent Senator; an advantage that afforded him the ability to raise money. Is Amann reading this? I wonder if Russo will go for the “Musto.”


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