Chris Caruso, president of the Council of Italian American Societies of Greater Bridgeport and Matthew Guarnieri, president of the Connecticut Italian American Defense League, are calling on State Senator Marilyn Moore to condemn bigoted, “race-baiting” remarks posted by leaders of the organization supporting her mayoral candidacy, Bridgeport Generation Now Votes.
The remarks in question featured on the Gen Now Votes Facebook page center on the face of a dark-skinned man superimposed on an invented graphic: “Bridgeport’s Democratic Party: ‘Now that Testo’s is closed, the ONLY place we could find to have our convention is at the Italian Club.'”
The quote is attributed to the image of the dark-skinned man, overlapping the Circolo Sportivo Italian American Club sign, holding his chin curiously.
The swipe is directed in particular at Italian immigrant Mario Testa, chair of the Democratic Town Committee, as well as the Circolo Sportive club on Park Avenue in the North End, a venue that hosts multi-cultural events.
Testa recently sold the Madison Avenue property housing his former restaurant and catering hall that conducted Democratic political conventions. The chairman, after searching for a destination to anchor Tuesday’s upcoming party endorsement for mayor and other municipal positions, decided Circolo-Sportivo, was the best fit.
Moore, in fact, hosted a mayoral fundraiser there in February.
“At the expense of the Italian community, it’s clear that this is a cheap political shot to create controversy in an attempt to bolster support among black and other minority voters for the candidacy of Senator Moore,” said Caruso, a retired state representative and two-time mayoral candidate who has not endorsed a mayoral campaigner this cycle. “By attacking a respected Italian American civic organization and thus the Italian community, it’s clear that race baiting is at the core.”
“This is not the first time and sadly will not be the last time that Italians are discriminated against and used for political gain, but the Italian American Defense League will not tolerate it!” added Guarnieri.
Some political insiders say Moore is experiencing buyer’s remorse for her close relationship with the leaders of Gen Now Votes — Callie Heilmann, who happens to be of Italian heritage, and Gemeem Davis.
The duo plan to expend nearly $100,000 from its organization funds to support Moore’s candidacy. Davis served as Moore’ campaign manager in 2019. The source of the money, however, was not disclosed on the recent campaign finance report that raised additional questions about illegal coordination between Gen Now and Moore’s campaign.
In addition, Moore attended a public endorsement rally last month hosted by Gen Now Votes with Davis and Heilmann front and center in which thousands of Gen Now dollars were spent.
Under Connecticut law it’s illegal for an organization such as Gen Now to coordinate expenditures with a candidate for public office it supports.
Caruso and Guarnieri also called on all mayoral candidates to condemn the depiction advanced by Gen Now Votes.
If the depiction had been inverted, a White man superimposed to contrast race, the reaction would certainly be noisy.
Chris Caruso, President of the Council of Italian American Societies of Greater Bridgeport and Matthew Guarnieri, President of the Connecticut Italian American Defense League, an affiliate of the Council of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, call on State Senator Marilyn Moore a Bridgeport mayoral candidate to publicly denounce a video which appeared on social media by “Gen Now Votes” an organization that has publicly endorsed the Senator in her mayoral bid and is instrumental in organizing her campaign and providing resources and funding.
In response to the recent decision by the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee to rent the hall at the Circolo Sportivo Italian American Club in Bridgeport for its upcoming July 25th convention to nominate candidates for municipal offices, Gen Now Votes produced a video and displayed it through social media.
The video depicts a photo of the sign located in front of the Circolo Sportivo Italian American Club with the words, Bridgeport Democratic Party: “Now that Testo’s is closed, the ONLY place we could find to have our convention is at the Italian Club.” At the bottom of the sign is a photo of a black man with his hand on his chin with an inquisitive look and caption above his head that reads, “Me.”
“At the expense of the Italian community, it’s clear that this is a cheap political shot to create controversy in an attempt to bolster support among black and other minority voters for the candidacy of Senator Moore. By attacking a respected Italian American civic organization and thus the Italian community, it’s clear that race baiting is at the core. The animosity and hatred espoused through the video is disgusting and appalling, and Senator Moore must take immediate action to publicly denounce the video, demand it be immediately removed and call on Gen Now Votes to apologize for its actions,” Caruso said.
Caruso continued, “As a matter of fact, in addition to Senator Moore, all Bridgeport mayoral candidates need to denounce the video as divisive and insensitive in a city that boasts of its cultural diversity. An attack on one people is an attack on all.”
It’s worthy to note that Senator Moore back in February rented the very same Circolo Sportivo Club for a Valentine’s Day fundraiser on behalf of her mayoral campaign. At that time, there was no criticism from either Gen Now Votes or any of the Senator’s supporters that it was an “Italian Club.”
The legislative district represented by Senator Moore consists of a diverse constituency in Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe which includes thousands of residents and voters of Italian descent. It’s critically important that she acknowledge them by speaking out against any form of discrimination and race baiting especially by individuals and organizations that endorse her candidacy. Anything less than a full repudiation is unacceptable.
“This is not the first time and sadly will not be the last time that Italians are discriminated against and used for political gain, but the Italian American Defense League will not tolerate it! Over the years, Italian Americans have and continue to contribute greatly to the Bridgeport community as well as cities and towns throughout the State. We demand action from Senator Moore!” said Matthew Guarnieri.
“When you care about where you live, you build community. In Bridgeport, we are a diverse people with a long history of caring for our families and neighborhoods. Our connections to one another are long and strong.” “We envision a city free from systemic racism and injustice – and one that advances anti-racist and pro-justice policies and governance.” These are the words of the so-called People’s Platform promulgated by Gen Votes Now. It’s high time their organization practice what it preaches!
OIB has reached out to all mayoral candidates for comment:
Statement from Mayor Joe Ganim:
I am incredibly grateful to the Italian community and the members of the Circolo Sportivo Club for opening their doors to the Bridgeport Democratic Party to host tomorrow evening’s convention. This venue is one of only a few that could host a crowd of this size with adequate parking and at a low cost. We are fortunate that they have opened their doors to us. It is unfortunate that some have made this venue an issue at the expense of the Italian community, when we should be focusing on nominating the best representatives to address the many needs of the people of Bridgeport.The Democratic Party is an inclusive, multicultural organization that values the diversity of our community. That is why tomorrow evening, I will be seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party with an extremely diverse slate of candidates from neighborhoods across our city representing a myriad of races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic statuses.Like all ethnic groups in our city, Italian-Americans have contributed so much to our rich history and continue to shape our city’s future. I think it is high time that we come together as a city and a party to focus on the issues that unite us, rather than those that divide us.