You Have The Power

I’m wondering what  OIB readers think about our elected officials. Certainly, there’s opinion aplenty about Mayor Bill Finch and some others on a regular basis.

What about Congressman Jim Himes? Yeah I know, much too soon to make a representative judgment based on four months in office.

What about about those herculean leaders on the Bridgeport City Council? So far, we’ve heard about one solid primary as OIB friend Andy Fardy and running mate Ann Barney make their case to voters in the 138th District. If you could wave your magic wand, which council members would stay and go? All the dramatic electoral action is slated for next year: governor, U.S. senate, legislative races and judge of probate. By the way, Chris Dodd has a Dem challenger, Merrick Alpert More on that Tuesday.

Council members run every two years, the mayor every four. In fact, when voters approved a four-year term for mayor in 1998, a four-year term for council intentionally was not included.

I managed the campaign for the four-year term, turning it into a referendum on then-popular Mayor Joe Ganim, without the baggage the legislative body could bring to the turnout effort. The four-year term for mayor had been defeated several times with voters saying the council was not worthy of four years.

Joe had wanted a four-year term for a couple of reasons: yes, to eliminate running every two years, a pain in the butt, but also with the new four-year term that would begin with results of the 1999 election, Joe was set up perfectly for a run for governor in 2002. The way Joe had built political relationships around the state, and the perceived turn-around of the city, he had a decent shot to be the Democratic candidate for governor.

Didn’t happen. Joe encountered a minor problem on the way to the 2002 guber election and, well, you know that story.

But that 1998 cycle was a crazy time for me, juggling the four-year term effort for Joe, Paul Ganim’s campaign for judge of probate and Tom Ganim running for state senate. Three Ganim brothers, three different races, my arms and legs tugged sharply in opposite directions by Ganim campaign initiatives. I was two for three that year. Joe got his four-year term, Paul won a primary squeaker over Democratic-endorsed candidate Kevin Boyle and Tom lost the suburban race to John McKinney.

The only job Kevin Boyle, a long-time Dem operative, ever wanted was to be judge of probate, a city-wide position. Kevin had the endorsement all locked up when Paul decided to jump into the race.

Joe wasn’t crazy about Paul running. Party pols loyal to Boyle were beating him up. Paul was schmoozing me to help him. “Lennie, what’s Joe going to to do, let his brother get his ass kicked by the party?” Joe was popular with voters. Not so much with local pols because Joe did not suck up to them.

Joe was reluctant to get into it, however, preferring to maintain political peace. Then one day, Joe eyed Boyle’s bumper sticker: Loyalty, Not Royalty. Joe was pissed. That was it. Showdown against the party pols. Understand that primaries are different animals than general elections. This is where party workers must step up for the endorsed candidate. And every time I looked around for campaign operatives that had helped me in races past they were working for Boyle. Drivers, pullers, precinct workers, you name it. Sorry, Lennie, I’m working for Kevin.

So, basically, the race came down to the brother of a popular mayor against the party-endorsed candidate backed by that big bad political machine you hear so much about. Popularity, however, is rarely transferable. We were recruiting folks, yes city employees, that had never worked an election before. Shit, I had trouble finding workers to hand out palm cards at precincts. Boyle had an army at each school. Party animals were pissed that Joe’s brother dared to take on Boyle.

State Rep. Ernie Newton, supporting Boyle, told Joe to go fuck himself. Me too. But Ernie was playing his own stick-up games that would eventually land him in the same joint as Joe.

Everything leaned toward a Boyle victory. For Joe, the summer primary became a sporting event (Joe’s not a guy driven by a lot of emotion) and he had to beat the party without it becoming too personal.

To his credit Paul worked his ass off. And Joe did his part. I did my part, mail pieces, radio, the usual shit, with a little added flavor. OIB friend Tom Kelly loves to jab me for the the way Paul’s name appeared on the ballot: Paul Joseph Ganim. Hey, whatever edge you have you use.

More than 9,000 Democrats voted in that primary, more than would vote in the Bill Finch/Chris Caruso mayoral primary nine years later. Paul Ganim ended up on the same line as State Rep. Chris Caruso who had a primary challenge from city police officer Verna Cook, courtesy of Town Chair Mario Testa. Actually that primary, although not intended, gave Mario a lot of cover from both Boyle workers and Joe. Mario could say I’m too busy trying to beat Caruso.

Caruso won handily. The probate race was a close call. Paul managed to beat Boyle by 80 or so votes on the machines, another 100 or so via absentee ballot.

Four years later (I was then out of the picture after a falling out with Joe in 1999) Boyle beat Paul on the machines by a few dozen votes in a rematch but was swamped by the party’s ab operation. What happened? Embittered by his 1998 loss, Boyle blamed many party regulars for his loss, despite his shortcomings as a candidate. In return, the party gravitated to Paul, now the incumbent, with his brother under indictment.

Paul and Boyle met again one more time in 2006 and Paul won again, this time comfortably. Paul is up for reelection again next year and some compelling names have surfaced as potential challengers include Mary-Jane Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, a vice president at the University of Bridgeport and City Council President Tom McCarthy.

Paul will not be easy to beat, despite his misdemeanor pinch for a domestic altercation (assuming there’s not more to that case). The Ganim name still plays well in some neighborhoods, Paul’s a hard campaigner and probate is a place to make lots of friends.

And by the time that race takes place, if Paul has a challenge, Joe could be out of the joint.



  1. All politicians need to have egos and some interest in community service. The problem is balancing. Here in B’port it seems that we have more than our share of larger egos instead of greater commitments to community service. Implement term limits (voluntary or involuntary), eliminate double-dipping and nepotism, and the balancing act will tip the other way. Everyone deserves the right to run for office … only the best deserve the right to serve.

    Kudos to Mayor Finch for making the first checker move toward efficiency by telling the BOE to move out of 948 Main. How about this scenario for following moves:

    Get the State to deck the connector for a city hall garage in return for the Library building to add to HCC. Convert the annex into a high-tech library and media center. Build a tower connecting current city hall, a new garage, and police.

  2. Hold On! This is OIB. It’s never too early to rate a Congressman. Here goes:

    The glass is half full when it comes to Jim Himes. He’s hit the ground running and we look forward to beaucoup bucks coming from his direction. Bad news: it’s all borrowed money.

    Until he throws hand grenades at my house, I’m a fan of Mayor Finch. Nobody has a tougher job. He’s made the painful decisions to balance the budget. I’m pro-Bridgeport. What about you?

    Hercules on The City Council? Members need boot camp and a loincloth before that day arrives. The contrast has me laughing already.

    I’m still a fan of Kevin Boyle who was last seen smiling while having a soft drink with–you guessed it–Hercules!

    www < -- Hercules

  3. Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Ann Barney and I am running for city council with Andy Fardy in the 138th. I have lived in Bridgeport for the past 26 years. I am married and have six children. All of my children attended Thomas Hooker School, my youngest is still there. I also have been employed by the Bridgeport Board of Education for the past 25 years as a teacher.

    I first thought about running when Rich Paoletto informed the town committee that if he was promoted he would not seek re-election. I understand Rich has had a change of heart and may indeed be seeking re-election. I look forward to a primary. The 138th has been ignored by this administration and by past administrations. The only representation the 138th has is on the city council; no commissions, no boards are populated with anyone from the 138th district.

    Andy previously laid out our plans if we should be elected:

    • We will establish web communications with the residents, keeping them informed on public meetings and things that pertain to the neighborhood

    • We will have face-to-face meetings with constituents that call with problems

    • We plan to register new voters in this district

    • We will be looking to clean up the district and get rid of unregistered cars and trucks

    • We will get roadways up here paved or find out why they are not getting paved.

    I look forward to working with Andy and the residents of the 138th.

    Now onto another subject of moving the Board of Ed offices out of 948 Main Street. I work for the Board of Education. I am not necessarily opposed to leaving 948 Main Street. However, moving into the annex is just crazy. The annex might meet the square foot requirements, but that is about it. The annex space will not allow for conference areas, common work areas or other space that the board of ed requires. The annex will only give employees cubicles. The space just won’t work. The mayor wants to sell 948 Main Street, then sell it for reasonable market value and move the Board of Ed offices into workable space, not the annex.

  4. Back in ’98 I got back into Bpt. politics because I was pissed at Testa and the DTC for denying Caruso the party endorsement. (I was also a Boyle supporter.) Over the years I’ve often wondered if denying Caruso the endorsement had more to do with getting Chris and Paul Ganim on the same line and less to do with actually defeating Caruso. After all Chris’ opponent never really had much of a chance and we turned out a lot of North End Dems who may have otherwise stayed home to vote for Chris and many of these people may have also voted for Paul Ganim.

    The thought that the Caruso ’98 campaign may have actually played a significant role in electing Paul Ganim Judge of Probate is one of those political ironies that sometime cause me to lose sleep at night. So perhaps I shouldn’t dwell on it too much. But sometimes I wonder. I really do.

    1. John, interesting point. Mario was determined to primary Caruso that year no matter what, but your point about Caruso and Paul Ganim on the same line is valid, especially in the Wilbur Cross precinct where Paul croaked Boyle. Caruso certainly turned out some extra voters. I remember standing in front of Cross with an amused Chris mulling the choice between Boyle, the party choice; and Ganim, the brother of the mayor with whom he had a lukewarm, at best, relationship. Wilbur Cross precinct was the difference.

  5. Ganim also wanted the 4-year term to insulate himself from the taxpayer’s ire from the impending reval that had been conveniently delayed for so many years.

  6. Jim Himes was in town today, visiting the agencies that provide services to the less fortunate. Ever see Mayor Finch or his adversaries on the Bridgeport City Council making such rounds? I didn’t think so. The people of the city of Bridgeport, the people that call the city home, have been misused by their elected officials for years. Service in the state legislature, where officials are elected to SERVE THE PEOPLE (not the other way around), is mostly a stepping stone or two toward a higher goal, a judicial appointment, let’s say, or the governor’s mansion. These goals do not serve the people that cast the votes in the first place. Anyone look around Bridgeport lately? I mean really look at Bridgeport, the whole city and not just the tony areas like the budding restaurant row on lower Fairfield Avenue? This town looks like a hell hole, litter everywhere … Does anyone in City Hall give a shit? Didn’t think so.

  7. The city is going back to the pre-Ganim days when it was covered with litter. Ganim at least kept the city clean and beautified.
    We invested in several mad vacs that can be driven as it picks up litter at the curb. The only one I see working is at Beardsley park.
    Closing the transfer station on Saturday afternoon was another brilliant move. When did the powers that be think that people who work during the week were going to get rid of their bulk items? Take a look around and you will have your answer. The transfer station was closed on Saturday afternoon to save $60 and for payback to the city employee that works there.
    Why can’t these mad vacs do a neighborhood at a time and they can probably cover the city in a week? We get a sweeper where I live once a month and that is definitely not enough for many sections of the city. PICK UP THE DAMN LITTER, WE ARE OWED THAT MUCH.

    1. *** Well just think, it’s something else you can add on to your election’s promise list when you become City Councilmember! “Clean up the 138th district, ASAP”! *** Good Luck! ***

  8. Kevin Boyle and I go back to the first grade at St. Charles School, and Prep after that. Kevin’s problem though he knew Park City politics inside out was that he was an honest man and a good person. He got stabbed in the back big time. He’s better off in Vegas dealing with a better class of criminal than the Ganims.

  9. Like I said months ago, Ganim was a great mayor and if he were running again I would vote for him!!! I also think Paul is a good man and I will vote for him if he runs again. Are there any elections coming up in the summer anywhere in Bridgeport, Lennie? I have not been keeping up since the election in November. I feel like if you’re a Republican in town you need to switch your affiliation to Democrat ’cause you don’t have a say in the city. At my local precinct Harding it is hard to find even one Republican. Obama 1208 compared to McCain 139 votes. Black Rock section seems to be turning Democrat too, Obama got 1567 compared to McCain 702. Pretty soon there will be no Republicans living there. Lennie, is Ganim popular in the Black Rock section like he is in many other parts of the city???

    1. WOW … You would vote for a convicted thief … a tyrant who robbed the city blind and did many underhanded things that weren’t disclosed … got an idea … tell us all where you live and turn your head so we can rob you blind, ’cause that is what you want to vote for.

        1. I’m sure you are an expert on dicks Anna … so I won’t argue that you know what a true dick is … and as for Ganim getting caught and others not, well he must have been dumber than the others and why would you vote for a dumb convicted caught felon??? I’m sure investors would love to invest in a city that re-elects a dumb convicted felon … right??? No wonder the city is down the tubes with voters like you.

          1. Bpts Finest u claim to be from Bpt but you insult it. Your screen name alludes to someone who’s lawful yet you want someone to turn their head so you can “rob them blind”. Your comments are most times derogatory and without merit. Maybe you should hook up with the Bpt Kid in Fairfield. The grass is not always greener!

  10. *** Too early to tell on Mr. Himes; however Mr. Lieberman & Dodd should throw in the towel in the State voter’s best interest for the future. *** Moving on the local level, (Bpt. City Council) needs at least a 60% member change to maybe make some type of positive difference from the usual past. I’m not going to name present members because there are some that I am not aware of their personal do’s & don’ts while on the council & I would just really be guessing! B.O.E. also needs a 60% member change to make some type of difference too! As far as the Registrar of Voters or Judge of Probate positions are concerned; both as individuals Ayala & Ganim have done a good job regardless of their political relationships, etc. *** Some OIB bloggers may agree or disagree on any of the choices, or the percentages in general but that’s normal with politics in Bpt. and the state of Conn. *** Time will tell! ***

  11. 60% overhaul, eh?

    I definitely agree with you. The problem? How to make it happen.

    Last I checked only about 38 people voted in the last election in Bridgeport.

    Can we convince 22.8 of them to not jump off the cliff like the rest of the sheep?


    Pass the cappacol’.

  12. It’s scary to think there are out there people who actually think Ganim could waltz back into office after his sabbatical ends and resume the Renaissance of Bridgeport. It doesn’t matter that he bilked the city out of precious funds which caused the taxpayer to dig deeper. What’s next anna and donj … Ernie Newton as Ganim’s Chief of Staff?

  13. The Joe Ganim administration’s criminality denied Bridgeport an opportunity to seize upon one of the largest spurts of economic growth in the last century. Yeah, let’s re-elect the little turd.


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