For opponents of Mayor Bill Finch, it’s tempting to declare Anthony Musto’s city voter shellacking by Marilyn Moore was a referendum on the mayor. It’s not. It was a referendum on Anthony Musto from an opponent and a coalition force of many that drew a contrast on his job performance and disengagement from voter concerns.
The mayor’s political people tried to rescue Musto from himself. The three-term incumbent had not built enough voter prestige to counter a change message galvanized by his killing of a legislative bill to enforce the City Charter prohibiting city employees from serving on the City Council. Decades ago, to avoid conflicts of interest, city voters declared in a charter change they don’t want city employees serving on the budget and legislative body. The arrangement cheats residents from checks and balances in government.
Musto’s main opposition to the bill, although he would not declare that publicly, was to protect political ally City Council President Tom McCarthy, a city employee. Even some organized labor unions took Musto’s side working against the bill. The collective bargaining contracts of their membership must be approved by the City Council and McCarthy, deputy director of Labor Relations.
To try to win passage, supporters of the bill offered a grandfather provision to safeguard current city employee councilors. They could still serve, but no city employees in the future. Musto also opposed that provision. He, like Black Rock councilor Sue Brannelly, is tone-deaf on the issue. It almost cost Brannelly her seat last year rescued only by the absentee ballot operation by Finch forces. She was defeated on the machines.
Musto’s political stubbornness provided an opening for Moore on the campaign trail and a small army of Musto constituents who urged him to support the government reform bill advanced by State Representatives Jack Hennessy and Auden Grogins to close a loophole in state law. Musto said sorry, better for me to embrace a political few than the constituent many.
That issue alone did not do him in, but Musto’s opposition to the reform bill provided a foundation for opponents to take him out. In the end, Musto’s job performance on a number of levels and his lack of campaign discipline and political pragmatism filleted him. That and a strong campaign by the Moore forces.
Where the mayor lost an ally in Musto, he gained in other areas legislatively. The man he put in charge of eradicating blight in the city, Chris Rosario won convincingly over State House incumbent Christina Ayala whose personal missteps provided Rosario with an opening to replace her. The real surprise of the race wasn’t Ayala’s loss, but that she finished a distant third behind city fire commissioner Dennis Bradley who campaigned hard.
Speaking of hard campaigners, Christina Ayala’s cousin, State Senator Andres Ayala had a much better night Tuesday. Andres Ayala has emerged as a relentless campaigner with growing political influence after winning his senate seat over Ernie Newton and Ed Gomes two years ago. Irrespective of a massive absentee ballot operation that produced 25 percent of his votes, Ayala won handily on the machines over City Librarian Scott Hughes. Andres Ayala and his political operatives took nothing for granted against Hughes. The former City Council president and State House member worked and walked his district thoroughly, staying connected to the voters who put him there in the first place.
The other gain for the mayor, although it is a wild card work in progress, was Andre Baker’s State house victory over Ernie Newton in the battle of East End voter bases. Not just anyone could step in there to take out Newton who’s worked the district for decades and has a following there despite his conviction on federal corruption charges 10 years ago that forced him from office. Baker, too, has built up his own prestige, first on the City Council, then as an elected member of the Board of Education. Baker, the soft-spoken, easy-going undertaker draws a naturally strong contrast to Newton’s flourish. When the self-proclaimed Moses of his peeps decided to seek his old State House seat, incumbent Don Clemons decided to retire. Bill Finch and Newton were once friends and even commuted on a regular basis together when they served in the state legislature. Things have changed from all those years ago. The search was on to find someone who could defeat Newton led by city employee Finch supporter Deborah Sims who engineered Baker’s campaign against Newton.
When Baker served on the City Council he could be an independent-thinking, stick-in-the-eye to the mayor. While Bob “Troll” Walsh was the vocal Finch critic during his days on the City Council, Baker was more the quiet assassin. Maybe it’s his undertaker’s training. Then last year Baker was part of a coalition of school board challengers opposed to education policies that spanked the mayor’s candidates in a primary. But something happened along the way. Baker’s school board support of the mayor’s initiative to build a new high school to replace Harding on environmentally challenged property owned by General Electric provided common ground. Baker’s East End constituents urged his support for a new school.
The Finch people looked around. Do we want Ernie back? Or do we want Baker? Even when Finch and Baker weren’t always talking, Finch’s deputy chief of staff Ruben Felipe and Baker could still talk.
Deb Sims and Felipe engineered the campaign. Baker put the work in. Baker won handily.
Will a bromance develop between Finch and Baker as he enters the State House next year? Baker says he’s not getting in bed with the mayor. Bridgeport politics can be a crazy business. Ya just never know.
I prefer Musto is Dusto.
I considered that! Ride Sally, ride …
Now that Musto is Justo Dusto, let’s elect a legislator we can Trusto.
Musto is a do-nothing quack. He thought job security was more important than the business of the people of the city of Bridgeport. We’ve been fucked over by City Council members who are also on the municipal payroll. State Representatives Jack Hennessy and Auden Grogins know how much the loophole affects city politics.
This may not be a clear referendum on Bill Finch’s stewardship of the city but it is a referendum nonetheless. Slowly but inexorably the political machine is losing its grip on the city’s political affairs.
I believe the perception of Bridgeport’s legislative delegation will change from a very negative perception to immediate credible and intelligently committed to public service, not self-service.
To have representation from Moore, Grogins, Baker and Ayala is a hell of a turnaround.
The jury is out on Rosario. He couldn’t be any worse than his predecessor. You never know though, he truly is a Finch follower.
And Hennessy gets high praise for his pioneering efforts to bring ethics to City Government.
David Walker is on the board as a player now. CW4BB needs to figure out where his talent and skills will go to Bridgeport’s benefit.
Possibly the best laugh I have had in days reading this.
Walker has been a player since he moved here.
It is usually win the primary and easily win the seat.
Not so fast, the ‘burbs have a Republican lawyer candidate who just might (probably) beat Moore.
This was clearly a moratorium on Bill Finch, Tom McCarthy and that ASSHAT City Attorney.
Musto rolled the dice on HB-5724, and his morbid disturbing Newtown statement.
Don’t let the door hit you in the ASS on the way out, Anthony.
Lennie, I appreciated the way you gave your interpretation of the results. Now that I am no longer the lone Musto supporter, I will support Moore and listen to the other candidate. Moore of course will have an edge because her sign will be on my front lawn and she is from Bridgeport. I am certain she knows Trumbull and Monroe need to be a strong focus. I am very pleased Ayala got another shot. Scott Hughes is a good man and I had many friends supporting him, however I could not say anything negative about Ayala himself. He has served Bridgeport well. I am happy Baker won and of course I am thrilled he was the Mayor’s choice. I am also glad Lennie, you did not see this as an anti-Finch vote for Musto. I obviously was wrong to believe the Mayor should have or could have delivered Musto a mere 200 votes. I am happy on behalf of all your bloggers who are supportive of Mayor Finch. Here I was thinking he was done. Thank you for reassuring us he will live to see another day and another major Steelepointe announcement. As for Marilyn Moore, she has an incredible personality and charisma and I am certain she is destined to make a name for herself and be her own star, unlike Musto who seemed to be an extra in somebody else’s movie. I wish Musto well. I supported him and voted for him, but it is not like he will go down in the history books as a great Senator. I thank him for his service like Ernie Newton. Now we look to the future. As for Rosario, I do not know him. If he supports Mayor Finch, that is a good thing. I wish him and all the candidates the best of luck.
Lennie, I’m in disagreement with you about the mayor. You wrote, “The mayor’s political people tried to rescue Musto from himself. The three-term incumbent had not built enough voter prestige to counter a change message galvanized by his killing of a legislative bill to enforce the City Charter prohibiting city employees from serving on the City Council.” Now what did Mayor Finch do to distance himself from that same legislative bill? Finch did the same thing as Musto, the mayor did nothing. That same bill took out some City Council members in the last election.
What Mayor Finch has waiting for him in the election for mayor is that legislative bill and more important was Mayor Finch’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Board Of Education and take away the voting rights of Bridgeport voters in voting for whom they wanted on the BOE plus the mayor asked and got help from the state.
Lennie, these are two of the biggest reasons that will take the mayor out just like Musto.
Ron, some of this depends on the mayor’s opposition next year. Will organized opposition that came together in Bridgeport against Musto develop against the mayor? If so, how well financed will the opposition be?
Ron, you’re no spring chicken! If Bill Finch were asked today if he supports HB-5724 he would be in the affirmative!
Until November 2015, that is.
I know you have been very busy this week, but more than one of us is waiting for your list of 300 property owners in Black Rock who have been provided a sweet deal on assessment-valuation and taxation. Can you provide a timeline for your report?
Secondly, let’s just go along with your hypothesis Bill Finch could be in favor of HB-5724, a most unusual intellectual leap, but OK, just for fun let’s consider what might happen especially if there was no grandfathering.
Would Tom McCarthy choose his City job or Council representation and Presidential elective responsibilities?
And if Tom chose the job, then what would happen when Denese Taylor-Moye, next in line of succession I believe, rose to Council Presidency? (At last night’s Education Committee of the City Council when Denese took the microphone, she was clear and firm about time limits on speakers and the hearing would have no give and take, as in question and answers. She said the Council members were there just for ‘listening’ and that left the audience wondering about the quality of that activity by Council members. Hats off to Trish Swain who signed up to be the final speaker and managed to summarize what she heard stated and to which she could agree merited attention and change. I would give her an A for ‘listening’ as well as an A for ‘effort’ to let the concerned public present know there is some ‘listening’ taking place.)
But what about the rest of the Council? Time will tell.
What say you Jim, or others? Time will tell.
JML, thanks for your concern. My Black Rock 300 list should be up and posted in a few weeks or sooner. It will be posted to all members in the group on Facebook.com, the group name is Only in Black Rock. So just join our group to be the first to see the Black Rock 300 list.
As soon as the list is checked and returned to me, I’ll post it!
Time will tell.
At this stage of his political career, Bill Finch will agree with the last person he speaks with on any subject! Hey, if the voters believed he was sending them a $600 rebate check and Bass Pro was still coming to Steel Pointe, then why not agree to HB-5724, at least until after he’s reelected. He sure doesn’t want to go down like Anthony Musto!
Jimfox, I agree but that was always the way he operated but he got bolder the longer he’s in office to the point he doesn’t care what anybody has to say.
Lennie, one other point and ask you about it, what has Mayor Finch done to make voters to turn out and vote for him?
The housing authority has not raised the rent in a long time. That should win over some number of voters in town. The DTC mobile will be cruising around, driving voters to the polls with complimentary donuts and mimosas. Then there are the AB’s.
Ron, scroll down to see the answer to your question. “Rediscover Pleasure Beach” is a likely example of the feel-good message. Finch’s campaign will likely put effort into making people forget about the board of education takeover in charter revision and his other failed political schemes.
Tom White, lol, now that’s funny, sad but true. Finch is not building trust with the voters and where he goes people get to listen to him and hear the lies he tells. Voters are seeing the mayor feels he knows better than the voters and he knows what is best for us without even talking to us.
Bet the house Musto runs against Herbst for Trumbull First Selectman next year. The last two Dems to run against Herbst were seat-fillers to avoid the embarrassment of letting Herbst run unopposed. Musto may be busto in Bridgeport, but he’s still popular in Trumbull … he’ll have a good shot at beating Herbst.
Judge Musto is the usual reward for ducking an election.
Jennifer Buchanan, sad but true.
With what Tom McCarthy had a stake? I don’t think he ducked. I think he lost.
Moore worked hard and has a well-deserved victory. I would argue Dusto Ducked Bridgeport, counted on Trumbull getting out to vote for him and Bridgeport not coming out to vote. On to Victory for Moore. And a you were a good soldier, here is your appointment to the former senator.
Light campaigning in Bridgeport plus ill-strategized reliance on an absentee operation in Bridgeport and gambling on turnout in Trumbull took Musto out.
I may grant you more factual knowledge than me about how things run in Trumbell. However, with some wisdom gleaned from following OIB I do know the incumbent usually has an advantage, and you have identified Herbst as the incumbent, but isn’t he running for a State Office? Are you saying he will not win?
Not only did Republican Herbst win over seat fillers, but the Democratic party in Trumbull must have no real candidates, just seat fillers as you have said, so where is the strong white knight to be found?
Since you ask me to bet my house it will be Musto, does he have any administrative or executive experience to support such a bid, indeed to win? Here in Bridgeport, Mayor Finch provides an excellent case study of what happens to a gregarious legislator who is routinely not held accountable for a myriad of daily responsibilities, finds himself on the hot seat 24/7 with tax issues, sewer audits, lowering costs and economic development, along with many other things. Does CEO Musto look like a better match of talents and temperament to serve the folks of Trumbull than Senator Musto? Time will tell.
Interesting points, John. Yes, Herbst is running for state treasurer. But the bloom is off the Herbst rose in Trumbull because of the sewer fiasco and his hand-picked choice for Board of Finance losing his seat last month. That said, Musto is still the only Dem in Trumbull with the popularity and resume to convince Republicans to vote for him.