Mayor Bill Finch has a stubborn streak that is both commendable and exasperating. He has thrown himself smack in the middle of an issue–saving two (pre-Civil War) homes that provided safe harbor for slaves–tugging at the emotions of the black community that helped put Finch in office.
No one disputes saving the homes for their historical value. The question is how to get there and for what purpose. Finch says the city’s anti-poverty agency, Advancement for Bridgeport Community Development led by Charles Tisdale, has had plenty of time to transform the blighted buildings that are subject to city foreclosure. The mayor wants the city’s Economic Development department to determine future use of the homes.
ABCD officials and the city’s black clergy say Finch is messing with the agency’s non-profit status that should make the properties tax exempt. The city says the homes are taxable, and it’s an issue that goes back many years.
Of all city neighborhoods, Finch’s closest connection is arguably to the South End, where he lived for many years and worked to save homes from the wrecking ball. It’s one of those neighborhoods, surrounded by Seaside Park, UB campus, and an eclectic mix of old and new housing, tantalizingly close to breaking out. When I joined the staff of the Telegram, a predecessor of the CT Post in (gulp) 1977, I fell in love with the bars and Victorian gingerbreads, although I spent much more time in the bars and eateries. The Knickerbocker, Merry Widow and Blue Teapot. All gone.
The South End is an area of the city where Finch still has standing and solid political support. Mitch Robles has emerged as the most potent vote producer among district leaders in the city, having built a nice political operation in the South End and West End. Whether it was Finch’s victory over Chris Caruso one year ago, the Democratic town committee primary in March or Ezequiel Santiago’s August primary win for state representative, the candidates Mitch supports win his precincts. Not a lot of district leaders can say that.
If the South End blows up on Finch, he’s going to need Mitch to help hold things together. When a mayor loses the confidence of voters, he needs his political support more than ever. That means what Mitch wants Mitch gets. So it goes in city politics.
Himes Says Race Even
The Himes campaign issued a release today of an internal poll calling his race against Congressman Christopher Shays a dead heat. The previous Himes poll, four weeks ago, showed him behind by 12 points. See memo below from Himes’ pollster Diane Feldman:
TO: Himes for Congress
FR: Diane Feldman
RE: Tracking Poll
The campaign’s tracking poll, fielded September 17th and 18th, shows that
Democratic challenger Jim Himes has pulled even with Republican Congressman
Christopher Shays. Each candidate has 45 percent support. Additionally, their support is equally strong with 27 percent certain to support Himes and 28 percent certain to support Shays. An even contest six weeks before Election Day means that the contest now favors Himes.
Our last poll, shortly before the Democratic convention in August, showed Shays in the lead. In the interim, however, Democrats have moved decisively toward Himes to give him a 69 percent to 23 percent lead among registered Democrats. Additionally, independents, who remain a plurality in this district, now break almost evenly between the candidates, with 45 percent for Shays and 43 percent for Himes.
In a district notoriously difficult to communicate in due to the dominance of the New York City media market, familiarity with Himes has continued to climb. Now, 60 percent of voters say they are familiar with Himes, compared to 49 percent in August.
Meanwhile, 36 percent of voters feel Chris Shays deserves re-election, while 46 percent believe someone else deserves a chance. Only 43 percent of voters believe he is doing a good job in Congress and only a third reject the description that he is too close to unpopular President George W. Bush while 44 percent believe that is at least partly true.
Bush’s own job performance rating is only 18 percent positive. Himes’ growth is largely due to raising his own profile but the presidential dynamics and issue atmospherics have aided him as well. Voters in Connecticut’s 4th congressional district favor Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama over John McCain by 56 percent to 33 percent. Deepening concerns about the economy – now the overwhelming issue — mean that voters are even more likely to reject the Shays assessment that the economy is fundamentally strong. Himes’ expertise on economic issues is also a growing asset.
Indeed, in a comparison of the two candidates, Himes has a double-digit advantage on being able to help find new solutions to problems and bringing new energy to the job. The combination of Himes’ personal appeal and the presidential dynamics and issue atmosphere of the district make him the current favorite in this race.