The banner affixed the window of Maria Pereira’s Upper East Side campaign headquarters says it all: “Absolutely not for sale–EVER!” Reaching deep into Bridgeport’s rich political history that includes a showman named Barnum and a mayoral Socialist named McLevy, it’s hard to find a figure who elicits in such a short time as much passion as the self-styled piranha of city politics. There’s really no gray when it comes to Pereira. Some bravo her as an independent-minded champion jabbing a stick in the eye of the political establishment, others brand her as an insufferable zealot who cannot maintain relationships. Whatever the opinion, Pereira pushes on, her latest quest seeking to upset State House incumbent Charlie Stallworth, a staffer of Mayor Joe Ganim, in an August Democratic primary.
One thing’s for sure also, there’s not a harder-working campaigner in city politics. Nor anyone who spends more time homeworking her personal passion, data-mining education in Connecticut’s largest city. One day after Stallworth received the Democratic endorsement for another two-year term Pereira, a member of the Board of Education, was in her inviting East Main Street headquarters at the corner of Ohio Avenue poised to hit the pavement over the weekend to secure the more than 400 Democratic signatures required to challenge the city minister in an August primary. A map of the geographically schizoid 126th Assembly District that runs from the Upper East Side across the city to the North End fills a wall. A walking piece castigating the incumbent’s legislative truancy teases what’s to come on the campaign trail.
And judging by Stallworth’s public remarks he’s preparing to mix it up with the outspoken Pereira.
“Hartford, like any branch of government, cannot be encumbered with petty fights, uncontrollable rages of anger, and a disrespect of other person’s opinions,” Stallworth wrote in a letter to Democratic Town Committee members.
Gee, whom could he be talking about?
Pereira critics challenge her temperament and she makes no apology about her passion, especially when it comes to politicians she says have broken their word and ignore the city’s more than 20,000 public school students.
She got involved in elected politics in 2009 after her daughter endured a revolving door of teachers. Pereira, so unknown, became a candidate for school board running on the Working Families Party line and upset the Republican candidates (with Sauda Baraka) for the state-required minority-party seats.
It didn’t take long for her to become a noisy advocate for education issues, an early mentor retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who schooled her in combining issues with passionate arguments to make a point.
She has carved out a base of support in the high-turnout Hooker School precinct in the Upper East Side. Last summer she supported Joe Ganim for mayor and Hooker was among the precincts that delivered mighty pluralities for Ganim over incumbent Bill Finch. Pereira ran for school board on Ganim’s primary line, with a razor-thin recount win, on her way to a general election victory.
But in a short time she had a falling-out with Ganim, she says, because he did not live up to his word about education promises.
Pereira decided to dig deeper into city politics. In March, she formed a slate of Democrats to challenge a slate of party regulars–supported by the mayor and Town Chair Mario Testa–for control of the Upper East Side 138th Town Committee District. Her slate won all nine seats.
She is now targeting Stallworth asserting him much too cozy with charter school advocates she says siphon needed money from traditional school districts.
Pereira is not alone in her quest. She possesses a posse of education advocates, establishment fighters and even a few veteran pols backing her run. She already has raised enough dough to make application to qualify for money under the state’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races.
She also is realistic about what’s to come her way. The political establishment, including the mayor and Testa, do not want her in the State House. A ferocious battle looms.
And she seems to enjoy it. Bring it on.
I’m supporting Maria all the way, win or lose. Although I have (had) a nice association with Charlie Stallworth, I can’t ignore the fact he’s too cozy with Mario Testa, and is occupying a job title that should be held by an experienced professional. While many lavish her with criticism, I suggest they get to know her and what she stands for; if her delivery seems a bit harsh, it’s probably because she has good reason. I knew her for a short time when I witnessed her commitment to this administration, only to be kicked to the curb before the election was over. This is after delivering a formidable win in her home district, and raising thousands of dollars. I admire her for getting out before she was used any longer. She’s genuine, honest, smart, and not afraid to work ’til she drops, which is never. I’m bringing experienced individuals with me, and for what it’s worth we have been doing this since Maria was a toddler, don’t anyone doubt the effectiveness of lessons learned in “the day.” We’re not focusing on winning or losing, but we will help her get her message out and share our experience with her. Mario Testa started this, and I have a feeling Maria will finish it.
Dear Lord, please remind Pastor Stallworth first he has to show up in the State House, then vote, then cash the check. Who does he think he is, Boise Kimber?
I thought I was the only former New Haven resident here who remembers the nightmare called Kimber.
Lisa, I don’t think anyone would disagree with your characterizations of Maria. Even though I don’t know her personally my observations of her are based on her posts on OIB. That being said, she appears to be vindictive, stubborn, acrimonious and has a my way or the highway attitude. You know very well as a seasoned politician, those attributes will not serve her or the city of Bridgeport well in Hartford. You know very well she can’t be single-minded in her agenda in Hartford where all her energies are spent advocating against charter schools to the detriment of Bridgeport.
Chairman Mao when he first came into power in China said I kill my enemies. He went on the say if you are not with me you are against me and if you are against you are my enemy. Sounds a lot like Maria, doesn’t it?
On this we disagree!!! In this City the only time you’re heard or respected is when you break out of the “nice box” and do what you feel is right for everyone. If her delivery is the only criticism you can come up with, I think you should search your memory for the many unfair practices that were endured until courageous individuals got out of the “nice box.”
Lisa, on this one I agree with Donald. In writing and getting laws passed you have to have the ability to bring others together to get things done. It’s not my way or the highway, you’re looking to form relationships and to build And not destroy. I’ve met Maria one time at a Firebird cookout and she was introduce to me by my good friend Judge Carmen Lopez and only because of Judge Lopez I voted for Maria. Now Maria acts like Ted Cruz instead of Judge Lopez. Cruz is smart but nobody he works with in the U.S. Senate likes him. I still love you, Lisa.
Ron, you know how I feel about you, and because of you I will soften my position and agree Maria needs to work on the art of diplomacy. I know that will come with time, but you’re right, along with passion and the belief of what you hope to accomplish, comes patience with others and a thicker skin. They go hand in hand to being successful. I always hear you, and respect what you say.
In writing and getting laws passed, you have to have the ability to SHOW UP!
Lisa, as you know, in six years Stallworth has only submitted seven bills. None received a public hearing and none have become law. He has missed voting on over 250 bills in his first five years and has missed up to 63% of his committee meetings.
To put this in perspective, Chris Caruso submitted 110 Bills his first six years with over half receiving a public hearing and over half becoming law.
Stallworth is an absentee legislator, period.
I have lived in the 126th District his entire six years in office and he has never held a forum to hear from his constituents nor has he so much as attended an event in T Hooker.
No one should defend this abysmal record. No one.
As I spoke to voters exiting his voting precinct on the day of the presidential primary, only one voter was able to correctly identify him as our state rep while I stood outside his school from 6:30 am until 7:00 pm. Just one voter knew who he was and he lives and votes in the Park City Magnet School.
Go, Rev Stallworth.
Maria, that’s a message you have to get out to the voters. Build on your positives and his negatives. It’s all about how the voters feel and who they decide they want to represent them. I suggested to you that you keep blinders on and focus only on your goal. You have been effective in the past so just keep doing what you do.
Here is Maria doing what she complained about Andre Baker doing, she is running for a second elective office. Why is it alright for Maria to run for a second office and not for Andre? Maria for the most part has not really accomplished much on the BOE where her claim to fame is yelling and stopping meetings. Where has she been on the dropout rate that is 68%? Where has she been on the new way to grade truants as part-time students? If you are listed to attend a certain school and don’t attend you are listed as part time.
Sending Maria and her loud mouth and pushy attitude will do more harm than good for Bridgeport.
If Rev. Stallworth missed 250 votes then what were those votes about, where they for bills that could help Bridgeport, were they roll call votes and how important were those votes? What record does Maria have with building a coalition to support her in getting something passed? Is she a team player to get things passed and can she make others who don’t agree with her on one issue then to be able to get those same state reps to support her on something else? There ais no “I” in the word team and that’s what’s needed to get things passed in Hartford.
Charles Stallworth is so effective at building coalitions and so respected by his colleagues he hasn’t had a single piece of legislation become law in CT in six years. Not one.
I just leave that bit of information right here.
That’s not the question I asked. One doesn’t have to pass anything in order to be respected if you have the ability to get others to join and support legislation.
Team Maria for me. Go get ’em!
Well what have you proposed while on the BOE? What changes have happened? How many coalitions have you built? I made a mistake earlier, if you win you will have three elected offices, Town Committee, BOE and state senator. Which two are you giving up?
State Representative, not State Senate.
Thanks for correcting my present error, I guess I was thinking ahead.