Pick Your Horse! City Council Primaries In Full Gear

Four weeks from today, September 10, Democratic primaries in four City Council districts will take place. Do voters care? The candidates do, or they had better if they want to prevail. Primaries for the city’s budget/legislative body will run largely below the radar of the citywide Democratic battle royal for Board of Education seats that could determine the balance of power on the school board. Here’s a snapshot of the personalities and politics behind the council races. (Don’t despair, we’ll get into the candidates and issues in the coming weeks.)

In the West Side 132nd District, city activist Robert Halstead and newcomer Trish Swain will face incumbents John Olson and Evette Brantley. Halstead spent many years in city government working for several mayoral administrations in urban planning and overseeing the urban gardens program. He’s a sturdy policy wonk who years ago had a falling-out with his former South End roommate–now mayor–Bill Finch. Halstead’s an outsider running an anti-establishment campaign against incumbents who aren’t exactly establishment. Olson and Brantley are not on the city payroll. Olson, who replaced the long-time council curmudgeon Bob “Troll” Walsh following his retirement, has not lived up to Walsh’s legislative watchdog persona, but has picked up his game the last few months following revelations the city authorized a $400,000 payment to controversial developer Manny Moutinho to build a roadway to his Stratford waterfront mansion as part of an airport improvement project. Olson’s been an irritant of late to the Finch administration asking a whole lot of questions about the process.

In the North End 135th District, Rev. Mary McBride-Lee and Richard Salter will challenge incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney. Lee has tried taking them out before. What will be different this time? Blunt and Bonney, both city employees, are reliable votes for Mayor Bill Finch. Blunt works in the Health Department and Bonney at the municipally owned airport in Stratford. This district covers the Lake Forest and Whiskey Hill areas, including the Trumbull Gardens public-housing project. As City Council races go it’s a reliably party-endorsed district. What message will Lee craft to make a difference?

In the East Side 136th District Richard DeJesus and Alfredo Castillo are opposing incumbents Carlos Silva and Angel DePara. Former State Rep. Americo Santiago, a Bridgeport Housing Authority commissioner, is heading up the campaign operation for DeJesus and Castillo, part of Americo’s plan to insert himself more in heavily Hispanic districts. Americo staffed the 2010 Bridgeport headquarters during Dan Malloy’s winning race for governor and managed Andres Ayala’s 2012 state senate victory. His son Ezequiel Santiago occupies the State House seat he once served. If East Side City Councilwoman Lydia Martinez is the queen of absentee ballots, Americo certainly has elevated himself to AB royalty status as well. Silva and DePara have served this district for many years. This is their toughest test. DePara, with Black Rock councilwoman Sue Brannelly, is co-chair of the council’s Budget and Appropriations committee that reduced Finch’s proposed tax increase to under one mil. Silva and DePara must knock on a lot of doors in this serpentine district that runs from the East Side to the Hollow and covers a portion of the North End.

In the East Side 137th District incumbent Lydia Martinez and Milta Feliciano will take on endorsed ex-councilwoman Maria Valle running with Aidee Nieves. Oh my, this primary is gonna be a beauty. Lydia Martinez and Maria Valle have battled for years. Four years ago Martinez, the queen of absentee ballots, defeated Valle as a result of … well … absentee ballots. Valle and Nieves are members of the town committee that seized control of the district thus they have the endorsement. Both sides know their peeps. This district for sure will have a lot of absentee-ballot activity. Lydia is likely to win the absentee battle count. Can Valle and Nieves win enough of the machine count to offset Lydia’s absentee ballot number?



  1. On a side note since the 134th is not having activity.

    I wanted to acknowledge the Connecticut Free Shakespeare production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. Ellen Lieberman and the entire cast did an amazing job as they have for the past eight years I have had the pleasure of attending at Beardsley Park.
    This year the venue was McLevy Green downtown Bridgeport. The event for the last performance Sunday evening was packed. I thought it was brilliant having it downtown, though I always thought Beardsley Park was the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and play. Being a huge supporter of this great city and the current vibrant downtown with new restaurants, I found it extremely curious the city was negligent in making sure the thousands attending left with a perfect experience.

    The play was exceptional, as always. It seemed the city could have enhanced the experience by closing a few streets for three hours so during the play roughly idling motorcycles did not dominate the mood of the serenity of the play. A local restaurant across the street could have waited an hour to take down tents, as the sound of falling metal columns chimed for 20 minutes and finally a Fairfield restaurant had a food truck with a generator on for the duration of the play. These distractions did not take away from the talent and execution of the performers. These distractions did not have to happen at all. If the City is willing to host such a great cultural experience in our downtown with the hopes of drawing crowds there, it seems a little effort could go a long way. It was wonderful to see a great crowd Sunday evening downtown as well as I was told by many Saturday was as well attended. Personally, I always believed Beardsley Park and Gregg Dancho were not only perfect hosts, but the occasional distraction of a peacock was always a welcomed experience.

    Bringing the play downtown for the week could be a very smart strategic move. However, it would behoove the Mayor to ensure our guests from other communities want to come to downtown and patronize our restaurants, not a food truck from Fairfield. I still cannot figure that one out other than it being a gross insult to the local restaurants. I am sure Coyote Flaco has a friend in high places who doesn’t care about local eateries.

    To the entire cast of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, bravo and thank you for the many years of talent and creativity that Bridgeport needs. Looking forward to next year!

  2. With neighborhood stuff you never can tell if it will be interesting or not. You would think there would be more field fires in the districts. Maybe the opposition–if there is an opposition–hopes to build a better campaign portfolio if they leave things alone.

    The East Side could be fun. Someone is going to get hit by a train at Stillman and Helen streets. The only trouble is you won’t know until the “accident” happens.

    1. “You would think there would be more field fires in the districts.”

      Jim Callahan, even if there were a dozen “field fires” in each district, the great majority of voters wouldn’t pay attention. Some will simply roast marshmallows on the fire. It would be a different story if the voters were told their life savings was burning in the fires–we all know this is the case.

  3. I’d be interested in hearing from the candidates, especially the challengers, what the reaction is from the voters they meet on the hustings. I know when I was actively involved going door to door in support of a candidate or slate, many voters were about as knowledgeable or interested about the race as their front door. Dead wood.

  4. *** All the complaints, all the negative chatter, high taxes, below average schools, less quality city services, increase in crime & violence, lack of transparency of city government info, etc. just to name a few! Yet when it’s time to vote for change in general, for the hope of something better, citizens do not vote; WHY? *** ZOMBIE LOGIC ***

  5. The two key races to my eye are Black Rock, Torres & Blagys and Valle & Nieves in the 137th. To a lesser degree, in the 136th I would like to see dePara and Silva retain their seats.

    I really like the Black Rock Republican’s chances. This is a strong team and they are up against a newbie and a woman who has fallen from grace. It’s time, folks.

  6. *** I’m picking the 100-to-1 long shot “MOJO” to win, place & show them all, voters in the 131st district have had enough of the usual city government B/S! *** BETTING WINDOWS ARE OPEN ***


Leave a Reply