Who chimed we were done with city elections? In the state’s largest city primaries are sporting events. Too bad more voters don’t grab a ticket to join the gamesmanship. In September alone Dems had primaries for mayor, City Council, city sheriff, city clerk, town clerk and upcoming in March, perhaps, for something called the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee. What the hell is that? Members of the town committee are political players who conduct party business including endorsing candidates for office and selecting a chairman. That would be Mario Testa. Many are on the city payroll or have a son, daughter, mother, father, aunt, uncle and several nieces and nephews on the payroll. What’s the point of political involvement if you cannot include the family?
The Democratic Party in the city has 90 DTC members, 9 for each of the 10 districts. The city’s lonely GOP has 50 members but is challenged to field all spots. (Please, you really don’t have to do anything, just fill a spot!) Town Chair Mario Testa doesn’t appear to have a challenge for reelection in March so he’s a lock for another two-year term. But could there be a few town committee primaries that bring new faces?
Opponents to the status quo have posted their frustration on OIB with the city’s political leadership. One way to take them on is to run a town committee challenge slate that petitions its way on the ballot. Slates aren’t based on winner takes all. Technically it’s every man/woman for themself, each slate member’s name appearing on the ballot, but mostly they try to run as a team. Wipe out the old, bring in the new sort of thing. Mario actually made his comeback as party leader as a result of town committee primaries in 2008.
One area of the city to watch is the 131 District that covers the South End and downtown. District leader Mitch Robles pretty much has had his way the past several years controlling his district, but something odd happened in the September mayoral primary between Bill Finch and Mary-Jane Foster.
Foster defeated Finch on the machines at Roosevelt School and ran close at the City Hall precinct. Why? Foster is an executive at the University of Bridgeport and her campaign registered a bunch of students who voted for her at Roosevelt School. As for the City Hall voting area, the city has attracted a growing group of young, active professionals filling new housing units downtown.
One area where insurgents could make hay is the 131 District. But in order to do that they must attract students to the polls and downtown voters who supported Foster. Can they? If you think turnouts for high-profile races are pathetically low–and they are–imagine what they’d be for a town committee race. But if the incumbent slate doesn’t get off its ass they could be caught napping. Ya never know.
Uh oh, better fire up that absentee ballot operation.