Mario Testa has received two more years as Democratic Town Chairman. Now what? Time to size up the 2014 governor’s cycle with an eye toward the mayoral election next year.
Who’s on the ballot this year? Bridgeport has an eight-member legislative delegation, six State House representatives and two state senators, all Democrats. The State House members: Auden Grogins, Jack Hennessy, Charlie Stallworth, Christina Ayala, Ezequiel Santiago and Don Clemons. State senators: Andres Ayala and Anthony Musto. Leading the November ticket in Bridgeport will be Democratic Governor Dan Malloy, Congressman Jim Himes and the down ballot constitutional offices state treasurer, attorney general, state comptroller and the secretary of the state. The other constitutional office lieutenant governor runs with the governor. The Republican opposition will be determined at the party’s state convention in May with primaries likely in August.
Who’s vulnerable in Bridgeport? In the State House most likely Christina Ayala and Don Clemons, depending on potential candidates in Democratic primaries. Among all the incumbents Ayala suffered the most casualties in the Democratic Town Committee primaries two weeks ago. The East Side districts that now control the endorsement for Ayala’s State House seat are not predisposed to support her. Chris Rosario, the city’s anti-blight director, is eying a challenge of Ayala. If he receives the endorsement, Ayala must primary him to win a second two-year term.
Clemons likely is in good shape for another term unless former State Senator Ernie Newton challenges him. Newton is weighing his options pending state criminal charges that he falsified $500 in campaign donations to trigger an $80,000 grant under the state’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races for his 2012 State Senate primary campaign won by Andres Ayala. A state judge is expected to rule next week on Newton’s motion to dismiss the charges. If the judge denies Newton’s request a trial date will be set. Newton is considering a run for the State House seat occupied by Clemons or a rematch with Andres Ayala. If Newton challenges Clemons, even with a state trial pending, he’d be favored to win. The district represents his East End voter base where he is popular.
Musto is facing a primary challenge from city political activist Marilyn Moore in the State Senate district that includes all of Trumbull, southern Monroe and the north and western portions of Bridgeport. It’s the district Bill Finch represented before he was elected mayor in 2007. Unlike the single-community State House districts in Bridgeport endorsed by their respective town committees, Testa wields the most clout in multi-town State Senate Districts where he chooses the Bridgeport delegates to the convention.
Testa is a long-time friend of Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo, Musto’s political godmother. Musto, by virtue of his incumbency and political relationships, is the favorite for the endorsement. But Mario also knows irrespective of an endorsement for Musto, Moore will primary him. She can do this two ways: securing 15 percent of the delegates at the convention or short of that petitioning her way onto the ballot. If Testa knows she’s going to make the ballot why not cover his butt and select enough delegates supportive of Moore at the convention.
If Mario has done his homework (he usually does), he will know the Bridgeport portion of the district has twice the number of Democrats than Trumbull and Monroe combined, and in the higher-turnout areas of the city. Musto, from Trumbull, hasn’t exactly been a senator who’s produced on behalf of the city. He torpedoed last year, at the risk of alienating political support from City Council President Tom McCarthy, the government reform bill advanced by Grogins and Hennessy that proposed to enforce the city charter prohibiting city employees (such as McCarthy) from serving on the City Council. A loophole in state law allows it. Numerous government reformers have taken notice of Musto bludgeoning the bill.
Endorsements for State House and State Senate seats will take place in May. The story within the story is how Mario juggles the various convention endorsers to keep his supporters happy and win over pols to enhance party peace. Why? Democrats winning big in November enhances his prestige as chairman. It also provides him more clout for next year’s mayoral election.