Well, if nothing else, Lee Whitnum’s gonna make this primary season amusing. The unorthodox down county congressional candidate will hold a press conference today to ballyhoo her ballot qualification to challenge Democrat endorsed Jim Himes on Aug. 12. The winner will face Republican Congressman Chris Shays.
Whitnum’s a spunky, nonconformist prone to verbal bombs as evidenced by her Nazi assertion of Himes whom she claims thwarted attempts to address delegates at the party endorsement session in May.
A primary for Himes cuts both ways. It will force the opportunity for an unseasoned campaigner to retail politic, schmooze voters and forge a training run for the big show against Shays in November. And better yet, he can go back to all those campaign contributors that have maxed out, stockpiling more dough for the general.
Of course, there’s the risk that Whitnum’s verbal baiting could force a verbal gaffe of his own, exploit weaknesses and soften Himes who’s hit the cable airwaves with an intro spot this week. Whitnum will try to frame Himes an elitist Greenwich pretty boy out of touch with the real world.
I gave Himes a tour of the city several weeks ago. He’s bright, eager to learn the political landscape, speaks Spanish fluently, and has a solid finance background. Observation I’ve heard about his persona is trepidation to roll up sleeves, wade into crowds and engage voters at community events. At every turn the Himes campaign has been quick to criticize Shays. But it has not stated clearly what Himes will do, why he’s better. It’s early enough for them to sharpen message. So far the message is smart, great background, against the war and a patronizing froth that he’s the novel product of a single mom. I’ve met his mom. She’s a nice lady who no doubt raised him well. In the end most electors vote on the future. They want to know what you will do.
Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of Lee Whitnum via a campaign news release:
Yesterday the Secretary of State’s office announced that 4th Congressional District Candidate Lee Whitnum has successfully collected the necessary signatures to put her name on the ballot as a candidate for the Democratic ticket.
“The people have spoken,” said Whitnum. “They want choice.”
Whitnum won the right to have a Democratic primary in the Fourth Congressional District by collecting the required 2459 signatures from registered Democrats. As a result, the Fourth Congressional District will hold a Democratic Primary for the first time in more than 50 years. The date for the primary is August 12, 2008. There is one other Democratic contender. The winner of the primary will face Congressman Chris Shays, the Republic incumbent, in November.
“It’s a mandate,” said Whitnum. “The people don’t want an elitist, Greenwich, Wall Street candidate like Jim Himes. They want candidates who will fight for jobs and the interests of the middle class.”
Whitnum, a teacher and cancer survivor, boycotted the 4th Congressional District Convention on May 19 when she learned that her Democratic opponent was planning to deny her the opportunity to address the delegates. She also felt that she wasn’t treated fairly by the Democratic powers that be.
“I learned an hour before the convention that my Democratic opponent had conspired to deny me 15 minutes to address the delegates. We were literally in the car on the way up when I decided we’d boycott. If I couldn’t address the delegates then all they’d have to go on were my Democratic opponent’s paid bloggers and their slanted and dishonest opinions. Without the ability to address the group I’d never have a chance to get the 15% I needed to have a primary.”
Whitnum, the self-proclaimed candidate of the people, boycotted the convention and decided to take the vote to the people. “It is fitting that I took the decision to the people and the people have spoken.”
“They jerked me around but it energized me,” said Whitnum. “I don’t care what role you play in the local Democratic Party–no one has the right to stand in the way of the Democratic process. Your hand-picked boy may not be the people’s choice. You leave it to the people to decide.”
In just 23 days, Whitnum and her staff collected the necessary signatures. “We worked really hard,” laughs Whitnum who put in 10 and 12 hour days. “I felt like I was a foot-soldier in the war to restore democracy to the local Democratic Party. All-in-all, it was a great experience. I had the greatest petitioners in the world and I really enjoyed meeting the people.”
Russo Announces Ed Audit
Republican State Sen. Rob Russo officially announced today on the steps of City Hall a state grant of $250,000 to fund an in-depth management and operational study of the Board of Education. Russo release below:
State Senator Robert D. Russo (R-Bridgeport) today announced that Governor Rell has approved a $250,000 grant he requested to help fund a comprehensive management and operational study of the Bridgeport Board of Education. The study, supported by the City of Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Board of Education, will be managed by the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and include a full forensic audit of the City’s school system to identify inefficiencies and out-dated practices, and solutions for fixing them. Senator Russo made the announcement during a morning press conference at Bridgeport City Hall. He was accompanied by State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools John Ramos, and Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC) President Paul Timpanelli.
“For too long Bridgeport has failed to make education its top priority, but things are changing. The Business Community, Superintendent Ramos, and Mayor Finch are working together to make our schools our number one priority again. However, this study is absolutely essential to helping undo years of neglect,” said Senator Russo. “This study will help us identify and correct inefficiencies in our educational system, enabling us to make a more convincing argument to the policy makers in Hartford and the taxpayers throughout our state, that Bridgeport needs and deserves a greater public investment in education to fund things like professional training, smaller class sizes, better classroom resources and greater pre-school enrollment – the kinds of investments that are going to make a real difference in our children’s lives and our City’s future.”
Senator Russo thanked Senator McKinney for his advocacy in support of the audit and Governor Rell for granting the $250,000 award. In a statement, Governor Rell said, “The State of Connecticut invests hundreds of millions of dollars in Bridgeport’s education system and we owe it to the state’s taxpayers and to the children of Bridgeport to ensure that money is spent wisely.”
Senator McKinney said, “Senator Russo began fighting for this audit on his first day in office, and now, just three short months later, he has achieved a real win for Connecticut’s taxpayers and the children attending Bridgeport’s public schools.”
The State of Connecticut pays more than 80% of the costs of the Bridgeport Board of Education – $160 million annually. This year, state aid to Bridgeport increased by $10 million and it will increase an additional $7 million next year. Senators McKinney and Russo said the state must do more to protect its investment. “Too often, the City of Bridgeport and the State of Connecticut have failed to perform the oversight that is necessary to make government more efficient and more accountable. This audit does that. It will improve financial accountability and transparency, and most importantly, it will improve the quality of education for thousands of Bridgeport students,” said McKinney.
“I have long been in support of a comprehensive management review of the Board of Education,” said Mayor Finch. “Even during a tough budget year, the City allocated its share of the cost of an audit for this purpose. The audit is the key to increasing accountability and efficiency in our Board of Education and I thank Governor Rell and Senator Russo for demonstrating their dedication to the wellbeing of Bridgeport’s school system by supplying these funds.”
This comprehensive management and operational study is part of a four phase plan developed by Superintendent Ramos and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council to improve public education in Bridgeport.
The plan was initiated in 2006 with phases 1 and 2 already well under way. These initial phases primarily look at the City’s relationship with the Board of Education. During phases 3 and 4 the City school system will undergo the comprehensive management and operational study this grant goes to fund. The plan proposes that the cost of phases three and four be divided between the business community, the Board of Education and City, and the State of Connecticut. The $250,000 grant announced today represents the State’s contribution towards phases 3 and 4 of the study.
The funds for this award come from the State’s Contingency Needs Account. The money from this account is generally used for small grants to bolster operating funds or to make capital improvements for community groups or organizations that are in pursuit of the public good.