Colon, Crossin Endorsed For BOE, Plus: Recalling The Legendary Mario-Rizzi Fight

Thanks to Tom Kelly for filling in for me at the DTC endorsement session. See his report below. I’ll have my own soon.

What A Fight

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since that legendary Democratic Town Committee endorsement session that featured the brawl between Mario Testa and the late Mike Rizzitelli. I had a front-row seat that night as the publisher of The Bridgeport Light, a community weekly newspaper that produced a heavy dose of neighborhood news and politics.

We had quite a staff including Associate Editor Bob Fredericks, recruited from the Post, the quickest scribe I’ve ever seen turn around a story, a human copy machine with the sourest disposition towards pols on the planet. And that was a good thing for me back then because I had left Mayor Tom Bucci as his administrative aide to start the paper and needed someone on staff to counter bias perception. Twenty years later Bob still loves to torment me about my political affiliations. Fine by me. Sometimes I need to be reminded.

The editor of The Light was Jim Callahan who eats and sleeps politics like I do. I used to love the exchanges between Fredericks and Callahan, but that’s another story.

I asked Callahan to share some memories of that night in 1989 when Mario and Rizzi fell into his lens. It was hysterical with Town Chair John Guman fanning the flames. What emerged that night in the darkroom was photography perfection, an image of Mario and Rizzi with a headline Dukin’ Dems in the next issue. In the photo below Mario’s in the middle with his hand on Rizzi’s nose and Rizzi’s hand stuck in Mario’s eye. The guy at left who appears to be enjoying it all holding his cigar is Guman. Precious.


By Jim Callahan

Lennie checked in and asked for a few words on the Democratic Town Committee endorsement meeting in 1989 where a fight broke out between Mike Rizzitelli and Mario Testa.

The photograph I took was easily the best of my life for a newspaper. “Dukin’ Dems” was the cover headline in The Bridgeport Light the next issue with the photo. It was a wild meeting.

Know this: I always took more pride in my reporting of a political function, trying to explain what was going on. It was that way in July 1989. I am a reporter, who half-ass understands photography.

As editor of The Light, I was looking to cover the endorsement for mayor and what was going on. Taking a photograph was almost an afterthought, although if something happened I wanted to try and catch it. I did nothing but try to make my own luck with that photo. There’s no question, however, the photo stands out to many in memories of the meeting.

The meeting itself was straight-forward. Mayor Tom Bucci had blown a city budget. City finances were drowned in the harbor. The Democratic Party had splintered again. People were angry, very angry.

Democratic Chairman John D. Guman Jr. was bent on securing party endorsement for Bucci. With the party split, this was going to be tricky. The patronage resources of the party were damaged with the city budget.

There were a couple vacancies in the 133rd District committee. Mario Testa replaced the late Paul Macciocca as district leader. Mario, come hell or high water, was supporting Tommy for reelection. Committeeman Mike Rizzitelli was not. When Mario nominated committee replacements that would support Bucci, an irritated Rizzi called Mario a liar. Mario said something along the lines that he was not a liar.

Democratic Chairman Guman, cigar in hand, stage-whispered into the microphone, something along the lines: “What was that Mr. Rizzitelli? You calling Mr. Testa a liar?”

As they argued I  stood up at the press table with the camera for a close vantage point. Let’s settle this outside, Mario said. Rizzi didn’t wait that long firing the first punch. Mario responded. The fight broke out, I pressed the shutter down and the picture was taken.

If a lot of this doesn’t make sense, you have to understand the context of the times, the meeting and the personalities.

First, the budget was tanked, taxes were going up, and the city was becoming dysfunctional both administratively and politically. Crime was bad, and short-handed cops were having trouble dealing with it.

Second, the Democratic Party in Bridgeport is historically a fractured lot. Even patronage won’t necessarily keep it glued together in good times. It takes a machine to keep a party together in bad times. Tom Bucci had no machine–so when things got gooey politically, they got pretty bad. Tommy had to be personally popular with voters to govern effectively. That’s generally the modern way. When the budget went, political rigor mortis started to set in on Bucci.

Third, people had a chance to think about the city’s problems for awhile: were they going to stick with Tom or bolt? By the time they got to the meeting, everyone was in a foul mood, no matter what their decision.

Guman tried to lighten things up by opening up the bar. There was criticism afterwards about rum-ravaged Dems. Baloney. I don’t think Mario or Rizzi had a glass of wine. Most of the drinkers were grumbling over beers in the back at the bar, where they always grumbled. Guman was keeping them a little sotted. Their humor was bad; beers were not going to make it worse.

The incident was spontaneous. The reaction to it was measured. Some reaction was shocked, some was pseudo-shocked, and some guys were bending over to keep from laughing after they made sure they got a good look to see what was going on.

A lot of people tried to blame Guman. All he did was gavel the meeting. He knew the possible consequences of holding the meeting. Holding the meeting was the only blame I see, then or now. His job was to hold a meeting. He did. A fight among Dems broke out. So?

Now, did John enjoy this? Yep. Was he upset. Nope. (Tom Bucci was mortified.) Does Guman deserve partial credit/blame for whispering into the mic? Yep.

So you ask: Did John do this on purpose?

Well …

After the Mandanici machine blew up in 1981, the party fractured like never before, at least in the 20th Century. I checked. There were at least four factions with votes, along with the usual gangs of idiots who thought they had votes.

At one memorable Democratic Town Committee meeting in the early ’80s, the miscreants were not in much of a mood to listen to each other, let alone come to order at the demand of the chairman.

Guman leaned into the mic that night and growled: “If I’m not going to run this party, then nobody is.”

Answer your question?

(Lennie here with a footnote to Callahan’s piece: the mayoral primary that emerged following the endorsement session included Bucci, Jackie Cocco, Joe Ganim, Charley Tisdale and Bob Keeley. Chris Caruso served as Ganim’s campaign manager. Bucci won the primary with the anti vote split and then lost the general election to Republican Mary Moran.)

News release from Barnum Museum

The Barnum Museum receives a $20,000 grant just in time from the Fairfield County Community Foundation

(Bridgeport , CT – July 22, 2009) -The Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF) announced today an award of $20,000 to The Barnum Museum. The grant will be used to support the museum’s general operating budget and comes right when it is needed the most to continue programming, maintain the landmark building and help support administrative and marketing expenses. The museum is an outstanding educational resource for the local community, visitors from out of town and schools who come to learn about P.T. Barnum and his nineteenth century epic in America .

“This year, many of our contributions have dropped or simply disappeared due to the challenging economic times that we are all sharing,” expressed a concerned Kathy Maher, Executive Director and Curator of The Barnum Museum. “We are very grateful to FCCF for recognizing the general operating needs of the museum and our cultural colleagues, and we appreciate FCCF’strust and support by helping us continue to serve the community with enriching educational programs.”

“The grant will be used to maintain current staff levels, hours of operation and to cover normal curatorial expenses for preservation of the collection. In addition, funds will enable the museum to strengthen its program capacity and broaden partnerships and our identity in the community. FCCF funds will help the museum maintain management excellence and fiscal accountability through staffing, governance and policy,” continued Maher.

About Fairfield County Community Foundation: The Fairfield County Community Foundation promotes the growth of community and regional philanthropy to improve the quality of life throughout Fairfield County. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds and contribute to existing funds. The Foundation also provides philanthropic advisory services, and develops and leads initiatives to tackle critical community issues. It is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards for community foundations. The Foundation has awarded over $110 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. For more information, visit

About the Barnum Museum: Opened in 1893 and dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Bridgeport’s industrial and social history as well as the life and times of Phineas Taylor Barnum, showman, former mayor of Bridgeport and member of the Connecticut General Assembly. There are three floors of fascinating exhibits that illustrate the extraordinary business and personal accomplishments of P. T. Barnum, who was born July 5, 1810 in Bethel and died April 7, 1891 in Bridgeport. The museum includes period rooms; decorative arts; a 3,000 piece miniature circus; a 4,000 year old Egyptian mummy; Baby Bridgeport, Barnum’s favorite pachyderm; memorabilia from the diminutive Tom Thumb; a gallery dedicated to Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” and much more. The original museum building, designed by the architectural firm Longstaff and Hurd, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information about The Barnum Museum, visit or call 203-331-1104.



  1. Great memories by Jim Callahan.

    Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!

    Chime in with your odds-on-favorites for BOE race and Council races.

    The blogger with the closest political prognostication will win a XL Magna Cum Lager T-Shirt.

    Good Luck!

    Yahooy and the Cougar should check out my blog this week regarding where they can see their nicknames in lights.


  2. Is anybody surprised that Phinch is falling apart? Caruso would, indeed, have been better; not much better, but better. This collapse of creditability is a very good warning that we not allow the likes of Don Calamari to pick and choose who shall perpetuate the continuing stagnation of our city.

    Accordingly, I name Phinch the Philistine of the Week for letting his true colors surface.

    1. I’m surprised that Bill Finch is self-destructing, sadly surprised. His smugness and sarcasm toward Judge Lopez on Puerto Rican Day was appalling. All of those nasty remarks concerning UB and the Unification Church were uncalled for and must’ve been particularly offensive to Mary-Jane Foster.

      If the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation hold the belief that the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee is a criminal organization; well, that’s good enough for me. Tammany Hall was a similar organization that dominated and controlled New York City’s political fortunes from the 1790s to the 1960s. (According to Wikipedia, “The term “Tammany Hall” is now used to refer to a corrupt system of buying or controlling votes.”) And let’s not forget Chicago’s Cook County Democratic Organization.

      1. Don Calamari was investigated by the FBI during the Joe Ganim Debacle and found to be relatively clean. That does not mean he’s innocent of any political wrongdoing like taking and/or receiving bribes, brokering pay-to-play deals, etc. It simply means that he’s a tail-dragger, wiping out his tracks.

  3. Lopez and Rodgerson ought to be on the Board of Education. Pat Crossin is a good man, but may be a little jaded about public service.

    Bill Finch has been acting as if he’s the mayor of Munchkin City.

  4. I told everybody from day one that Caruso would be a better mayor than this do-nothing mayor we have and thanks Bridgeport Kid I am starting to realize that this is a power grab by Finch with the PA. I just have a gut feeling that Lopez will not get the endorsement and I am OK with her running a primary against these corrupt administration BOE picks.

  5. This is going to come down to a primary, this BOE horse race. Rodgerson will more than likely get the nod from Finch; Judge Lopez will have a tougher game to play, but she has my support. Who cares about Bill Finch, after his weak-suck performance as Mayor of the Park City? (How ’bout that sewer deal he tried to swing for his BRBC pimp Paul Timpanelli?)

  6. Perhaps the best scenario would be for Judge Lopez to be denied her chance for the BOE by the DTC and get riled up enough to seek the nomination for mayor next cycle (2011?).

  7. If they are smart they’ll let Lopez have the nomination and wait for her to spin out of control on the BOE, ending her political career. Are they smart? No, they’ll make her a martyr.

  8. Jim Callahan???
    I thought Jim Callahan died in some mining accident in West Virginia or Western PA after he left Bridgeport and quit the reporting business.

  9. Strategy is the name of the game. If Carmen Lopez and Dottie Guman have enough to prevent others from getting endorsed, then Carmen has a chance. Lennie claims that Bobby Simmons is a shoe-in. Carmen’s supporters can refuse to vote for Simmons or other candidates and negotiate a deal. The Black DTC members may have the deciding votes on their side and I’m sure that they are between a rock and a hard place.

  10. Live from Testo’s! It’s the Bridgeport Democratic Nominating Convention for City Council and Board of Education candidates.

    The usual suspects coupled with a smattering of proxies. Adam Wood is whipping up the floor votes for BOE. A real potpourri of political bedfellows.

    Stay tuned,

  11. It seems like a cordial bunch this year with Mother Goose. I’m sitting here with Hector Diaz, Jr. and he is giving me picks for the evening. Former Mayor John M. Fabrizi is working the room, the Town Chairman just checked in to make sure the wireless wasn’t being bugged.

    The Troll has entered the building. Keith Rodgerson just told us that he has dropped out and tossed his support in favor of Pat Crossin.

    My “Main Man” Jose Rivera is as Semper Fi as ever. In the time and true tradition the Democrats are running late. Last call for proxies.

    Now a Pause for a Sanitary Cause! Brought to you by Royal Flush. Because a Royal Flush beats a Full House!

  12. The Honorable Judge Carmen Lopez has graciously entered the room and is being warmly greeted by her supporters.

    Dave Bosco and Tyrone McClain are playing a game of twister on the convention floor.

    OIB blogger Denis O’Malley looks resplendent in his red polo shirt, nicely coordinated with a pair of khakis and a nautical belt.

  13. We have a quoram. Let the games begin!

    Pat Crossin doing some last-minute vote conversations but should be a lock unless he gets double-crossed.

    Chico Rivera led off the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Rev. John Olsen’s benediction celebrating the city’s diversity. A moment of silence requested for the loss of longtime Women’s Federation member Carol Salvo.

  14. We are now going through some Parliamentary procedures about roll call or ballot. It will be a roll call.

    Lisa Parziale is now speaking in favor of Carmen Lopez into nomination for the Board of Education. State Senate Edwin Gomes is echoing the sentiment of Parziale’s support of Carmen Lopez as an advocate and asset for the Board of Education and the City of Bridgeport.

    The floodwaters are now opening up with requests to be heard. Now speaking, the former Arson Parson and retiring ed. board member John Olsen. Next up at bat is Hector Diaz, Jr. in support of Judge Lopez.

    Warren Blunt is now speaking and telling us of not being able to get off his chair to speak because of a case of the gout. Chairman Testo advised Mr. Blunt to stay off the Jumbo Shrimp.

    Councilman Blunt has just entered the name of Leticia Colon for Board of Ed. followed by the seconding address by City Council President Tom McCarthy. Both eloquently praising Ms. Colon’s qualities as a member of the City Council and stating that she will bring accountability to the Board of Education. Tito Ayala follows with another second for Leticia Colon.

    Warren Blunt now placing the name of incumbent Bobby Simmons for the Board of Education, in support of his fiscal advocacy for the school system and its children. A second will follow in a second. Simmons has been seconded.

    130th District Leader Dan Roach now placing Patrick Crossin’s name into nomination. Mr. Roach is speaking to Mr. Crossin’s service on the City Council. Lisa Parziale now seconding Pat Crossin’s nomination citing their years of work together on the Council.

    Nominations are now closed. A motion was brought up on the floor by Lisa Parziale to have Ed nominees the opportunity to speak for two minutes. Voice vote for motion voted down by members.

    Roll Call vote now being taken. It’s best three out of floor.
    130th is going Crossin, Simmons, Colon.
    131st is going the same way with the exception of Chico Rivera who voted for Judge Lopez.
    132nd splitting and bullet voting against Colon.
    133rd Colon, Simmons, Crossin, with exception of Ginny Keeley casting a vote for Lopez.
    134th Going with Colon, Simmons, and Crossin with exception of John Fabrizi casting one of his votes for Carmen Lopez
    135th Some bullet voting for Lopez against Colon.
    136th Mixed bag for Crossin, Colon. Strong votes for Lopez.
    137th Mixed results with Lopez, Colon and Simmons leading the vote-getting in 137th.
    138th going Colon, Crossin and Simmons with two votes going to Lopez.
    139th Ford passes. Holloway passes, Johnson passes. Eneida Martinez passes. 139th passes go to Colon, Lopez, Simmons.

    There were several passes on the floor and we are still passing the buck around the floor. People are tallying their votes to see where they can make a difference.

    Votes now being counted.

  15. Here are the results for the Board of Education.

    Colon – 70
    Crossin – 59
    Lopez – 41
    Simmons -79

    It’s Official!

    Next up will be the City Council nominations.

    1. Carmen Lopez has the option of joining the Republican Party. I’m sure that had she joined, she would have gotten the endorsement tonight and would have been automatically placed on the BOE.

  16. City Sheriff nominations for Mitch Robles, Wilfredo Murphy and Dennis Scinto. Motion vote for one vote by acclamation passed. Done deal.

    Surprise blast from the past candidate, Anderson Ayala, emerging out of the 131st for City Council.

    Now City Council Nominations.

    Susan Brannelly
    Martin McCarthy

    Anderson Ayala
    Denise Moore (incumbent)

    Yvette Brantley (incumbent)
    Bob Walsh (incumbent)

    Howard Austin Jr. (incumbent )
    Tom McCarthy (incumbent)

    The late Bill Finch just arrived.

    Michele Lyons (incumbent)
    Amy Marie Vizzo-Paniccia (incumbent)

    Warren Blunt (incumbent)
    Richard Bonney (incumbent)

    Angel M. DeParra Jr. (incumbent)
    Carlos Silva (incumbent)

    Maria Valle –
    Christine Ayala –
    Lydia Martinez – Endorsed
    Manuel Ayala – Endorsed

    Robert Curwen
    Richard Paoletto

    Andre Baker Jr. (incumbent)
    James Holloway (incumbent)

    Stay tuned for some video follow-ups.

    1. Good question, donj. That’s the 130th, Danny Roach’s district. Danny’s wife Bonnie wanted that seat according to Joel Gonzalez. What happened there? Someone’s in the dog house.

  17. AHH such good democrats. At least 80% of the DTC is City employees or their spouse/family members. For the most part they do what they’re told. Such good little lemmings.

    Andy Ayala was one surprise. He lost a ton of weight and looks good. He should share his secret with Warren Blunt who is suffering from more than gout with all that weight.

    What’s up with all the Ayala’s in the 137th? Are they related? And why isn’t that district backing Maria Valle? Did she have a falling-out with Tito?

  18. city hall smoker

    I guess Joel was talking out his butt on that one. But Martin McCarthy how is it possible I never heard of him in all my life? Who the heck are these people trying to lead me and the rest of the 130th? I tell you this, I’m a very very strong Democrat supporter, I vote Democrat in every election down the ballot but I sure as hell won’t vote for somebody they try to just put in to be the 130th leader. I’d rather vote for a Republican than vote for this guy.

  19. The Oracle of Omaha Steaks!

    Marty McCarthy owns a pizza parlor on Fairfield Avenue. I think it’s called Marty’s & More. Nice little business that delivers in Black Rock.

  20. Warren All U Can Eat Buffet

    You talking about Marty’s Pizza hey I might know these guys if it’s them they are nice people. I order from them from time to time but all I want to know is are those people working in the back of there legal residents of this country or are they working under the table or not????????? Hmmmmmmmmm I think I just burst a bubble and this should be looked into.

  21. Republican endorsed candidates for BOE.

    The Republican BOE candidates consist of an entire new slate. Yes Sauda Baracka did not get the endorsement. Apparently, Sauda’s attendance record was an issue. Sauda was visibly upset and vowed to force a primary. I had no idea that the majority in the RTC had a negative opinion of its BOE members. I was nominated for BOE but Quirogas TC had more members present and some members confused my last name with his. Will there be a primary for the Republican BOE seats? I’m not participating.

    Russo from Brooklawn Avenue
    Snow a teacher from Black Rock
    Quiroga is also a teacher in New York

    In the 130th John Slatter and John Macken were endorsed. These two gentlemen live in Black Rock and both responded to the mailing done by the Bridgeport RTC last week. I will manage the campaign for the two Black Rock candidates.

  22. Lennie, can you please post the attendance record of all the BOE members? I’d like to look into whether or not Sauda had a poor attendance record.

  23. CHS

    Andy Fardy and Ann Barney will be waging a primary in the 138th. Video will follow overnight with comments from Barney/Fardy team and Curwen/Paoletto slate.

    Also, fascinating comments and video from Mother Goose regarding the rumor of a last-minute overthrow of Bob Walsh by Finch’s Carpetbaggers.

    Isa Mujahid did share with me that he will primary Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney in the 135th district race.

    A group of citizens were in front of Testo’s protesting GAG order by P & Z regarding required state statute for zoning re-write. Protesters led by Attorney Michael Voytek, and featured State Representatives Chris Caruso and Jack Hennessy.

  24. Caruso…

    My ***black*** roommate in college, Philip Cadeau Rivera, once suggested to me that when you are in a jungle where there are tigers, you should not waste your arrows on sparrows.

    Had someone impressed this same advice on you, you might have a reasonable chance at becoming mayor.

    Standing outside Don Calamari’s protesting a zoning thing is not cool.

  25. *** Whyever would the RTC pass on giving the greatest city council member (in his mind) in Bpt’s political history an endorsment for city council to represent the Republicans in Nov.??? Not even an endorsment for the thankless BOE seat??? Wow, now that’s newsworthy for sure! They just don’t understand anymore or realize all the natural talent that’s under that cola-nut head just bursting @ the seams. Oh well, there’s always a key storyteller’s position on “OIB”! *** And last but not least, nice job reporting the goings-on Mr. Kelly, Thank you! ***

    1. Mojo, I see that Mitch passed you for Andy Ayala. That one is not hard to figure out. At no time did I ask anyone on the RTC for an endorsement. Yet, when I was asked to consider it, someone went ahead and nominated me anyway and it was seconded. On the 130th City Council side, I made it clear that in the event that there weren’t two candidates, I’d jump in. The RTC did a mailing and I’m satisfied that the majority of interest came from the 130th with three people interested for the two seats.

      1. *** I wouldn’t know Joel, I do not follow the RTC’s do’s & don’ts & it’s hard to master the English language with only 14 yrs. of schooling both in PR & CT. I should have continued but ended up joining the Army in ’72 learning a little VC & earning an infantry medical corpsman’s badge instead. However, someday I hope to be all that I can be, just like you! ***

    1. Tom you are confusing Mojo; he is trying to master the English language and you are writing Spanish at him. Mojo I’m just teasing you, see you tonight at the Taco.


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