The Mayoral Campaign Really Starts Memorial Day Weekend

Finch steel point
Finch will make many stops to Steel Point this campaign season.

The late OIB correspondent John Gilmore said mayoral elections do not begin in earnest until Memorial Day. Well here we go, time to take inventory.

Five Democrats and one Republican are in the most-watched race in the state this election cycle given the dynamics of the personalities.

Democrats Bill Finch, Joe Ganim, Mary-Jane Foster, Howard Gardner and Charlie Coviello are in the race in what is shaping up as a September 16 primary. Two-time mayoral candidate Enrique Torres announced recently he’ll be in the race on the Republican side.

The Democratic outcome is a difficult race to project because of the various dynamics with the potential for many twists and turns.

Joe Ganim
Ganim is off and running. Sue Katz photo.

Finch would become the second longest serving mayor in city history if he wins a third four-year term and completes it. The person he’d pass is Ganim who was mayor more than 11 years. Socialist Jasper McLevy, 1933 to 1957, served the most years as mayor. Finch will be well-financed for this effort projected to spend roughly $500,000. Finch has a number of items teed up that bode well for his election: no tax increase this year, ribbon-cuttings for new parks, a reopened Pleasure Beach, street paving and construction at the Steel Point redevelopment area of the East Side with Bass Pro Shops as the anchor tenant scheduled to open in the fall. Finch is the favorite for the party endorsement in July.

So why does Finch have a challenge? Talk to folks and most say it isn’t one single thing, it’s a series of issues over eight years as mayor–from taxes to education to political skirmishes and police staffing levels–that have given his chief rival Ganim an opening. Ganim, a relentless campaigner, has been all over the city at various functions, knocking on doors, making phone calls, raising money in his quest for redemption following conviction on federal corruption charges in 2003. So far Ganim is leveraging nostalgia from his years as mayor in which he did not raise taxes for 10 straight years. He has managed a number of public relations bites of the apple in his entry into the race. The entry hoopla is now over. Most electors vote on the future. Last week at his official kickoff he promised to kick out a series of detailed proposals over the course of the campaign on what his mayoralty will look like.

Hennessy, Foster
Mary-Jane Foster campaigning with State Rep. Jack Hennessy.

Finch’s 2011 primary opponent Mary-Jane Foster managed to crack 40 percent of the vote having been outspent by nearly two to one. She remained largely quiet on a number of city issues in recent years not taking advantage of her first run. Foster’s late entry into the race allowed both Finch and Ganim to poach some of her supporters, but she brings a level of support to the table such as state senators Ed Gomes and Marilyn Moore and State Rep. Jack Hennessy. She’s been out in force knocking on doors and raising money. The University of Bridgeport executive and co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team has a similar history with both Finch and Ganim: she is a fan of neither. Can she frame herself as the viable alternative? She has shown from time to time she’s unafraid to mix it up with the boys. She’s expected to make a campaign kickoff early June.

Board of Education member Howard Gardner is a liberal’s liberal with intellectual brain power. Gardner with campaign money would be interesting. Can he raise it? And can he build organizational strength to secure the roughly 2,000 certified signatures to get his name on the September primary ballot?

Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner

East End town committee member Charlie Coviello has had his name on the ballot twice in a Democratic primary for mayor with little to show for it. He too is a policy wonk with money challenges. He was also a candidate in 2007 before dropping out to support Finch over Chris Caruso in a Democratic primary. He supported Foster for mayor in 2011.

Foster, Coviello
Foster, left, and Charlie Coviello, next to her, attended West End function recently.

Republican Enrique Torres ran a competitive race for mayor against Democrat John Fabrizi in 2003. He secured about 30 percent of the vote against Finch in 2011. He won a seat on the City Council in 2013, then lost a close special election to Democrat Steve Stafstrom to fill the State House seat of Auden Grogins, now on the state bench. He says he’ll take another crack for mayor this year.

One reason he’s getting in is because of the possible spillover from the Democratic primary into the general election. If the Democratic primary is close, the candidates could opt into the general election in an appeal to all voters, potentially splitting Democratic votes. That decision, however, must be made before the primary requiring candidates to petition onto the ballot.

Torres on bike
Torres on campaign bike.


    1. Lennie–A good summary of the mayoral race to date, but with one major exception. Your reference to Foster having been largely quiet on several City issues since her campaign in 2011 just doesn’t hold up to analysis. She was in the leadership of the Smut Busters legislation, on which Finch was silent. She was in the leadership of the Board of Ed issues, which Finch lost. She was in the leadership of the City Council conflict of interest legislative initiative, on which Finch was silent. And she was very active in the successful Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes primary upsets over the Finch-supported candidates. Need I go on?

      1. Come Back Bridgeport, please go on speaking about the recent vote by Moore and Gomes. Where did MJF stand on that and does she wonder if this tag team is more of an anti-Bridgeport duo?

  1. You would accuse these legislators of being anti-Bridgeport based on one vote that did not go your way? How very Finch of you.

    It was a supremely crappy idea and I am super glad they voted against it.

    Go tend to your chickens.

    1. Wicca, your response went over my head. Crappy idea because you wouldn’t go but the downtown eateries suffer and the city suffers and revenue lost. It was a bad vote. Bad for business, bad for Bridgeport. Huge loss for the Arena. Tend my chickens? Your thought process is that of a hick. We are in the largest city in the state. Bridgeport should have it all and needs individuals who have been exposed to big city life making decisions based on the needs of their constituents and city. Not their own personal limited ideals.

      1. Steve, Senator Moore said she spoke to restaurant owners downtown. So you are obviously calling her a liar on top of all the rest of the garbage you are spewing.
        Poor Stevie. Things don’t go his way and he calls a sitting State Senator a liar because he didn’t like what she said. Typical Finch attitude but what else can you expect from his butt boy.

        1. Bob, you are the second person comparing me to Finch. What does this attitude have to do with Finch? I said I personally would not attend the Arena for the venue. It is not that the vote did not go my way, it is why they voted as they did and what was their rationale. This is a professional organization. These martial artists are well trained. This is not ancient Rome at the coliseum where Christians were thrown in the Arena. These guys are well paid. There is an audience. There is money for the city. There is an opportunity to bring business to downtown. Bob, give it up. Your support of your candidates is admirable. I know this is one vote. I voted for Moore. Her sign was on my lawn. I am entitled to be pissed for good reason as it affects Bridgeport. I will not kick Moore or Gomes to the curb. But unless Moore or Gomes can identify just one downtown business, then I say they did not consult them. Especially restaurants. You Bob Walsh called her a liar. I did not. It was a bad vote. It has nothing to do with the Moran administration over25 years ago and it has nothing to do with massage parlors or strip clubs. Btw, a strip club is a form of entertainment that does have a place in society. Not my type of entertainment, but who am I to judge! They have a place in Bridgeport and we do have a few.

  2. Come Back Bridgeport, you stated “She was in the leadership of the Board of Ed issues, which Finch lost.” I have no idea who you are but you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Since MJF lost her election in 2011, I cannot recall seeing her attend even three BBOE meetings, and I have only missed three since August 2012.

    She was not a “leader” in the “Vote NO” campaign, and she was not a “leader” in the BBOE campaigns in 2013, she was not a “leader” in organizing the community for the local or state hearings on the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport. In fact, she did not even so much as attend a single hearing.

    What in the world are you referring to?

    1. Maria, I have to stick my 2 cents in your comment to Come Back Bridgeport. I know for a fact Mary-Jane Foster fought for the No Vote. I remember that day at Winthrop school like it was yesterday, Ron Trabor spoke to me after the vote and talked my ear off about how MJF as well as he wanted the No vote. As for BBOE meetings I cannot speak on that issue.

      1. Steve, having Rob Traitor talk to you at Winthrop School about how much MJF wanted the “Vote No” campaign to be victorious has nothing to do with MJF being portrayed as a “leader” on that referendum, or any other education issue for that matter.

        1. Maria,
          Some well-known woman commented in recent years “it takes a village.” And whether you agree with the issue in context at the time, or the generalization made, it appears to me in the historical dust of recent years in Bridgeport there is much truth in the statement.

          There can be no doubt in the minds of OIB readers you have been a “go-to” person on matters of youth education in recent years, out of responsibility as a BOE member and as a citizen subsequently. But today you are not referencing education with your posting, but rather promoting one of five or six candidates for the next campaign (as is your privilege obviously). Perhaps instead of fact-checking on impressions Mary-Jane has made with some citizens, you may be in a singularly unique position to share what your candidate has in mind for the youth, the parents and the taxpayers of Bridgeport in matters, educational, if he is elected. Pre-primary is the time to share these concepts, platforms and ideas, right? How about an article on the subject? Lennie will make room I am confident. Time will tell.

          1. Bow Tie, please do quote where I was “promoting” one of five or six candidates. My post doesn’t promote a single candidate.

            It is absolutely amazing to me how patronizing and condescending you are. Now you think it is appropriate to tell me who and what I should be posting about on this blog.

            Your lack of self-awareness is very troubling. The fact you even considered writing the remarks you did about Pat Crossin as his friends and family were grieving his passing only serves to validate you are completely self-absorbed, insensitive, and lack any real compassion for others.

            Please focus your time and energy contemplating what and whom you should write about, not what or whom I should write about.

            I know you repeatedly assure us your bow tie is tied appropriately, therefore the appropriate level of oxygen is flowing to your brain. That’s too bad because maybe then there would be an excuse for your poor judgement in what and how you communicate with others.

          2. MJF, along with many others, worked her ass off on the No issue and 2013 election. Soldiers win wars, not just leaders. It was a great coalition that swept out a couple of good candidates who weren’t on Line B.

          3. Isn’t Joe Ganim your Mayoral candidate of choice at this moment, whether you were promoting him in each posting or just generally?
            If you re-read the comment, perhaps you can see this as an invitation rather than a directive as to what you should do. You are informed more than many on the subject of Bridgeport education. If Ken Flatto is supporting Ganim I hope to hear his sense of Ganim financial directions. In the same way I sense the community might look to you for that same info on education.

            You have picked up a theme on Pat Crossin as if my single posting after OIB carried info on his passing might be a third rail for me. Please check with that extended family. Does anyone in that family claim a previous personal relationship with me? Were they familiar with Pat’s public life in the community on the Council, on the BOE and other positions that opened him up to questions? A legacy for a decedent may be represented with lots of money or property for distribution, by debts or obligations to be paid, and when someone is in public life, by the history of what really happened. When I learned Pat was gone, I saw perhaps his voice on that subject was one from which an answer may no longer be expected.

            Has anyone other than Pat Crossin made themselves known as a family member and in the last dozen years ever attempted to communicate with me on the subject I raised, not for the first time on OIB? That is the $1 Million of life insurance premium spent for Joe Ganim and a handful of his supporters. The full story has never really come out and Pat Crossin was in a particular place at a particular time to see public money be used inappropriately. I raised the question with him during his lifetime. I raised the question again with folks in the Fabrizi administration. Never an answer as to what happened to the money, to the policy, to IRS reporting. A full account? Why such a secret?

            When Pat died recently after a severe fight with the disease that took him I believe my first comment was the hope he could now rest in peace. My subsequent comment had to do with the legacy of the question I raised and for which I have no answer still and may never have, but that does not stop me for keeping the question alive. And my purpose is the community through profound reform of our check and balance features is never again in the situation where executive benefits, charitable contributions, stipends from taxpayer funds, etc., are secret transactions, away from public scrutiny, while the public taxpayer gets stuck with the tab. Any problem with that?

            Perhaps because I intend to throw my hat in the ring this year, you feel the raising of the Crossin name as it relates to the mystery was inappropriate. I certainly did not raise it to cause emotional distress to his widow and children. I am sorry for the reported outcome. (And I have been approached and verbally chastised in public by a male ‘family’ member so I am aware of the situation.)

            It is not about a bow tie. It is not even about oxygen, Ms. Pereira. It is about looking in the mirror, reflecting on what you see and hear, and dealing with it.
            This is not the first time when I have looked to learn something from you, and have invited you to post. You respond with accusing me of “telling you” what to do when I am giving you a send-up by indicating you may be in a singularly unique position to share.

            If you are supporting Joe Ganim, perhaps you can prevail upon him to update that story completely and put an end to all the mysteries. (That is an invitation, not a duty or expectation.) And if you are not supporting Ganim this week, that is certainly fine and dandy with me. You have energy, passion and a following. Spend it as productively as possible. The community of Bridgeport needs all hands on deck. Time will tell.

          4. Follow the Money, MJF may have participated in the “Vote NO” campaign, and the election of the ROW B BBOE slate, however she was not a “leader” on either issue. In fact, when she ran in 2011 she supported a hybrid board which would have been made up of five mayoral appointees and four elected BOE members. In other words she supported mayoral control over the BBOE.

  3. Steve, since this piece of legislation is so near and dear to you and obviously critical to all residents in the city of Bridgeport, how many times did you talk with Senators Gomes and Moore about your stance on this issue???
    I will answer for you, not once. You did not know about this legislation and did not care enough to know anything about it. Because with all your rants about the elections and the issues and the candidates you support, you did not once mention this. Did you???
    So what do you think they should do? Call you before every vote because you obviously believe you speak for the majority of the voters on every issue? And if they can’t get a hold of you, what? Vote present?
    Let me explain to you how a representative form of government works. Candidates run for office and articulate their stances on a number of issues. The voters based on this information elect a legislative representative who they believe will best represent them. Whether it is US Senator or State Senator or City Council member. That’s it. That’s how it works. In another year when Gomes and Moore run again I am sure no one is going base their vote on how they handled this one issue.
    And without having spoken to either one about this I am pretty confident they would tell you if you are going to vote against them because of this, then please go ahead and do so. That is your right. That is your prerogative.
    But I am also fairly confident neither one is losing any sleep over this vote.

    1. Gee Bob, not once because although I get emails from Marilyn Moore regarding issues she is working on, she did not ask my opinion nor did I have any idea there was a vote on this issue. Bob, now I am supposed to read bills and call my Senator. Are you an ass or what, Bobby? I think you are beginning to slip a tad. I mentioned on many posts I would not attend this venue. Can’t you just accept they made a bad call and put it to rest? You are instigating and just bringing to light over and over and over again that they made a bad call for the city and for some reason you think the more you assault me it will become a non-issue. Well, I think you have read the responses on Lennie Grimaldi’s previous post and you are not on the right side of the issue. Let it go! Let it go unless you are going to find me one business downtown they spoke to before voting. Just one. Oh I am sorr,y I have asked you that same redundant question at least three times. Let it go.

    2. Bob, I did not say I was voting against them but alas I would say you are a pretty sad spokesperson for both Gomes and Moore. I will take it you speak for them and I guess I will vote accordingly. Thank you for thinking my vote will not cause them a sleepless night. Thank G-d.

  4. I have looked a every candidate and some I like, some I don’t like. I don’t like some of the things Ganim did in his term but he has repented and he shows he is the most competent person to run the City at this time. I base my decision to support him on informed analysis.

    1. Come on, Bob. I believe your hatred of Bill Finch is slanting your view here.
      His economic development efforts are diametrically opposed to yours. Have you forgotten the land grab with historic downtown north? Are you now in favor of that?
      How about the use of eminent domain on Steel Point? Should we be looking forward to more of that? The arena at Harbor Yard? How’s that working out?
      And what about Pleasure Beach? Its downfall started with Joe Ganim when he refused to do anything with the bridge. Too busy trolling for wealthy developers to take it off of our hands and to stuff his pockets with more campaign contributions?
      Bob, if you want to say you are supporting Joe because you think he has the best shot at beating Bill I will buy that, but beyond that he is an empty suit.

      1. It was a tough decision to make, Bob, and it is not based on hate but what is best for the City. Yes, I am painfully aware of all those things you mentioned. There were a lot of people on the bandwagon at the time, Finch being one of them. I for one was not.
        MJF started too late and has been too supportive of machine politics herself. Good luck to her.
        I worked for the City for 25 years and morale was never higher than when Ganim was there.
        I was having my life threatened by drug dealers and Jamaican drug posses in Washington Park for hanging in there and trying to bring it back. I had bullets whistling over my head on Newfield Avenue when working in a community garden there. Things were BAD when Ganim started. He hired some good people who brought the City back. A lot of things you could have said about him and he admits to today and he has apologized for.
        Let me share a story from one afternoon long ago. I was securing a boarded-up City-owned building at 269 Barnum Avenue one afternoon, while locking the gate, screw gun under arm, I turned and saw a big black car slowing down and stopping. Window came down, there was Ganim. “What will it take to get this project going?” he asked. (At the time we had most financing in place, people were owed money and getting impatient and it was not at all certain it would move forward.) I said there is a gap of $250,000. The window went up and off they drove. A week later I found out there was $250,000 in State Block Grant funding allocated to the Washington Park project. This enabled our development team to close on financing and to proceed with the restoration of thirteen vacant abandoned buildings that are still well-preserved today.
        So there are always two sides to the story. The government will work well and we will keep an eye on the Mayor to see he does not fall in with the wrong crowd.

        1. And the deciphered code here is MJF supported Steve Stafstrom, thereby making her supportive of machine politics as a whole, lately.

          There are folks in your council district who supported Steve, including Lisa Parziale, who by using the same rationale would also be supportive of machine politics. #Notsomuch.

  5. I have had the pleasure of observing all the candidates and while all are adept and I believe want what they believe to be best for Bridgeport, none other than Joe GANIM is a TRUE leader of leaders (only some will understand, and that’s okay). While there may be a good administrator, an excellent educator, one candidate with a heart as big as the city and a sitting Mayor who allows his chief of staff to LIE boldly in the face of the entire Democratic Town Committee with his blessing (definitely not the characteristic of a LEADER), it is also my belief what Bridgeport needs most is “A LEADER.” SO SAY, WRITE or BLOG what you will, all of us know that in a room with all the candidates the TRUE LEADER is Joe Ganim, anyone else is just that, ANYONE else.

  6. Please Hector, enlighten us about Joe Ganim’s chief of staff. Wasn’t it Patrick Coyne, at one point an integral part of his corruption enterprise. Oops.


      1. Lisa, isn’t it clear he is supporting MJF? Good choice, don’t you agree? If you can’t vote for Finch, why wouldn’t you support the candidate you supported last election?

        1. Steve, I am aware of whom he is supporting, he may believe leadership is not as high a priority, there may be other qualities he wants in a Mayor, so he too may think the best LEADER is Joe Ganim?

  8. Hector (or anyone who cares to comment),
    How about credible leadership credentials including integrity? How do you sort this horse race out in those terms? A US Attorney has spent taxpayer money to invite people to contact her office 1-800CALLFBI. What happens when questions start to be asked around one or more of the issues covered on OIB (though not necessarily by Channel 12 or the CT Post) that deal with public corruption from a taxpayer’s point of view? Time will tell.

  9. JML, I’m not sure I get the question. Can you be more direct or could you put it in “layman’s terms?” Please do not be offended, if it’s about integrity, which of us has been awarded the “gift” to “judge” someone’s integrity? Integrity (according to Merriam-Webster) Noun. The quality of being HONEST and FAIR. The START of being COMPLETE or WHOLE.

      1. Ron Mackey, that is the typical comment when someone works on a campaign. I think Hector Diaz believes in Joe Ganim. I think Mr. Diaz appreciates that Joe Ganim supported him. If I am not mistaken, he is a loyalist. If Joe Ganim were to win, why wouldn’t he put his supporters in positions? It is the way politics has been since the beginning of time. Some people would not even work on a campaign if there was no payoff and some people work on a campaign and when a politician gets the desired result they move on and forget who put them there. I am certain Joe would take care of Hector and there is nothing wrong with that. It is called patronage and has always been part of the territory.

    1. Hector,
      Thank you for attempting to answer the question. A recent suggestion is a person of integrity will continue doing the right thing, the honest thing, the fair thing even when no one is looking.
      There seems to be a strong tendency on OIB not to “judge” other people or their behavior, yet each of us does it many times daily by saying thank you to the person who held a door for us as well as getting irate when someone cuts in front of us in traffic without safety consideration or signaling.
      Regarding “leadership” of a community and the spending of public money, two major candidates for the Democratic party nod may have integrity issues around money. Ganim had his hand out for personal gain, was caught, charged, tried, found guilty, did his time and is back with us repackaging himself for current consumption. Finch has found no problem clipping and trimming good governance practices yet seeking more control so as to have his way in all things municipal and budgets have been padded, departments are not evaluated, employees are not trained with high, best practice expectations, accountability for all public funds, especially Capital funds and legacy expenses are not addressed meaningfully with the public, etc. So do we have integrity issues Hector, and if we do, assuming these are the only two candidates, what do we do about it?
      Fortunately Mary-Jane Foster and Howard Gardner are running also, have leadership qualities and no known problems outstanding regarding keeping faith with taxpayer funds. Enrique Torres is now running for a third time as a Republican candidate and fiscal integrity has been a major issue while serving on the City Council for the past 18 months.
      Hector, I hope my answer supplies some background for a layman to understand the question. I also suggest our individual decisions in the primary and in the November election will be the result of judging all of the candidates. None of us has been awarded good judgment as a gift. The average person develops such judgment by seeking out good information, comparing and contrasting words that are spoken with actions that occur, and lived experience of making decisions and watching the subsequent behavior of the human you selected. Is this year different? Time will tell.

      1. THANK YOU Mr. Lee, this does help to clarify your question, I agree with you on the integrity of the two candidates you mentioned, I also believe each of those candidates bring a special talent and would be without a doubt an asset to any team. But are they Leaders and if they are which of them would you or I for that matter follow? In this arena of which I believe I have not only a good amount of knowledge but more importantly awareness, the obvious LEADER is JOE GANIM.

  10. Ron, I make pretty good money and really enjoy doing what I do, stop in some time and say hi or take a look at our inventory Wiz Leasing Inc. 250 Ferry Blvd. Stratford. Google us and please check out our reviews. That being said, please understand a job for me is not the change I’m looking for in this election, or any other for that matter, I’ve humbled myself in the past, when I NEEDED work and approached a friend (I was under the impression we were as close as family) who was Mayor at the time. I left his office that day with a promise that should a janitorial position open up … and a realization my friend had no idea who I was and I would never allow myself to be put in that position again. I really like you Ron, but if you believe my efforts are for a job, you also don’t really know me.

    1. Hector, thanks for your reply and I hope things go well for you at the WIZ Leasing Inc. I understand what Steve said but I wanted to hear from you, Hector. As far as that mayor who you thought was your friend but had no idea who you were, I guess he thinks we all look alike and he wasn’t a friend. The best to you.

  11. None of the announced or potential candidates for mayor has articulated a plan with any detailed, specific policies/projects for resolving Bridgeport’s untenable revenue/taxation, unemployment, environmental, educational, or social problems.

    Steal Point is not a plan–it is simply a high-cost gesture meant to change the perception of voters, campaign donors, and the future employers of job-seekers retiring from political life. (I took a drive by the area last week; it is sickening to see the blight replaced by stupidity–box stores on waterfront–surrounded by blight.)

    Truly, the hodge-podge of low-employment, low tax-yield, and otherwise stupid uses of waterfront property that has been cobbled together in no logical or purposeful manner under the title of Steel Point has to raise questions of legitimacy at all levels regarding this development. (Who is getting paid off to betray this city’s future?)

    Bridgeport needs about $14 BILLION in new tax base in order to become viable again. None of the current mayoral candidates has any plan for development that can even nick the surface of that amount. All of our current, planned development is low-employment and tax-negative. Period. (Stamford has a grand list of about $28 BILLION and a mil rate of about 18–and Bridgeport?!)

    There is currently no plan among the current and potential candidates for mayor that will even nudge Bridgeport in the right direction. In fact, the converse is true–the current “plan” for Bridgeport will misuse our land and obviate our potential for a return to high-employment prosperity and environmental health. (Our green mayor wants to destroy the last major stand of trees in the area to accommodate the governor and the state plan to lock in Bridgeport as the region’s poor-boy servants’ quarters.)

    So where is Bridgeport going? Where can we go with given our current off-course direction?

    In the same vein; where is the county going? Will we want to live in a crowded, overdeveloped New York suburb 20 years from now?

    Where is the state going? Is the whole state going to commute to Stamford to work?

    1. Jeff, that is exactly what needs to be said, even with the help of “Divine Intervention” in the form of a tornado? With federal funds that could have … SHOULD HAVE been building the surrounding parcels that were hit the hardest, it was almost as if the tornado had GPS, LOL. Another lost opportunity. Imagine them using the funds and finding monies for a whole area adjoining “Steal Pointe” to be “ALTERNATIVE” energy Solar.


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