Primaries are weird ducks. They’re not like higher turnout general elections. In the world of primaries you identify your friends and drag them out to vote. You could enter primary day thinking you’re okay and then all of a sudden–oops!–your friends stayed home, or you failed to coax them to vote. That’s when you grab the voter checkoff sheets. Jesus, my brother didn’t vote!
Four years ago, when Bill Finch narrowly defeated Chris Caruso in a Democratic mayoral primary, the following campaign operatives (as a small example) who either worked for Finch or didn’t work against his primary win are now trying to unseat him: Michele Mount, Rina Bakalar, Nancy Hadley, Caryn Kaufman, Mary-Jane Foster, Charlie Coviello, Ed Gomes, Marilyn Moore, Andy Fardy, Pat Fardy, Ann Barney, Joel Gonzalez, Danny Martinez, Bruce Hubler, John Guman. Who are these people? Some, such as Ed Gomes (state senator) are elected officials, others (Foster) are challenging Finch on the ballot, still others such as Hubler, a retired executive, switched parties to support Foster, with the rest joining the mission to try to help Foster defeat Finch in September. Most live in Bridgeport and those who don’t have friends, family members and co-workers in the state’s largest city who could influence votes. This sounds like inside baseball but primaries are all about inside baseball. Folks who suited up for Finch four years ago are now working for Team Foster for a variety of reasons.
What’s the point? When a mayor loses support following a close election that put him in office, can he win new friends to offset the losses? In 2007 Finch received roughly 4,500 Democratic primary votes to Caruso’s 4,200. Power of incumbency can be a big advantage–you own the candy store with a daily platform to schmooze voters and make things happen to make your case for another four years, as well as leveraging support of party regulars to turn out the vote. But weaknesses can also be exploited by former supporters. For example, candidate Finch promised to cut taxes $600 (he did not), promised to pump more money into education, lower class size and improve test scores (he did not), promised to reopen Pleasure Beach (he has not), promised to break ground at the Steel Point redevelopment area (he has not yet).
When Joe Ganim served as Democratic mayor from 1991-2003, before scandal forced him from office, he had not even a sniff of a primary. John Fabrizi, who replaced Ganim, survived a primary as mayor in 2003 and was headed for another tough primary in 2007 when he was thrown under the bus by party regulars in favor of Finch, after asking a state judge for leniency on behalf of a sexual predator who was friends with his son. Voters freaked and Fabs’ political support ran for cover.
When you talk to former Finch supporters backing Foster they say Finch’s word is no good, frame him as an out-of-touch narcissist who parses the truth, communicates poorly and surrounds himself with evil asskissers. Baloney, say Finch supporters, the whiners are greedy malcontents who didn’t get what they wanted and now seek revenge for their selfishness and bloated egos.
Whatever the reasons a whole bunch of folks who supported Finch four years ago now support Foster and the other challenger in the primary, John Gomes. Many of them had lots of passion on behalf of Finch four years ago. Is the passion against him today greater than the effort for him yesterday?
A big question: where will all the Caruso voters end up? Maybe that’s where Finch makes new friends?