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Steve Stafstrom To Run For Grogins’ Vacant Seat, Torres Considering Run

January 5th, 2015 · 44 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, City Politics, State Politics

Steve Stafstrom

Former City Councilman Steve Stafstrom tells OIB he will be a candidate when a special election is called to fill the State House seat of Auden Grogins who will be nominated to the Superior Court by Governor Dan Malloy. Stafstrom made one thing clear at the top of his priorities for the district, he will support State Rep. Jack Hennessy’s government reform bill, with or without a grandfather provision, to enforce the City Charter that prohibits city employees from serving on the City Council. The bill would close a loophole in state law that allows city employee councilors in violation of the City Charter.

Republican Enrique Torres, who defeated Stafstrom for City Council, tells OIB he’s considering a run for Grogins’ seat as well. The special election is likely to be called for late February.

Torres on bike

Torres may need an SUV rather than a campaign bike for the winter special election.

Stafstrom, the favorite to win the Democratic Party endorsement, is familiar with a good chunk of turf in Connecticut’s 129th State House District. He had served on the City Council representing Black Rock when he was defeated in a close general election by Torres in 2013. Hennessy’s reform bill was an issue in the campaign and in fact, Stafstrom supported the version of the bill that included a grandfather provision to hold harmless the handful of existing city employee councilors, a concession by Hennessy to save the measure that was torpedoed by the two state senators representing the city, Anthony Musto and Andres Ayala, both of whom will be leaving the senate next week at the start of a new legislative session. Musto was defeated in an August primary and Ayala will become commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hennessy says he now believes full support exists to reintroduce the government reform bill without a grandfather clause. Stafstrom says he will vote for it, if elected to the State House.

Stafstrom’s council partner Sue Brannelly, caving to political pressure, opposed the reform measure in support of the City Charter provision approved by city voters to avoid conflicts of interest. Brannelly’s opposition helped drag down Stafstrom who was lined up against Torres, owner of the popular Harborview Market in Black Rock.

Losing on the machines, Brannelly was rescued by the absentee ballot operation of Mayor Bill Finch’s political organization, placing her ahead of Stafstrom and Phil Blagys.

The 129th District covers Black Rock, the West Side and portions of the North End and West End. Stafstrom is an attorney with the Bridgeport-based law firm Pullman and Comley as well as his uncle John Stafstrom, former Democratic Town Chair, an early political supporter of Dan Malloy for governor. John Stafstrom resides in the Brooklawn section of the district providing an extended political base for his nephew.

Democrats and Republicans will endorse candidates for the special election, but challengers can petition onto the ballot. Connecticut’s system of publicly financed campaigns is in play. Candidates must raise $3,750 in donations between $5 and $100 from at least 113 Bridgeport residents to trigger a public grant of roughly $21,000.

The terms of Grogins and Ayala will officially expire next Wednesday setting up special elections called by the governor and scheduled by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.


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44 Comments so far ↓

  • flubadub

    Would it make sense to hold the election for this seat on the same day as the senate seat Ayala just gave up? A way to save some $$$ at the polls?

  • Maria Pereira

    It is a miracle! Steve Stafstrom has seen the light, especially after Musto’s defeat.

    He will do Mayor Finch and John Stafstrom’s bidding without question.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Two bad candidates but at least they have representation. In the 138th we have suspended city worker and council person Rich Paoletto and his uncle Mike Marella who pretends to live in Bridgeport but still lives at his condo in Shelton. He has a poor attendance record recently.

  • John from Black Rock

    Steve Stafstrom will be an outstanding State Rep. He’s hard working, independent and knows the community well. Last but not least, he supports, as did Auden, Jack Hennessy’s government reform bill, with or without a grandfather provision, to enforce the City Charter that prohibits city employees from serving on the City Council. Steve will do the “bidding” of no one but his constituents. His position on the Hennessy bill is proof enough of that.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Surprised to hear you say this considering councilman Stafstrom wanted to eliminate the 1 mil for the library budget.

      • Maria Pereira

        If this is true, and you must look at the source, any candidate who wouldn’t support funding public libraries should not be supported. The cornerstone of democracy is education. Libraries provide invaluable services to our communities, but especially to impoverished neighborhoods where the digital divide truly exists.

        • John Marshall Lee

          What is true is the other Black Rock council person, Sue Brannelly, has held two ‘potentially important’ hats while a Council person: Co-Chair of Budget and Appropriations and Liaison to the Library Board. Sue may have done many things for a number of people, though very little comes to mind at the moment from the areas I have carefully watched, but her attitude towards staff and Board Library representatives at more than one B&A meeting can be described as hostile, in my opinion. Her attendance at Library Board meetings, according to the record, has been minimal as well. She is a busy lady, no doubt.
          However, the Library referendum she did not support provided adequate funds for action on East Side and East End Libraries and this has not happened, though some study has. Delay in some cases is as good as a veto, isn’t it?

          I was strongly in favor of the Library referendum when it was raised. More attention should be placed on where the unspent funds of the Library itself have been placed, reallocated, separated, etc. Public spokesperson for the Mayor, Brett B. has said nothing about this subject. Perhaps he should inasmuch as the Library referendum was a loss for the Mayor and several millions of funds were not spent in the past several years that might have been if they had been GREEN, the Mayor’s idea, or created a park. But no, Bridgeport taxpayers paid the money and for more than one reason they were not spent on operations or development. If Bridgeport’s East Side and East End communities realized what holds up their new facilities, they might press for action, attend a City Council meeting, or a Library Board meeting. Time will tell.

        • John from Black Rock

          Rest assured I will speak to Steve about this. But the of truth of the matter is Steve is clearly the best candidate in the field. Furthermore, to receive my support a candidate does not have to agree with me on every single issue every time. What is more important is honesty, integrity and a genuine desire to move our neighborhood and city forward.

  • Pete Spain

    “Stafstrom made one thing clear at the top of his priorities for the district, he will support State Rep. Jack Hennessy’s government reform bill, with or without a grandfather provision.”


    I’d say GREAT, if Steve would start out by stating unequivocally he wants the bill, like Jack Hennessy wants it, without a grandfather provision. That’s the way the bill now stands. Why change it?

  • Up On Bridgeport

    Special will take place on February 24th.

  • Ron Mackey

    Enrique Torres, please run. Run Enrique, run, please. It will be a great debate between the candidates with Enrique explaining what he means by “Black Relations My New Pet,” run Enrique, run.

  • Maria Pereira

    John, do you think there is any chance the only reason Steve Stafstrom is willing to now support Jack Hennessy’s bill is because not supporting it was a significant contributor to Musto’s defeat and would also hurt his chances of being elected? In other words, is his new-found support authentic, or is it purely strategic?

    • John from Black Rock

      In my opinion, it’s probably both. He believes in the bill and knows the majority of voters also believe in it.

      • Baffled in Bridgeport

        I think Steve learned his lesson from the fallout on the Hennessy bill. It’s about your constituents, not the party bosses. He lost his Council seat because he wasn’t paying attention and on top of that he learned party loyalty doesn’t extend to absentee ballots (every man or in this case, woman for herself). Steve is smart, he’s actually a very nice guy and he has had a great role model in Auden. He’d do a good job and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest while we may not always agree, he is unlikely to disappoint.

  • Gabriel

    Authentic??? Strategic???

    Please. Watch the 23rd and this race as to who can trip over each other the most to “see the light.” The time to “step up” on the Hennessy bill was when Jack was getting torched for even the audacity to propose it. I do not trust Stafstrom on this issue, and further I don’t believe the the D’s will ever let it get out of committee.

  • Jimfox

    First Ken Flatto move in from Fairfield, and now Steve Stafstrom. Does this carpetbagger know how to find St. Mary’s by the Sea or the Harborview Market? The only district he knows is District 10 in Fairfield.
    If I can find my pink tie, I’ll run too!

  • Godiva2011

    I am doubly pleased to hear Atty. Grogins was awarded a judgeship, and more than happy to hear this bright young attorney will be running for State Rep. He will be a fine replacement and I wish him victory.

  • Jimfox

    Good luck to Steve and Auden, and if we’re lucky enough, just maybe Auden will be assigned to some little town like … Coventry!

  • Tom White

    I am pleased Steve Stafstrom has ‘seen the light.’ Let’s see if the Democrats allow the bill to see the light of day without a grandfather clause. It will take strong, independent voices to guide it through the opposition from government employee unions. This could be Stafstrom’s baptism under fire. I hope he is sincere and up to the challenge.

  • Bob Walsh

    Here is my problem with Steve Stafstrom. He works for Pullman & Comely. So the company he works for AND HIS UNCLE profit big time from state and municipal bonding.
    And Steve can claim he would not vote on those matters but that would mean no vote on bonding, no vote on capital projects, no vote on capital funds for Bridgeport projects, no horse trading up in Hartford when it comes to leveraging things for Bridgeport, no assignments to Finance, Appropriations, Transportation just to name a few committees. Either Bridgeport will have an incomplete state Rep or he will do as Uncle John has done in the past and not declare a conflict just so he can be a company man.

    • Maria Pereira

      As frightening as this may be, I agree with Bob. The conflicts referenced above are very real. Do we really need another conflicted elected official representing Bridgeport? Don’t we have enough of them already?

    • John Marshall Lee

      Pullman & Comley LLC is a major law firm in the City and State. Their work in Bridgeport is not limited to serving as bond council for the City in recent years. Their work includes defending the City of Bridgeport which is pressing the “largest taxpayer in the City” with a valuation the City’s expert has not substantiated in court yet after many years. They also have done work worth thousands on WPCA matters and hundreds of thousands on other land matters. Fingers in many legal areas. How does one credibly recuse oneself? At the risk of career advancement? I don’t know certainly, but the discussion of this matter in public, in a newspaper series for instance, might provide the public, the City Council and all registered voters with the information and motivation to go to the polling booth in November. Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    I do not see the need for Auden to step down right now. This is different than Ayala or Caruso or other state legislators appointed by the governor to a state job.
    Auden has to not be sworn in OR would have to resign from the legislature before the Governor could present her to the Judiciary Committee??? That don’t sound right.
    Lennie, are you telling us no sitting legislator has ever been nominated? I don’t buy it.

  • Local Eyes

    Here’s my problem with Bob Walsh: I used to disapprove of his affiliation with the City Council but now I disapprove of his affiliation with this blog. Count on me to keep it fair.
    Politics has always been a conflict of interest (hence, checks and balances). The “reform plan” is really a return plan designed to comply with yesterday’s status quo.

  • Local Eyes

    I like today’s staus quo. Conflicts of interest are so “OIB-esque!”
    But in 2015, politicians are anxious for anything that makes them look moral and wise; covers everyone and doesn’t cost a penny. Lacking any concrete ideas, Hennessy and Moore have jumped on that train. Here’s the best part: Bob Walsh is in the caboose, cheering them on!

  • Bob

    Irregardless. This is a distinct conflict of interest having Stafstrom as a state rep. PERIOD!!!
    His uncle and uncle’s spouse are too deeply involved in Connecticut politics for him to be a true representative for Black Rock.

  • Local Eyes

    Auden Grogins’ deep involvement in Connecticut politics enabled her to secure $500,000 for Black Rock improvements.

    • John Marshall Lee

      And Andres Ayala won $1 Million for the NRZ groups in Bridgeport in his District. Where is the chart that shows where the $1.5 Million of funding for projects stands at this time? Is such in the hands of the neighborhood groups who are tasked with providing local initiatives? Or are they on the OPED design board? Or on the Mayor’s desk? Just asking. Time will tell.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Ayala won nothing for the upper East Side as we have no NRZ at the moment. In fact that jerk we have for a mayor just dedicated a park near Nob Hill and no one from here knew it. He was supposed to name that park after Ann Migliore who helped many people in this neighborhood. As far as I am concerned Mayor Finch and his people are a bunch of dumb bastards and when I see him again I will tell him face to face. Dick Head.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andrew C Fardy, you are right about Ann Migliore. When I was on the DTC she was one of the ones who pulled me to the side to explain things to me and to listen to what I had to say. As for Dick Head, I know you will tell him his people are a bunch of dumb bastards.

  • Bob Walsh

    Here is my problem with Local Eyes. He’s got blurred vision.

  • Bond Girl

    Go Team? :)

  • Bridgeporteur

    This turn of events was contrived from the Governor on down through Stafstrom and Stafstrom. Of course there is a conflict of interest. Uncle Stafstrom and his spouse are making money hand over fist. The people involved in politics in Bridgeport with the motive of making it a better place who don’t get such profit must be looked on as fools by these folks. We work hard but a few make a big profit on our efforts.

    • Hector A. Diaz

      Lennie, how many signatures are needed to run as a petitioning candidate being that there will be no primary? I love how they (whoever?) choose people without having any meetings or interviews. I’m very close to throwing my hat in also!

      • LennieGrimaldi

        According to the Secretary of the State “in order to qualify to get on the ballot, petitioning candidates must turn in a number of signatures equivalent to 1% of the total number of voters who cast ballots for that seat in the previous election, and signatures must be from registered voters in the district.”

  • James Louloudes

    Good luck, Steve.

  • Jimfox

    The only reason Steve Stafstrom moved to Black Rock from Fairfield is he always kept getting off the train in Black Rock. His poor wife was so tired of picking him up off the deck at the Black Rock Station, she mailed a letter to Metro North claiming to be a major stockholder, and they better do her this favor and close the 5:01 bar car.
    The 5:01 bar car regulars were so upset with Steve Stafstrom, they canceled their 5:01 bar car Christmas party this year at Archie Moore’s.
    So now we can all thank Steve for closing the 5:01 bar car on Metro North this year.
    That’s why Steve moved from Fairfield’s Greenfield Hill section to the Rock.
    Steve quickly got a job with his aunt at Pullman & Comley LLC that by the way has their own bar car on the 7th floor of the People’s Bank building on Main St.
    I heard this story from a very reliable source.

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