With A Little Help From Rich Friends–Independent Expenditures Boost Candidates In Bridgeport Races

Alice Walton
Alice Walton, from Wikipedia.

A $100,000 donation to a Connecticut political action committee from Alice Walton, daughter of WalMart founder Sam Walton and richest woman in the world, is bolstering independent expenditures on behalf of legislative candidates supportive of charter schools including Democratic-endorsed Dennis Bradley seeking the open seat in Connecticut’s 23rd State Senate District. He’s challenged in the August 14 primary by Aaron Turner, former legislative aide to incumbent Ed Gomes who’s retiring when his term ends.

Bridgeport political operative Claudia Phillips is treasurer of Build CT that received a $100,000 contribution from Walton on July 16, according to a report filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, see here. Curiously, an amended report lists Walton as a self-employed philanthropist after listing her as a WalMart executive.

Bradley’s fidelity to the anti-charter school movement has been challenged by school board member Maria Pereira who supports Bradley’s opponent Turner. School board candidates Pereira and Bradley ran on the same line with Joe Ganim when he returned to the mayoralty in 2015 with Bradley receiving the endorsement of Connecticut’s Working Families Party in part over his perceived opposition to expansion of charter schools. Both were supporters of Ganim in 2015. Bradley continues to back Ganim while Pereira’s had a falling out with Ganim over education issues. Bradley and Pereira are no longer buds either and have butted heads often at Board of Education meetings. The Working Families Party has endorsed Turner this cycle.

The charter school movement has taken some hits in recent years following pushback from education advocates such as Pereira who argue charters suck financial oxygen from local school districts and lack necessary oversight. Charter schools receive public dollars but operate independent of traditional school districts. Supporters of charters such as school board member Jessica Martinez argue passionately they serve a valuable alternative for children and school parents. Martinez is Bradley’s campaign treasurer. Bridgeport has six charter schools, more than any other municipality in Connecticut, that have advanced during Governor Dan Malloy’s nearly eight years as governor.

WalMart has spent a fortune around the country in support of school choice and charter schools. Some recent Bridgeport political campaigns have been neck deep in independent expenditures that may spend unlimited amounts of money in the cause of defeating or advocating for a candidate provided those efforts are not coordinated with the candidate it supports. Independent expenditures are based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision. They are perfectly legal, with a caveat. For instance, operatives for a political action committee engaging in an independent expenditure cannot share elements of the effort or strategy with the beneficiary of the campaign. Essentially, there’s supposedly a legal firewall preventing it.

In Connecticut, reports about money raised and spent in support of independent expenditures must be filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission that oversees campaign election law.

Bradley and Turner have both qualified for public dollars under the state’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races. They have received $84,450 after raising $15,000 dollars in donations of $250 and less. So both have $100,000 to spend from their respective candidate committees. Independent expenditures add to the flow of dollars.

According to latest reports from Build CT several thousand dollars have advanced Bradley’s candidacy such as canvassers, mailers, door hangers and digital marketing.

Pereira, for one, knows the impact of independent expenditures. Two years ago, a flood of last-minute spending from charter school advocates, bolstered State Rep. Charlie Stallworth who faced a rugged challenge from Pereira who came up short.

The Bradley-Turner battle is the highest-profile race in Bridgeport this primary cycle after Mayor Joe Ganim’s underdog challenge of Democratic-endorsed Ned Lamont for governor.

Two weeks from the primary most political observers assert Bradley has the edge over Turner, given his higher profile, party support and campaign seasoning. The senate district covers two thirds of Bridgeport and portion of western Stratford.

It doesn’t hurt, also, to benefit from independent expenditures.

And who knows, maybe an independent expenditure steps up on Turner’s behalf beyond Working Families Party effort.



  1. The Waltons are against unions, the poor and middle class, public schools, a living wage, healthcare, etc.

    50% of their employees are on some form of public assistance.

    Walmart publicly announced that if NYC passes a living wage ordinance of $15 they wete going to close their store in NYC.

    Please talk, email and text anyone you know in the 23rd District that Dennis Bradley is being financially supported by an out-of- state billionaire that is against the working class and poor.

    Spread the word that Dennis Bradley is bought and paid for by the wealthiest woman in the world.

  2. Let’s not forget that Dennis Bradley played politics it the worst kind while president of the Board of Ed.
    He cancelled meetings, scheduled meeting contrary to state law, let the business of the board sit idle just because he did not like Maria and the list goes on.
    And apparently he feels this type of behavior should serve as a stepping stone to the State Senate.
    Let’s keep him back on the BOE until he gets that right.

  3. And what about the Secretary of Stae’s Investigation into charges that Dennis Bradley violated election laws with his attempt to bribe the town of Stratford Democratic leadership to support him in his efforts.

      1. My guess is that nothing will happen until after November. The SOTS wouldn’t want to influence the election.
        However, when they find him guilty, well them’s the breaks.

  4. Another interesting part to this race is how there is a Republican primary for the seat. At the Republican convention 4 people voted to decide who would face the Democrat in the fall. The 3 Bridgeport delegates voted for John A Rodriguez the 4th delegate was Stratford’s Casimir Mizera he voted for himself. Mizera ran for this seat in 2012 and received $91,000 in CEP funding. Mizera lost by a huge margin but it appears CEP funding was the goal.

    One of the Republicans at the headquarters on election night took his loss with a smile and a laugh. Caz Mizera was running against Democrat Andres Ayala for the 23rd Senate District. The seat primarily serves Bridgeport with a small section dipping into Stratford.
    “You know what, I don’t know what my numbers are and I don’t even care,” Mizera announced to the crowd with a laugh.
    He lost Stratford, 2,189 to 310. The over vote was worst
    Andres Ayala, Jr.

    Caz Mizera

    Total Votes

    This year Mizera’s lone vote gave him 25% of the total and opened the door to CEP primary funding.
    Mizera raised over $15,000 in 3 days. 43 people gave the maximum donation of $250 and of that 43 only one person lives in the district and can actually vote for Mizera.

    The only thing that it appears John Rodriguez has done was to file in mid May that he was a candidate and he would not be seeking funds.

    Mizera filed that he would be raising funds and applying for the CEP grant. He has received $39,400 in grant money and if he wins the primary he will can get another $95,000 in CEP money. That grant money would total over $134,000 on a $15,000 investment. A nice return of over 500%.

    In 2012 the majority of the Friends of Caz funding was spent on wages for Republican insiders who donated big to this years campaign.

    The treasurer for both the 2012 and 2018 campaigns is Lou Decilio the Stratford RTC chairman and Republican Registrar of Voters. He is also the subject of a current SEEC complaint 2017-087.


    When was the last time a Republican every won the 23rd Senate seat? Would Mizera even be running if there wasn’t any CEP funds involved? I doubt Stratford Republicans would raise and spend over $134,000 of there own money in an attempt to win a seat that is mostly 90% Bridgeport.

    Mike Garrett the Bridgeport Republican RTC chair states he expects maybe 200 Republicans will vote in this primary.

    This CEP funding could really be put to better use and donations should have to come from within the district.


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