Afternoon Update: Sometimes timing dictates candidate appeal. And sometimes an incumbent falling on his face opens the door to someone new and different. Other times, candidates must work their ass off to makes things happen. And sometimes, plain old luck becomes a pol’s best friend.
It’s been a challenging two-plus years in office for Mayor Bill Finch, former state senator, recruited by party regulars to run for mayor in 2007 after they determined John Fabrizi could not defeat State Rep. Chris Caruso in a primary. The gamble paid off and Finch won a 270-voter squeaker. But a crappy economy, tax increases, political fallout with this one and that, and pain-in-the-ass distractions such as Jodi’s Jail has a number of pols looking to challenge Finch.
Can Finch be reelected next year? Yes, but a lot of things must break his way in the next six months starting with the new budget year that begins July 1. He cannot afford another tax hit. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, who’s up for reelection next month by the 90-member political committee, looks at the political landscape and ponders a question he’s asked many times: who can defeat Caruso?
The Big Wave is the opposition force in city politics, combining anti-establishment interests with popularity in his statehouse district, and he has stepped up his public surf with issues such as Jodi’s Jail. Caruso has not sniffed the saucy aroma of Mario’s restaurant on Madison Avenue, whether the old location or new, in 13 years. He and Mario are not buds. I’ve been urging The Big Wave to visit Mario at his restaurant if only to catapult mass paranoia throughout the political system. “Jesus, what deal have Mario and Caruso cut!” Pass the razor blades.
Used to be Mario would hammer his morning veal with extra flourish thinking of ways to submarine Caruso. I don’t sense the venom anymore when I chat with Mario about Caruso. Mario sounds much more pragmatic in his approach to Caruso. “Who can beat him?”
For now Mario is sticking with Finch. They may not be best of buds either, but at least with the mayor there are days of common interest or common enemies. In the short term Mario is trying to figure out his best Democratic horse for governor this election cycle to try to leverage support in exchange for a few jobs for his peeps. Who knows, maybe a state commissionership for Bill down the road? Ya never can tell.
Meanwhile some pols are cozying up to Mario in case Finch’s standing with the electorate does not improve. Johnny Fabs loved his old job, although he seems to be in a pretty good place in his life both emotionally and professionally as head of the city’s Adult Education. Fabs is banking on a political strategy to lure him into the race that has not yet developed, and probably will not. Fabs wants Mario to run into his wide-open arms to reposition him for a comeback. But Mario’s not feeling nostalgic. He feels Fabs had his day, let’s move on. A pol such as Fabs must show pols and his peeps that he has the fire to make a comeback. Relying solely on the political route will not work.
Caruso has the opposite approach: screw the party regulars. Yeah, I’ll take their support, he says, but I won’t beg for it. The problem for party regulars that despise Caruso is this: they cannot defeat him with the base party vote. It’s not strong enough. They need a candidate with appeal and money to tame the Big Wave. Maybe Finch rebounds, or maybe it’s someone else.
The black community is looking for a candidate, and this creates an added dynamic. When Caruso was a young alderman 25 years ago white Bridgeport was his base. No more. The city has changed. Caruso still has what’s left of the old-time white ethnic homeowners in the North End, but his voter base comes from black and brown supporters in precincts such as Wilbur Cross, Hallen and Read. They have voted for him overwhelmingly both in his statehouse wins and his two runs for mayor. The key for Caruso is broadening that base outside of his legislative district.
What other potential mayoral candidates are out there? Some of the names floating around include former state senate candidate Marilyn Moore, State Rep. Dom Clemons, State Rep. Andres Ayala, City Councilmen Andre Baker, Bob Curwen and Carlos Silva, retired Judge Carmen Lopez, and Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, an executive at the University of Bridgeport. That scream you just heard was MJ: “Lennie, leave me out of this!” Other names may pop up such as City Council President Tom McCarthy in lieu of a Finch reelection effort. The Republican side? ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz ZZZzzz …
So right now Finch lives, Caruso hovers, and the question for Mario remains: who can push back The Big Wave?
News release from Mayor Finch
City Declares Snow Emergency
Alternate Side of the Street Parking in Effect as of Wednesday Morning
A citywide snow emergency will go into effect at 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, February 10. Alternate side of the street parking rules will be in effect, and residents should move their cars to the even side of the street at that time.
Parking is not permitted on any designated snow emergency street. For safety purposes, residents and business owners are asked to comply with the ban so that snowplows can efficiently clear the streets.
Mayor Bill Finch urges city residents to heed all emergency warnings and to drive safely during the storm, which is expected to drop from 8-14 inches of snow in the area.
Following is information from the city’s Office of Emergency Management regarding alternate side of the street parking, snow emergency streets and safety tips.
Important emergency numbers include:
Call 911 for immediate life-threatening emergencies.
On Wednesday, residents can call (203) 579-3829 regarding snow removal, alternate side of the street parking or other snow-related questions.
Rudy’s Reform, news release
MARCONI CALLS FOR MEDICAL TORT REFORM IN CONNECTICUT
“We must act to prevent a healthcare crisis,” he says
RIDEGEFIELD, 2/9 — Rudy Marconi, Ridgefield first selectman and Democratic exploratory candidate for governor, has called for medical tort reform in Connecticut in order to avert a “full-fledged doctor shortage.”
“Connecticut is not doctor-friendly, and ballooning medical liability premiums are a big part of the reason,” Marconi said. “We’re losing doctors in Connecticut, and we must act to prevent a public health crisis. Imagine having to drive to the next town just to find a pediatrician.”
States that have enacted reforms have seen positive results, Marconi said. “Texas has seen 15,000 doctors open practices or return to the state since 2004,” he noted.
Marconi called for the following specific reforms:
• Separate liability from the award. Claims should be screened for merit by a panel before a case can go forward. If there is no liability, there should be no award.
• Cap non-economic damages. Recently one jury awarded a record $38 million in a case in Stamford. The only people who profit from awards like this are lawyers.
• Truly limit lawyer’s fees. Close the loophole that lets them grab more than their fair share.
• Provide a pool of impartial expert witnesses. Today’s hired-gun witnesses make a mockery of justice. We need screened, objective experts whom juries can trust.
• Make liability proportionate. Right now, any defendant could be economically liable for the whole award. They should be responsible for only for their fair share.
Marconi said those opposed to tort reform, primarily personal injury lawyers, have been motivated by self-interest. “There is an element of greed here,” he said. “This is evident in the way some lawyers require clients to sign a waiver that lets them charge more than the law specifies.”
Tort reform is not a “magic pill” that will fix healthcare, Marconi said. “I continue to support a range of efforts to extend coverage to all Americans. But medical liability tort reform is necessary if we are to continue receiving quality healthcare in Connecticut.”
Marconi’s full statement on tort reform can be found at: bit.ly/bm7dGd