The Power Of Street Money–The Race To Tuesday’s Primary

Primaries are different animals than higher turnout general elections. I preach often that campaigns are all about dear ol’ MOM–money, organization and message. When it comes to taking it to the streets, campaigns are more about money and organization. When you have oodles of dough, as Mayor Bill Finch’s reelection campaign enjoys, you can hire a hundred workers to canvass neighborhoods, knock on doors, push an absentee ballot operation, drag Democratic voters to polling places. I don’t envy the person writing the checks before or after election day. Hey, where’s my money!!!

What about cash? Will there be old-fashioned cash in the streets? What, you think campaigns are loaded with boy scouts?

The Finch campaign has done a nice job raising (at last count) more than $300K. A mighty chunk of this will be designated for the streets. That means hiring folks to drive the election-day turnout. The Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, in this type of race, isn’t enough by itself to generate enough of a turnout for the mayor. Why? Finch opponent Mary-Jane Foster will spend at least $225K by Tuesday, a record-breaking total for an incumbent challenger in a city primary. Say what? Yes, no challenger to a mayoral incumbent has raised this type of money, some of it her own moolah. It’s impossible to take on an incumbent without money. Foster’s money has Finch’s attention, irrespective of his operatives’ prediction he’ll blow her away come Tuesday.

Finch’s chief strategist Adam Wood knows he needs more than the 90-member Democratic Town Committee for an effective primary turnout. There may be 90 members but maybe half of them work. Foster’s campaign manager Jason Bartlett doesn’t have Finch’s election budget, but knows he must have folks on the ground in the days leading up to the primary to bolster the turnout for Foster. You cannot win by volunteers alone. How much will each camp devote financially to this effort? We won’t know the final numbers until after the primary, but rest assured it will be enough to pay your mortgage this month, finance a new car and keep the lights on in your house for the next year. This stuff doesn’t come cheap.

And then there’s the subject of political action committees and the role they’ve played and will play on primary day. Paging East End District Leader Ralph Ford, a Finch supporter. What tricks does the good doctor have up his PAC sleeve?



    1. So long as there is a possibility one single innocent person will be put to death, I will never support the death penalty.

      I don’t know the facts of the Troy Davis matter in Georgia, but it seems to me he was convicted despite serious reasonable doubt as to his guilt. This man should have never been put to death.

  1. Lennie, money is always an important issue. Especially during a campaign. If the people do not want to re-elect you, it doesn’t matter how much moolah you have. I believe Finch is going to have a real problem election day. The Foster supporters are passionate about their candidate. The only people walking the street for Finch are young Lighthouse program students who wear nice crisp tee-shirts with the typical Finch logo, very sharp I might add. They walk just like they do in the high schools. So slow they appear to be walking backwards. Talking to the public? They do not know what to say. In the North End the people are asking what has the mayor done for us in the past four years. Look around. Nothing! Anything positive ended with the Fabrizi administration. The North Main, Madison and Park avenue corridors are sad. Curbs are all in poor shape. The only new addition to Beardsley park and the North End of the city are green signs everywhere and if you pay too much attention to them, you fall into a pothole the size Fairfield. My new car already needs work. The North End is for Foster. Even the Town Committee is questioning Finch at this point. They can tear down as many Foster signs as they like. They will be back up in 15 minutes. We are even staking out the house next door to Finch where the signs miraculously disappear. I would hate to see Mrs. Finch in the middle of the night taking down signs. It is only a sign. If you are so confident, let it be. You know another will be put up there in an hour. Money is good. Genuine votes are better. People are ready for change.

  2. Lamont promised tons of street cash and didn’t deliver on the day of the election. His troops who were only in it for the payday went home or pushed for Malloy.
    No one actually believes in Finch.
    They believe in the green or in not losing their no-show jobs.

  3. “What about cash? Will there be old-fashioned cash in the streets? What, you think campaigns are loaded with boy scouts?”

    Somebody tell me what this means. Is the writer suggesting “Street Money” is used to pay people to vote a certain way?

    Is that something the Finch Campaign under the guidance of Mario Testa would do?

    Enlighten me please. This has the sound of a bad Chicago movie.

    I’ll guarantee you one thing. What little I know about Foster and the people in her campaign and the people she is contemplating for key roles in her administration; not one red cent would ever be spent in such a devious and deceptive manner.

    I’m voting for Foster on Tuesday because I am fed up with Mario Testa and I don’t want to live as I have been forced to by this disreputable regime any longer.

    1. yahooy, in a way people get paid for voting. First, the district leaders would received a load of cash between $8,000 to $12,000 each. This money is distributed the day before or on Election/Primary day. The district leader would have a list of names of people to hire in the GOTV operation. These people tend to be already registered and the first thing they are told is to go vote for the candidate they are working for and start their assignment which pays from $80 to $120 in cash. Most of the time, the district leaders or the people receiving the cash money pocket most of it. By election day, the voter’s minds are made up and most drive to the pols. Y’all didn’t think district leaders worked for free or did y’all?

      1. One of the funniest things happened years ago when a certain individual running a Democratic campaign in his respective district was sent an amount of cash that turned out to be $2000 shorter than he was told was going to be delivered to him. Somewhere along the process, money disappeared.

        1. Joel Gonzalez, I don’t know which election you are talking about but it happen each time Bill Clinton ran for President and the amount was more than what you listed.

  4. When the subject comes to Mayor William Finch and money, City money, you know I have begun many months ago at Pension Plan A, going on to Other Post Employment Benefits, Internal Service Funds, tax anticipation note interest rates, Fitch ratings, BOB observation of Budget & Administration review process, OPM failure to report per Charter on budgets monthly, City failure to follow charter per internal audit functions, City external auditor finding Material Weaknesses and Significant Deficiencies in multiple years, declarations of balanced budgets that are patently unbalanced (support per David Walker), failure to support BOE budget posting for 2012, capital budget hidden to public yet $258 Million Available Budget, operating budget with 66 unfilled positions for over $4.5 Million cash in 2012, City budgeted line items unspent year after year (pouring into unaccountable “slush funds?”) and there are more items.

    Most of you read these and basically yawn. Sometimes you want to involve the FBI. But Monday evening I spoke to the City Council on these issues and met one of those present on Wednesday morning. I asked him what he thought about my statements, indeed were they factual and accurate. He indicated I am correct and he requires more info than he is getting. Very interesting to me because it provides some evidence that while the City Council is only too happy to go through the motions in passing the budget from OPM, when it gets down to defending the City financial practices and position, they are in no position to be responsible or accountable. AND THE CITY COUNCIL IS OUR ONLY AND THEREFORE FINAL CHECK AND BALANCE ON MONEY.

    So let me image a picture for you with words rather than any more prose:

    Think of a reverse Gulliver world with a Scarlet Letter twist. I see the City of Bridgeport (and all of its potential tied to the ground). Giant suburban figures are looking down on the prostrate and bound figure. Standing on our chest is a diminutive Mayor William Finch who has the letter A pinned to his chest. (No it’s not for adultery, the scarlet letter of New England puritan history.) Rather it is the A, provided and maintained by Fitch Ratings Service of which he is so inordinately proud he keeps promoting it to the public.

    The neighboring towns looking down on us have better funded pensions, are actually contributing to retiree healthcare costs as professionally recommended, and have Boards of Finance that are open to citizen input, among their fiscal strengths and activities. Of course our neighbors have ratings of their own that include AA, AA+ and AAA, so they know exactly what the A means but unfortunately, Bridgeport doesn’t. And so we taxpayers unfortunately get to share the A also, because the meaning of Fitch’s A is the City has ultimate and ABSOLUTE taxing power on property owners like you and me. And that makes our A mean something else as we refuse to attend to that which forms the basis of bad future tax news. Sorry to be a real pain in the A__! This is not a surprise. This is Bridgeport!

    1. When Mayor Finch made a personal call to my house this week to ask for our vote, he mentioned the A rating from Fitch as an accomplishment. But he changed his story after I responded that other Connecticut municipalities had much higher ratings. He tried to tell me one of the reasons for Bridgeport’s poor economic performance compared to other CT cities was the disadvantage of its small land mass of 16 square miles–something not within his control. He knows A is not a good rating; I think he’s just counting on our ignorance.

      1. Thanks for telling A-Man you know that Fitch story is for dummies. Of course Bridgeport’s land mass has been the same # of square miles for the whole four years he has been Mayor and a century previously.
        Our disadvantage is to have a phony trying to act Mayoral and surrounding himself with those afraid to lose their position. Fear leads to exerting more control over people at all levels but still putting a smile on your face in public. Have you noticed it is harder for Bill to smile? His actor’s body is in conflict with his actual values. At some point he will become sick … as we are of the acting. Bridgeport’s poor economic performance has more to do with a lack of governance structures (namely a Board of Finance with unconflicted, financially experienced members), a failure by City officials to perform the tasks currently called for in Charter and ordinances, a resistance to look to other communities to learn and use “best practices” and unwillingness to get more people involved in the process of governance. Messy and takes time but that is democracy. We are so close to totalitarian rule in Bridgeport today it is not funny.

    2. Keep at it B2–hopefully, when the regime changes and the smoke clears, you will be on the new Board of Finance. You seem to be the only person in the whole city who studies the budget and understands it. Please don’t let up, now or ever!

  5. yahooy: Here is an example of street money that is not used anymore. It was going out when I was a kid reporter because it was too expensive.

    My first year in Bridgeport back in the 1970s an older reporter and I went for a walk before the Election Night festivities got underway in the office. The older reporter told me it was a good time to stretch and relax before things got nuts. There was a bus in front of the Barnum Museum, which was being used as a precinct in those days. A bunch of people were coming out of the precinct after voting and getting on the bus. They were each given a piece of paper. The guy handing out the paper was saying “Thank You” to each person.
    The script was to pick up a half pint or pint of pink sloe gin from a local packie. The packie would turn the script in at HQ and get a quarter commission, explained the older reporter.
    “Shouldn’t we be doing something about this?” I said, shocked.
    “Only if the Republicans complain,” said the older reporter.

    That’s street money: money to get the bus, money to pay people to knock on doors and bring bring people out. That’s all legit.

    Paying voters? Not so legit. On the other hand it does help redistribute the wealth.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Now I get it.

      Many years ago on the day of a general election, I and a prominent Bridgeport political operative drove over to the school near where Father Panik Village used to be. We observed a lot of “paid poll workers” getting on a school bus then they went to another polling place. We followed. They all got off the bus, went into the polling place and did their “polling” thing then got back on the bus and went to another polling place. The same scenario played out at several other polling places. I was always troubled by what I saw that night. I’m glad you clarified the duties of a “paid poll worker” for me. Now I feel better. I’ll bet Foster’s campaign doesn’t employ that type of activity. That’s why I’m going to vote for her.

  6. Weather forecasting is a part of voter turnout forecasting. Rainy weather lowers turnouts generally. Showers are forecast through the middle of next week, including Primary Day.

  7. Hey OIB, someone should look into why Lydia Martinez was at 276 E. Washington Avenue yesterday around 2:30 using home health aids and nurses to go door to door having residents fill out absentee ballots in support of Finch. She knows she cannot handle ballots herself and used these caregivers to do it instead! I am sure MJF and her camp would be interested in this one. Apparently the cops were called there to intervene and a report was filed. I also hear the city attorney got involved to render a legal opinion.

    1. Excellent reconnoitering and observational skills there, KiR. This might be a good place to start a “Let’s Help Maria Valle Get Some Satisfaction” collection plate, should she decide to pursue her past loss against Lydia.

      Maria’s too much of a lady, but I turn purple and say bad words every time she talks about it.

      Lydia is now emboldened–and dangerous.

  8. Now it gets interesting … this is the time also when absentee ballot holders get phone calls. “Hi this is the campaign for mayor headquarters, do you need help filling out your absentee ballot, we can go to your house with a sample and stamps.”

    Example: In a previous election for probate judge, Paul Ganim lost the popular vote rather substantially, but won the absentee balloting by 90%, giving him a lopsided election …

    1. That Probate Judge election was and still IS disgusting. I just don’t know how these people can look at themselves in the mirror. Has anyone seen the billboard on top of Matty’s Bar in Black Rock? It speaks volumes.

  10. yahooy:
    The operation you described is very expensive. It calls for hours of “work.” Lots can go wrong. EG: “Voter” is told to be “Smith.” Voter announces “Jones” at precinct. Precinct worker checks and says there is no Jones registered. “Voter” announces “I mean Miller.” It can go downhill from there.

    Absentee ballots got more popular than they should have been in the 1980s because it eliminated human error. You also knew how they were voted. (No tank jobs inside the polls. It could happen.) ABs allegedly went out of fashion after changes in state law were made in the late 1980s-90s. Some people seem to think they are back.

    All I know is in Bridgeport back in the 1980s, ABs were like prescription medicine: good for the sick, but addictive as hell. Next thing you know a person is knocking over ballot boxes to get more.

  11. Maybe Callahan or Lennie can testify to the veracity of this story. I heard this about a Waterbury Dem from a Bridgeport Dem but I don’t know if it was told out of envy or a desire to protect the guilty.
    I was told there was a well-practiced politician whose specialty was in absentee ballot counting. (Are you listening up donj?)
    He would grow his fingernails long in anticipation of election day. Then he would break off the tips of the old No. 2 pencils and stick them under his nails.
    When he would open the envelope containing the ballots, if he saw the ballot was for the other team, he would quickly run his finger over the box for his man.
    He or a colleague would complain the voter had voted for both candidates and the ballot would be disallowed.
    So the moral of the story is when your are out and about this weekend, if you see a politician with unusually long fingernails ask him if he’ll be counting AB’s on Tuesday. If he answers in the affirmative, give Denise Merrill’s hotline a call.

  12. Update from the educational side.

    A special ed teacher was transferred from my school to cover the firings, and now I’m ‘covering’ the legally mandated hours of 25? students on three grade levels–some with pullout hours for their entire reading and math instruction.

    The district doesn’t provide materials, so I have returned (5 o’clockish) after copying workbooks and readers for 20 kids. I’ve spent over $300 for the mandated workbooks and binders of my own money for the ‘suggested’ special ed reading program just for this year–and I’m still short on the workbooks.

    And here it is the 22nd and I haven’t seen one student/group due to the massive reports/testing/IEP writing I am now responsible for. If the parents only knew …

    I’d also like to start a collection plate for white paper–and a plastic look-alike teacher doll just to make it appear I’m covering my student’s legally mandated hours (so as to not get dragged into court or lose my job).

  13. Jimmy,
    Will I see you at McGovern’s Election Eve for the Pre-Election Party? Terry McGovern, The Sheriff Ed Norkowski, Eddie Caldwell, John McGee, just to name a few, will be there.
    A good time will be had by all.

  14. Walsh, you know damn well not to be spreading shaggy dog stories like that. They take on a life of their own and become “fact” around Bridgeport–even though it originally happened “in Waterbury.” Next thing you know people will be saying The Bridgeport Kid has long fingernails.

    He does?


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