How A Campaign Operation Rescued Sue Brannelly–What’s Steven Stafstrom’s Future?

When incumbents fight the tide of establishment anger in high-turnout areas such as Black Rock it’s all they can do to stay above water. Steven Stafstrom was a casualty of voter fury in the highest turnout area of the city that also nearly drowned his Democratic City Council running partner Sue Brannelly whose once-popular standing  in the neighborhood has hit the rocks. The reason Brannelly survived at all was the hard campaigning Stafstrom brought to the table as well as the operation Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign team delivered in the Aquaculture School precinct led by an absentee ballot operation that rescued Brannelly.

Last Tuesday’s City Council election in the 130th District confirmed a number of things including Republican Rick Torres’ personal popularity in Black Rock and the growing grouchy attitude voters there have toward the mayor. But it also proved the lower end of the district in the Aquaculture School precinct is an area where the mayor and his operatives can still go for votes.

Matched up against Torres on the ballot, Stafstrom was just a dozen votes away from running ahead of Brannelly who’s unfamiliar with the kind of operation required in the Aquaculture precinct to save the day such as campaigning actively in P.T. Barnum Apartments and the Twin Towers high rise loaded with absentee ballot voters. Brannelly comes from solid public-service genes, but strategic political campaigning is not her strength.

The Finch campaign team knew if Stafstrom and Brannelly were to survive it would come from the lower end of the district that also includes the West End. Steven Stafstrom’s uncle John Stafstrom, former Democratic town chairman, also knows the campaign territory well in the Aquaculture precinct. He put in a lot of time producing votes for his nephew and Brannelly in the final days. While Steven Stafstrom and Brannelly ran virtually even at Black Rock School there was enough separation at the Aquaculture precinct to reelect Brannelly. Part of that could be ballot position. Torres matched up against Stafstrom and Republican Phil Blagys matched up against Brannelly. Electors could vote for any two of the four. In some cases electors simply filled in Torres’ oval and bailed from the booth. That instance also hurt Blagys.

Sometimes ballot placement matters. But one thing’s for sure, Brannelly did not win reelection without the effort of her running partner and the Finch political operation in the Aquaculture precinct.

What’s Steven Stafstrom’s political future?

The voting record of Democratic State Senator Anthony Musto, who represents a city-suburban district, is prime for the picking whether a primary or general election. That could be a spot for Stafstrom to watch, whether in the upcoming 2014 election cycle or down the road. Political activist Marilyn Moore, who served as campaign manager for the three winning Democratic school board candidates, has her eye on the seat. Stay tuned.



  1. Lennie, Rick Torres looks like the leading Republican contender for Musto’s seat. Imagine Marilyn Moore challenging Musto in a Democratic primary or more interestingly a three-way primary that includes Steve Stafstrom. Rick Torres gets the backing of Herbst in Trumbull and waits for any of the three Democrats in the primary. If Rick Torres were to take Musto’s seat, the City Council could then put Steve Stafstrom back on the Council to replace Rick Torres. Stay Mustuned.

    1. Speedy, see charter provision below. If Sue Brannelly decides she no longer wants the council seat she could resign and Steve Stafstrom could replace her from the same party.
      Whenever a vacancy occurs, for any reason, in the membership of the city council, such vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired portion of the term by a majority vote of the city council members from the same political party as the council member vacating such office. If there are no other members from the same political party as the member vacating such office, the vacancy shall be filled by majority vote of the whole number of council members. No person shall be elected to fill a vacancy on the city council unless he/she is a resident and registered voter of the city and is a member of the same political party as the person vacating such office. No person shall be elected to fill a vacancy in the office of any council member unless he/she is also a resident and registered voter in the same council district as the person vacating such office.

      1. You’re right, Lennie. There is a way to get around the charter. It depends on how bad John Stafstrom wants Steve on the City Council. When I was on the council and my partner Alberto Negron vacated his seat, the rules or procedures changed slightly. Steve Stafstrom could be a RINO for a short while. There is no rule that states a Republican on the council can’t change parties. What was the name of the Democrat councilman who switched to the Republican Party and later was charged with arson? He did it–the party switch and the arson.
        Stafstrom has good options for the future, but I don’t see him winning the Senate (Musto’s) seat. He fell short on a city council race running as the incumbent with the machine fully backing him. If Rick Torres runs and gets the full support of Trumbull Republicans, he’d stand a chance.

    2. I may be wrong, but per the city charter:
      Section 5. – Vacancy in an elective city office.
      Unless otherwise provided in this charter, or the general statutes, any vacancy in an elective city office shall be filled, for the unexpired portion of the term, by the city council. The person filling such office shall be a registered voter and a member of the same political party as the person vacating such office.

      So unless Steve comes to the R side I do not think this will happen, however let us all allow Rick to concentrate on his council duties.

      1. I worked the polls on election day for BOE candidate Steve Best. I also carried my snow shovel and asked voters to elect more watchdogs.
        Wearing my bow-tie there were more than a few people who recognized me (“I’ve seen you on TV”) from my City Council and Bridgeport Now appearances. People remembered the snow storm and the failure (TO THIS DATE) of the City to acknowledge their failure and explain provisions in place now to make a difference this year. (What caused the remarkable failure? Slow pay City habits that caused contractors to sign up elsewhere? Sending folks home that first evening that let the storm outrun our Plan A when they could not return? Calculating the best approach to getting FEMA funds? Equipment readiness, not? We still have no word, do we?)
        Finally, Bonnie Roach (in a NY registered vehicle) and Wand Geter (along with probably one or two other drivers) kept a steady flow of people coming to Aquaculture to Vote Line B receiving encouragement from John Stafstrom in late afternoon to get 30 more to the polls. And they were able to pull in front of the school doors, within the 75 foot line, thereby eliminating last-minute calls from Row A or Row C fans. One young male voter talked about compensation, and other comments were made after 6:00 PM about “shot and a beer” at a local watering hole.
        There are not enough folks who were reached by those running for change in order to reform the nature of election day in the 130th, but Rick Torres and Joe Larcheveque showed change is possible, as did the other members of the DTC challenge slates in the City. Maintaining the momentum is the order of the day. Time will tell.

        1. John, every election the town committee sends street money to a certain person in PT to get out the vote. I bet it was done again this year, that’s why you saw all the vehicle traffic.

  2. *** Upcoming local district town committee challenge slates must be organized and ready to run against the present town committee status quo in order to keep the “change” momentum going and attacking from the bottom up! This winter I believe is time once again to run against your present nine-member local district town committees. Start preparing and looking for nine new residents in your districts interested in political change, starting with your neighborhood! There’s not a moment to waste if you want “change,” no? ***

    1. How many people you have, Mojo? You do know anyone (regardless of where they live) can get involved in any district. Don’t believe me? Ask Americo Santiago, the Democratic party doesn’t mind when outsiders get involved in political races in other or multiple districts.

      1. Joel,
        You, Mojo and Mackey, that’s a good place to start. You would want to look for someone from Marina Village, someone from Roosevelt School PAC and a couple of candidates from downtown. Does Mary Bruce still live down there? Add a UB student who helped organize for Mary-Jane and you are starting to look like a real slate. Maybe you can add someone from that Fairfield Ave Apartment Building where Santiago was accused of snatching up ABs for a little addition by subtraction.
        Go for it!!!

      2. Americo will go anywhere and do anything so long as he gets paid. At least that is what he said about himself. And certainly because his tent is so big, he would be happy to welcome help from all corners. Let’s all pile on!

      3. *** I have none, zero, nada, empty page list; however I have really not even started searching for interested 131st residents, including myself! But I do know some possibly interested folks located in the South End, Downtown areas and the West Side of Bpt. Just need a place, date and time with an agenda and other interested folks who even though they may not wish to run, can volunteer some time, ideas and maybe a small $ donation towards the campaign since it’s their district too, no? *** But there must be a Nov. meeting or two and then at least two in Dec. to pick those who will be running, apply for the required political paperwork and turn it in. Followed by donations collection for I.D. and brief info about the candidates running and their political platform, which is simple, “CHANGE!” Set up talks with seniors in their community rooms and possible ABs, NRZ meetings, Radio and Cable TV, lawn signs, info. flyers, political Santa Claus visits to the Convalescent Homes for possible ABs and family interest, OIB “POLITICAL” advertisments, posters for business windows downtown and bodegas in the 131st district, etc. “GET THE WORD OUT!” *** VOTE ***

        1. Mojo, I want to thank you and Bob Walsh as the only ones talking about seriously putting challenge slates of candidates for all ten district for the 90-person Democratic Town Committee on OIB. The primary this past September was step one, then step two was Nov. 5 now the next step is a real big one, the “control” of the ten districts or at lease a majority and to elect a new DTC Chairperson. That’s where the real power is. This is the time to continue with the steps and change that started with successfully fighting and beating Mayor Finch’s effort to take voting rights away from the voters in Bridgeport in selecting the Board Of Education. The time is now and there is no one to blame but myself and you for not fighting back.

  3. Planning and Zoning? ZBA? Good boards to make a name for oneself but too controversial for the Stafstrom name.
    Police/Fire Commission? No, not high profile enough.
    Let’s see know. Hmmm …
    How about the Port Authority Chair? Not too controversial these days. Bonding implications galore, Pullman & Comely would appreciate that. What’s that? A Brannelly relative already holds down that spot? That makes it perfect.

  4. Unfortunately we must return to Paul Vallas. From the CT Post: Where does Paul Vallas live?
    Vallas’ travels have caused his residency to be questioned before. In 2005, he considered running for governor a second time, but a circuit judge in Illinois’ Cook County “refused to declare him a legal resident of the state,” the Tribune reported.

    To be eligible to run for statewide office in Illinois, candidates have to be residents of the state for a minimum of three years.

    We all know Paul Vallas believes rules do not apply to him. Just like certification is whatever he says it is, I am sure the same holds true for residency.
    Let’s get him out ASAP before they rule him ineligible to run for LG and he changes his mind again.

  5. Bob,
    I took a look at the Board and Commission opportunities last week. Of the approximately 139 positions authorized, there are currently 42 VACANT, 27 occupied by a resident serving an unexpired term, and 69 occupying an expired term. (One of those expired terms goes back to 1997!)

    I notice the WPCA has two Republican and one unaffiliated member but NO DEMOCRATS along with the ex officio automatic appointments. There is lots of opportunity for change in this instance: rates increased over 30% this year; legal expenses budgeted increased by hundreds of thousands in the last several years; a City employee who lives in New Canaan Chairs the group; no public announcements on union negotiations, new administrative contracts or current status of Trumbull discussions with potential Regional Board Of Ethics with two openings might be another opportunity. Steve offered his legal training as a reason he might be more valuable to residents with the issues the CC face routinely. It might be most interesting to see what the presence of an attorney on the Ethics Commission might yield of note! It is not unusual in other towns. Time will tell.

  6. Still more from Team Vallas:
    Steven D. Ecker, Vallas’ attorney, said Monday the case being weighed by the state’s highest court goes on, at least until Vallas leaves.

    “At this point, neither side is claiming it is moot,” Ecker said. That may change if the court doesn’t rule before Vallas actually leaves but even then, Ecker said a decision could weigh on Vallas’ reputation.

    What reputation?
    Make him go away, now …

    1. Steve will have a future in politics whether it be local or the bigger picture.

      There is a double-edged sword attached to his employment at Pullman & Comley. His uncle is a partner, and if you or any of us were Steve, we would be looking for the same leg up he got. It’s only cronyism to the perceiver who does not have that connection.

      We all have a stake in the game in one way or another. If we don’t, in Bridgeport, we become a part of the apathetic electorate that does not take 20 minutes to drag themselves away from the TV set and cast a vote.

    2. You have a right to your opinion, but why so cynical? Steve has a lot to offer and he will be a far better candidate than some others who have been elected in Bridgeport.

  7. To Bob’s post regarding Steve Stafstrom having no future in Bpt politics, you are very shortsighted.

    He is a young, smart lawyer and brighter than most on the Council. As in years past, many lawyers got involved with City Council politics as a way to build their community stature, which always helps with business. All that’s a plus.

    As to nepotism/cronyism, what’s wrong with him being involved even if his uncle is a powerful Democrat? He should be excluded? If that’s the case, you must also hate the Kennedys, Clintons, the Bushes, Roosevelts, etc.

    Obviously he could not vote on issues relating to his firm. And with the increased scrutiny of the press, new Council members, etc., there are certainly checks and balances.

    You seem to want everybody who has been involved in Bridgeport politics condemned for being involved with Bridgeport politics.

    Everybody has a fair chance at getting involved. Have you stepped up to the plate?

    1. Denis OMalley,
      I agree with you, Steve does have a political future in Bridgeport. He is a young professional with real potential. His recent loss, however, will slow his path. I think he could win several local races but not Musto’s seat in 2014.

    2. Well stated, Denis OMalley. Steve is a bright young attorney who is articulate and a class act. Why should anyone condemn him for having political aspirations, let alone want to deny him his constitutional right to seek elected office? I believe he is a far cry better than some of the people who were elected to political office in Bridgeport. I wish him well in all his future endeavors and I believe he will persevere.

    3. Denis OMalley. Indeed there were four qualified candidates in the Black Rock/West End District. Two of them were pro-machine and two were anti-machine. The people came out against the machine. The machine came out against the people with the scam absentee ballots. That’s strike three for Brannelly and Stafstrom right there. Case closed.

  8. *** A good place to start is “all ten districts” to get together; 9 district residents who are willing to invest say, $100 per slate member for political literature to pass out to active voters and palm cards for election day. Nine candidates equals $900 plus a donation here and there and you’ll have more than enough to get the word out and inform the voters on just how critical it is for “change” from the bottom up in order to work towards better candidate picks and transparent city government. The momentum is still on the side of pro-change residents slowly but surely a possible gained political seat at a time! Now is not the time to stop the political pressure, it’s all the way to the next Mayoral and State elections, no? *** KEEP PUSHING! ***


Leave a Reply