Why UB Students Matter In City Elections

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.



  1. I will be voting for the challenge slate in the March 6th primaries for Democratic Town Committee seats in the 131th District and I am asking if you know of anyone who is a voter in the 131th District to ask them to vote for the challenge slate, thank you. This is where change starts, vote by vote.

  2. *** Two more weeks of trying to get the 131st district Dem voters excited about this local election that is important in “changing” from the “present status quo” to a “better choice” that will bring local voice and influence on the effects of political decisions in our neighborhoods! An uphill battle for control of one of the political local foundations that make up the 90-member DTC in Bpt! The “Bpt First Challenge Slate” can use volunteers on election day either working the phones, etc. or actually working inside the polls that day. Call C. Curry or the Bpt VRO for details; March 6th is right around the corner. Let’s hope for better local media coverage and a positive unexpected turnout by the voters in the 131st district! *** EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT, VOTE! ***

  3. OIB readers who live in the 131st have an opportunity to make a huge difference on March 6th: encourage every registered Democrat to vote for the entire nine-member challenge slate. Drive them to the polls; babysit so they can go vote; tell everyone to vote the bottom line–vote Row C.

  4. “… Foster’s voter identification list is a nice working document for the challenge slate if it has any chance to take out veteran operatives …”

    It was “Foster’s voter identification list.” The question is: Who has it or copies of it? Paging Carolanne Curry. The list had about 230 UB students. I’m not too sure the students at UB are as excited and pumped up about the TC Primaries as they were about the MJF campaign. The challenge slate can’t afford to pass on the opportunity to reach out to UB students. Will MJF get involved–assuming she hasn’t yet–in getting the UB student body actively involved? A list isn’t much without the MJF bliss.

    “… an interesting mix of young activists who backed Foster in her mayoral run last September and helped identify UB votes …”

    Lennie, it was a group of UB students who organized, registered, and identified UB votes.
    Those are the individuals or group members the challenge slate must engage. None of the candidates of the challenge slate is a UB student. That’s the first thing I would have done if I were in Mojo’s shoes. Lennie, don’t you think that would have been better than a voter identification list the other side already has and is plotting to get most of them off the voters’ list by primary day? Mojo, I’ve sounded the alarm!

    1. Good grief Joel, this dissertation is coming from someone who couldn’t garner enough signatures to validate a challenge slate in your own district? From what I read, your slate members were gathering signatures from anyone and everyone regardless of whether they even lived in your district or were registered Democrats. Why weren’t you exercising your expertise when that was happening? It would appear you are simply a legend in your own mind.

  5. Two weeks from today! Election Day. Every vote will make a difference for the Bridgeport First slate. Vote the bottom line. Vote Row C. If you are going to be out of town on the 6th, you can go today to the Town Clerk’s office in City Hall, Lyon Terrace and cast your vote over the counter as an absentee voter. No excuses. Democratic voters in the 131st, your vote is important.

  6. Celia Cruz is too quick to criticize Mr. Santiago. Maybe he’s not a “has been” but a gonna-be. He could be the Puerto Rican version of Jeremy Lin, the underdog who overcomes the so-called meritocracy. What you call a comeback he might call a new start–and what’s wrong with that?

    1. I’d rather see Local Eyes run than Americo. It’s okay if you live in Trumbull–Americo lives in Puerto Rico and stays in Waterbury during our election cycles.

    1. Rumor Mill:
      Ron Mackey is replacing yahooy as President of The Local Eyes Fan Club (Bridgeport Chapter), which just added its 199th member. Ron Mackey was the MC so he gave LE a short speech and then lead the applause.

  7. Lennie:
    This column sounds like some sort of liberal Democratic screed about “democracy” by people doing too many bongs, knocking back Sangria as chasers and listening to Pink Floyd with the earphones on to better catch the drift between the ears.

    There is little chance of finding those kids for a Democratic committee election. Almost zilch. They do not have that strong a connection to the community. UB students are typical college students. They don’t care unless it is something they care about. The Democratic committee doesn’t register on the same radar as chasing sex, drinking beer and (maybe) going to classes. They stood up for the honor of their school last fall by coming out (some of them) for Mary-Jane over the mayor, who dissed them.

    The conflict in the 131st, if it develops, is between the residents of Downtown and the rest of the district. As a political reporter, that is what I would be looking for. If UB faculty actually lived in the district, and if they actually cared, you might find something to build a coalition with against the party establishment.

    This is a great district to write about because it shows how to put together a quiet, yet effective, machine district. Mitch Robles has put together a nice little operation out there on State Street. Very quiet. Doesn’t raise a lot of hackles (well, with the exception of Joel).

    A challenge slate is going to need a much higher than 10 percent turnout. They are neighborhood people from the looks of it, and they are going to have to depend on their neighbors–a lot of them.

    1. I value university students and their potential to vote. Working UB students for votes doesn’t mean you ignore the core vote areas such as Seaside Village and downtown. If you’re an opposition slate you must troll for every possible vote the bad guys don’t control. The turnout in this race, I dare say, will not hit 10 percent. And yes, I drank my share of Sangria in high school.

  8. I was never counting on UB students to vote; if they did, great. The voters in the 131th District to elect the challenge slate are the residents of Downtown and the residents of Seaside Village. There is no love lost with Mitch Robles and Seaside Village.

  9. Ron’s statement makes sense for a challenge. There are neighborhood issues, especially that itty-bitty one involving Bridgeport’s favorite real estate speculator and a halfway house.


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