OIB Rewind: Will Malloy Critic Maria Pereira, Bridgeport Working Families Party Chair, Make Nice For His Reelection?

This OIB story first published Oct. 25, 2013

: Outgoing Board of Education member Maria Pereira, elected as a member of the Connecticut Working Families Party, has been a lightning rod since her win in 2009, even accusing local Democrats of a “plantation” mentality. (See video.) In 2012 she confronted Governor Dan Malloy in a testy exchange during the governor’s first road trip to promote his education reform package. Pereira was one of three elected board members who voted against state control of city schools.

Highly critical of Malloy’s education reform agenda, Pereira’s now chief of the Bridgeport WFP with a lot on the line for Malloy’s presumed reelection campaign next year. In 2010 Tom Foley had more votes on the Republican line than Malloy on the Democratic line. Votes added from the WFP line placed Malloy over the top. Can Pereira reverse herself as a Malloy critic and campaign hard for him assuming the WFP endorses Malloy next year? What happens in Bridgeport could determine Malloy’s reelection.

Last year in Hartford Pereira challenged Malloy during a forum to promote his education agenda that includes teacher accountability standards.

“On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned your administration’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education,” Pereira chastised Malloy, “and I want to know if your plans to reform our schools are all about disenfranchising parents in schools all over the state like you’re attempting to do in Bridgeport?”

Malloy’s retort: “How happy are you with the Bridgeport schools?”

In the summer of 2011, the city’s school board threw in the towel, dissolved itself and asked the state to take control of the beleaguered school system. The state board of education accepted the task and appointed a board to set policy for city schools. Opponents challenged the decision in court. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the city and state failed to follow the correct procedure for state control. Maria Pereira, vehemently opposed to state control, was a passionate critic of Malloy while waiting to be reseated as an elected member of the school board.

Pereira earned her hard-working campaign stripes in 2009 with her victory (with Sauda Baraka) running on the WFP line, stunning Republicans for two state-required minority party slots on the school board. Pereira said she got involved because of a dysfunctional school system that subjected her child to a variety of teachers for the same class. Last year John Bagley became the third victorious WFP-aligned candidate in an effort for coalition control of the nine-member school board. On September 10 the WFP backed the three victorious Democratic challengers to the party establishment. Come November 5th, the WFP hopes to reach its goal to set policy for the largest school district in Connecticut running its own slate of candidates.

Backed heavily by union money, the WFP is a splinter group of the Democratic Party upset with the party’s centrist movement. See their website ct-workingfamilies.org.

The WFP has become a relevant voice in some state and local elections highlighting messages appealing to disaffected working class Democrats and unaffiliated voters such as increasing minimum wage, paid sick days, taxing the wealthy, affordable healthcare and rejecting privatization of local schools.

Pereira’s time on the school board has been marked by a series of heated exchanges with school board members she opposed as well as Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, a national school reformer, brought in following state control of schools. She has even branded the city’s political establishment for a “plantation” mentality. (See video above.)

Pereira decided not to seek election to another four-year term. Some political observers say Pereira tired of school board battles while others maintain her confrontational style created liability on the campaign front at a time the WFP is so close to winning school board control. Diplomacy is not exactly Pereira’s strength.

Why would the WFP place Pereira in a key role with so much at stake for Malloy’s reelection? Is the WFP unhappy with Malloy? Is this a way to send a message, don’t take us for granted?

Taylor Leake, WFP communications director, says “There’s no politician we agree with on everything. That said, Working Families Party has been proud to stand with Governor Malloy on a range of issues from paid sick days to organizing rights.”

Check out this video in which Maria Pereira gives City Attorney Mark Anastasi a tongue-lashing.



  1. *** The Malloy people could care less about the WFP and Ms. Pereira’s point of view on just about anything, no? It seems to me even though the WFP represents another type of Democratic choice, bottom line is they’re still Democrats! And if the rest of the WFP is anything like the members who have been sitting on the Bpt BOE for the past few years being nothing more than obstructionists instead of having a better way or ideas that would improve the board in general as well as the educational school system, then this political party is headed nowhere fast! The Republicans however, should they start working more like a team instead of individuals seem to have a few good quality members who unlike the tea party type could help make Bpt city government “better!” Now this is coming from someone who views himself now as an “independant party Democrat” or IPD. *** GO FIGURE! ***

    1. How has your “independent” efforts gone? Did you forget about the 2008 State Rep. results? I spent like $7 and ran as a Republican and still took you by a few miles. I’m sure you haven’t figured out that one. But you are right about Republicans needing to step up to the plate as far as Bridgeport goes. They put up candidates who are weak to start with; candidates are pretty much left to fend for themselves; if or when they lose, they disappear from the political and social scene; they don’t cross-endorse; they don’t recruit, register and educate people; they don’t recruit people who are bilingual Spanish/English nor make an effort to learn a second language. It’s a one-Machine system and Working Family Party has been a part of that Machine.

      In the press release from WFP, they maintain WFP supports candidates whether they’re Republicans or Democrats. Did they reach out to Enrique Torres and Phil Blagys, Larcheveque, etc?

      Paging John Slater. Not one single local Republican I know is a millionaire or rich. WFP attacks millionaires yet supports the millionaires running and serving office as Democrats. Malloy isn’t just a millionaire, he has been giving away our tax dollars to millionaires. I’m not even close to being middle class, but I’m trying hard and have aspirations of being a millionaire or middle class like many of the poor I know. So really what’s wrong with being rich? Doesn’t WFP want to be rich with political influence and power?

      1. Both Rick and Phil completed and submitted the WFP endorsement paperwork. WFP did not find the candidates’ answers to align with their party platform. The WFP had their own BOE slate, as did the Dems. WFP would not have any reason to cross endorse the R candidates. I am not on the RTC. Dave Walker and I walked door-to-door to gather signatures for the WFP to have a row on the city council line in the event WFP endorsed Rick and Phil. CW4BB did endorse WFP-endorsed candidate Andre Baker. Ron, I am home organizing fundraisers for Walker for CT. Dave is on the campaign trail attending RTC meetings, fundraisers and speaking in DC at a conference today.

      2. Joel–If my recall serves me right, you were a Republican a short while ago, why didn’t they elevate you to the status of recruiter in the Latino community? I wonder why.

    2. I agree, Mojo–there are about 4500 registered Republicans in Bridgeport. If the RTC would focus on engaging their base, getting out the vote and supporting their candidates, they could actually win elections. I spent more time in other districts with Democrats supporting R BOE candidates last fall than anyone from the RTC. With low voter turnout on the D side, the R could win with an organized and targeted message to the R base.

  2. Malloy knows the people in the Park City will vote Democratic. They pull the lever like they are told to do, then get screwed for four more years. The citizens should think like they are pulling the gallows lever and guess who are the victims, THEM!!!

  3. “Diplomacy is not exactly Pereira’s strength.”

    Lennie, can you tell us who has been diplomatically strong? Is holding people’s jobs over their heads a sign of diplomacy? The opposition as a group has been able to derail the Machine’s plan. It took quite a bit of diplomacy on the part of each and every one of us to do this. We didn’t do it by intimidating people, promising jobs or threatening to eliminate certain jobs. Is what takes place behind the scenes in the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee diplomacy? During these diplomatic negotiations in the DTC, have you ever heard people yell when dozens are talking at the same time? Do you think Moales and the old majority of the BOE would have done things differently if Pereira or Baraka would have just sat there looking pretty and respectful? Kindness gets you a long way, in Bridgeport politics it’s taken as a sign of weakness.

  4. What about the kids? Can we get back in the sandbox and get re-introduced? If not a do-over, how about a fresh start with that youngster who is in Pre-K and has a dozen years to make a mark towards a future of choices and lifetime learning? Who will have that child’s back, philosophically, socially, fiscally, as “family” with patient lessons? Time will tell.


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