Decisions, choices, pols you like, pols you dislike. A lot will be on the line for a variety of primary day seats Aug. 14. A quick round up of key races:
State Senate: Incumbent Ed Gomes is trying to stave off challengers Ernie Newton, who had the seat before Gomes and shocked the state political establishment by winning the party endorsement in May, and State Rep. Andres Ayala who brings a base of support from his East Side legislative district. This race is difficult to call. Any of the three can win. Gomes got off to a late start both organizationally and financially. Why wasn’t Gomes endorsed after seven years on the job? He doesn’t suck up to the party establishment, has a frosty relationship with Mayor Bill Finch and was late to schmooze delegates while Newton had worked party insiders for two years. Gomes now has his campaign face on, but he has a couple of things working against him that he must overcome.
He was victimized last year when Democratic State Senate leaders trying to make Anthony Musto’s reelection easier in the multi-town neighboring State Senate district carved out reliable votes in Gomes’ backyard and gave them to Musto as part of a state-required realignment of legislative districts. The Wilbur Cross precinct with loads of loyal Gomes voters are now in Musto’s district. They cannot vote for Gomes. To add insult to injury this maneuvering took place while Gomes was in his hospital bed recovering from heart surgery last year. With friends like that who needs enemies, right? Still, Gomes has strong labor support that counts in primaries. He also looks fit following the surgery. Gomes has one other thing working against him. Both Newton and Ayala have seasoned operatives courting voters via absentee ballot. Why wait until the last minute to get them to vote? That’s the Bridgeport way.
If Gomes is going to win this primary he must perform strong on the machine totals because Ayala and Newton will likely start the day ahead of him as a result of the absentee ballot count.
Ayala, in addition to his East Side base, enjoys support from some of Mayor Finch’s political operatives who know how to identify voters and drag them to the polls.
Newton arguably has the most passionate following preaching redemption and opportunity in his comeback quest following corruption charges that drove him from office. Does that passion cut across the entire district?
All three candidates have qualified for Connecticut’s public financing program that allows them to spend roughly $95,000 in total including the small donations they raised that led to the grant support. The Senate seat covers about 70 percent of Bridgeport and a portion of western Stratford.
State House: Andres Ayala’s cousin Christina Ayala, daughter of veteran pols Democratic Registrar Santa Ayala and former City Councilman Tito Ayala, wants to replace him in Connecticut’s 128th State House district that covers the East Side and The Hollow. Ballot positioning in this district is tricky. The Ayala name has high name recognition on the East Side, but Christina, as the endorsed candidate, is running on the top line line while her cousin Andres is running on line two. Will the Ayala cousins work in concert to remind voters about their ballot location? It appears each is running their own operation. Christina’s opponent Angel Reyes, a journalist and community activist, follows Andres Ayala on the second line. Reyes could benefit from this if Andres’ forces do a better job pushing the second line than Christina’s do pushing the top line.
Both Christina Ayala and Angel Reyes have qualified for public financing.
U.S. Senate: A retiring Joe Lieberman has forged primaries to replace him in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Fifth District Congressman Chris Murphy, the party-endorsed Democrat, has plenty of dough and mighty union support to help pull out a statewide vote. His opponent Susan Bysiewicz, the ex Connecticut secretary of the state, has cut her political teeth challenging endorsed candidates in primaries. This race, however, is the biggest challenge of her political career. Murphy has more money and more bodies on the ground. SuBy will need a major break or a turnout gaffe by Murphy to pull this out.
On the Republican side Bridgeport resident Chris Shays, Connecticut’s 4th District Congressman for 21 years until defeated by Jim Himes in 2008, faces a tall order taking out heavily financed Linda McMahon in the Republican primary. McMahon, like Murphy, has more money and more foot soldiers to churn out a ground operation. Shays claims McMahon would be a disaster in Washington, going so far to say he will not support her in the general election a declaration that appears to concede this primary. McMahon says if you want to change Washington you must change the folks sent there, a swipe at both Shays and Democratic frontrunner Murphy, both of whom have spent many years in Washington.
With two weeks left serial primary voters will begin to engage on these races.