Students at the University of Bridgeport proved last September to be a major factor at the Roosevelt School voting precinct in the Democratic mayoral primary. Mayor Bill Finch defeated challenger Mary-Jane Foster citywide, but not on the machines at Roosevelt School. Students made the difference for Foster, an executive at the university. Will the students be a factor again in two weeks?
On March 6th, primaries for Democratic Town Committee seats will take place in two districts, the East Side 137th District and the 131st District where UB is located. Town committee members conduct party business, endorse candidates for public office and choose a party leader to serve the 90-member DTC. They comprise the so-called party machinery.
District 131 covers the South End, downtown and portions of the West End and The Hollow. On paper Foster had no business running as well as she did in the 131st District where turnouts are super low and establishment pols know where to find those that do vote. But the establishment vote goes only so far. In fact party regulars generally dread large turnouts that are out of their control. Foster also ran strong at City Hall, the other voting precinct in the 131 District, losing to Finch by just a handful of votes as she was backed by new active downtown residents.
Foster’s voter identification list is a nice working document for the challenge slate if it has any chance to take out veteran operatives such as City Sheriff Mitch Robles who’s worked his turf for years.
The race features two completely contrasting messages. The veteran slate of nine is selling itself as the government insiders who get things done for the neighborhood, including two members who represent the district on the City Council, Denese Taylor-Moye and Leticia Colon who formerly served on the Board of Education before members voted to dislodge local control in favor of the state.
Pledging not to accept paid city positions while serving on the town committee, the challenge slate says we’re the antidote to the piggy party insiders who rely on incestuous political relationships with City Hall. We are the solution to the problem of the party insiders eating at the trough and doing nothing for you.
The challenge slate candidates are Rafael A. Mojica, Glenn I. Pettway, Eric M. Simmons, Christopher G. Foreman, Charritin Escalera, Mario Arango, George A. Gholson Jr., Mark J. Bush and Rhonda D. Bush.
Big Mojo Ralph Mojica, a regular OIB poster, represented the 131st District on the City Council during the John Fabrizi mayoral years. He’s the veteran on the challenge slate that includes an interesting mix of young activists who backed Foster in her mayoral run last September and helped identify UB votes.
Robles’ slate, in addition to the two City Council members, includes Jose Negron, Jack Banta, Paul Boucher, Ashley Wacker, Milagrosa Seguinot and veteran operative Americo Santiago who also served the district on the City Council and in the Connecticut State House.
The district has roughly 4,300 registered Dems. The top 9 vote-getters among all 18 candidates are elected. What could the turnout be? Probably doesn’t hit 10 percent. Absentee ballots will also be a factor because, hey, it’s Bridgeport! Establishment pols have no UB organization.
Bottom line for the challenge slate: will its reform message inspire UB students to vote at Roosevelt School? Even 40 or 50 student votes can make a difference. Two weeks left.