Roll The Fight Tape! The Night Dems Mario Testa And Mike Rizzitelli Duked It Out At Party Convention

Do we have a special video for you. We’re a few weeks away from a Democratic Town Committee convention to endorse school board candidates. Channeling back 24 years, it certainly was a wild and crazy Thursday night July 27, 1989 inside the Days Hotel on Lafayette Boulevard, jammed with 500 pols, for the Democratic Town Committee endorsement for mayor and other offices. Mayor Tom Bucci was endorsed for another two-year term but in November was turned away by voters for Republican Mary Moran as the city’s first female chief executive. But on this night that was beside the point. What’s all the hullabaloo in the video? Democrats in the city’s 133rd District were fighting for control following the death of long-time District Leader Paul Macciocca. Committee members elected former State Rep. Mario Testa, (yes, the same Mario Testa now party chairman) Bucci’s cousin, as the new leader over the objections of crusty committeeman the late Mike Rizzitelli who’d been fighting Mario for years.

Rizzi claimed the vote was illegal. Mario told him he was full of crap. Rizzi was your classic smoke-filled-room operative who’d fight anyone, anyplace even at age 66.

Community activist Cecil Young, for our historic-preservation benefit, served as videographer for the evening. An examination of the video above, now digitized on YouTube courtesy of OIB webmaster Ray Fusci for the world to see, shows a 29-year-old Joe Ganim, a candidate for mayor, leaning against the wall. Chris Caruso, then a city councilman, managed Ganim’s race for mayor. Democratic Town Committee Chairman the late John Guman is running the meeting. Sitting next to him is a young Carmen Lopez, then an organizational Democrat, who filed the recent lawsuit that led to Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordering Superintendent of School Paul Vallas off the job, now under appeal. Sitting next to Lopez was then State Comptroller Eddie Caldwell.

Rizzi-Mario fight
Jim Callahan's award-winning photo. Far left is party chairman the late John Guman who appears to be enjoying it all. Mario Testa has a lock on Mike Rizzitelli's nose. Rizzi's fingers gouge Mario's eye. Committeemen Raul Laffitte and David Fischer break up the battle royal.

In the far background is media row including me when I served as publisher of the community weekly newspaper The Bridgeport Light, and current OIB correspondents John Gilmore, then political reporter for the Bridgeport Post, predecessor to the CT Post, and Jim Callahan, cigar in mouth, then editor of The Bridgeport Light, who snapped the classic photo we described in a screaming headline “DUKIN’ DEMS”. If you look closely at the video Callahan grabs his camera and the two combatants miraculously fall into his clicks.

Rizzi’s the guy standing up, pointing his finger, calling Mario a liar. You see Mario bark back, sip from a glass, sit down and then react when Rizzi challenges him to step outside. As the fight breaks out the video camera is dropped to the floor. Cecil decided he wanted to help break up the fight. You’ll see political operatives Raul Laffitte and David Fischer swarm in to break up the battle.

After the fight and ensuing chaos, Bucci ordered the bar at the back of the room closed. Order was restored and Bucci was endorsed. He’d be challenged in a primary by Ganim, State Rep. Jackie Cocco, State Rep. Bob Keeley, 1983 Democratic mayoral nominee Charlie Tisdale and former City Clerk Lenny Crone. Bucci was facing a cranky electorate unnerved by tax increases and a state bailout sought by the mayor more than a year earlier when the budget blew up. Bucci’s challengers split up the anti-vote, allowing Bucci to survive the primary for the general election won by Moran. Cocco finished second in the primary and Ganim a surprising third ahead of Tisdale, the first African American nominated for mayor by a major party in the city, who saw his voter base gravitate to Bucci. Two years later Ganim defeated Moran in the general election.

(Footnote: I’ve been in possession of the tape from the event for more than 20 years, recently digitized by OIB webmaster Ray Fusci for your enjoyment. Cecil Young, at Bucci’s request, turned the tape over for safekeeping. Bucci gifted it to me shortly after. We have about 45 minutes of tape from the event now digitized which we plan on producing in shorter YouTube segments to preserve some of our illustrious political legends.)



  1. The great thing about politics in those days was a man’s word was his bond. If a promise was made you could take it to the bank! As with most things today, when traditional family values started to decay pretty much the same thing happened to our political parties.

        1. Hector, my family values are questionable to you? Could you explain why you think that so I can publicly reduce you to the pathetic piece of SCUM you are?

        2. I did not resent your comment. I said it made absolutely no sense regarding the article. You have been listening to Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

          1. Steve, someone pointed out traditional family values could have something to do with sexual orientation? I had no idea, as sexual orientation means nothing to me. I would figure from your anger that is why you are mad. What I meant was lying, cheating and not being able to keep your word. You don’t know me and if you did you would know I am not the one to be insulting unless you can really back up your words, which I highly doubt. Now I will again apologize to the gay and lesbian community if my comment about traditional family values was misinterpreted to you, little Steve Auerbach I would slap the sh&t out of you like I would any man for what you said hopefully we could run into each other soon … oh and about what you called me, YOUR SISTER!

          2. Publicly or privately, makes no difference to me. We can get real Bridgeport about this. I am not one to judge anyone.

          3. It would seem you are the one who listens to the people you mentioned, you are the one saying hateful things and you should be the one who gets what he deserves just as all those mentioned have except maybe Bachmann. Your childhood must have been rough for you to feel comments like mine are sexually motivated, get a hold of yourself, everybody isn’t worrying about that. You seem to be the PATHETIC PIECE OF UNWANTED SCUM, and I wipe my shoe of you. How’s that?

          4. Hector. I DID NOT BRING UP sexual orientation. But Hector, I do know you. I stand by what I said and look forward to your endorsement for the board of Ed. Be a man, Hector. I AM IN THE BOOK AND YOU KNOW MY ADDRESS. Personally, I cannot be certain if anyone in the gay community was at all insulted by your family values comment. That would assume they DIDN’T have any. Again, my comment to you was originally asking what it had to do with the article.

          5. Your sister? I called you my sister? Hector you need to sober up on this blog. You come across as ignorant and foolish. You sir are no sister of mine. Lolololololol.

          6. Steven,
            It was an insult that went over your head. It is an Hispanic equivalent of saying “yo mama.”

  2. Lennie,
    Thank you so much for the addition of digitized tapes of such sophisticated political documents. As I spoke to the City Council last night at their only July meeting, there was one police officer in the back of the room and another sitting at the greeter’s booth in the hall. (There were no fights at City Hall last night.)
    But as is reflected on the small booth set on one side of the Council Chamber, within the gated area with the patch of the Bridgeport Police Department identification, I wondered why no one was sitting there? Haven’t the “physical disturbances” or “potential altercations” occurred inside of the gates (where the video can pick them up) and not outside where guests listen? Are these officers on overtime when they sit through a five-hour session like last night at 1.5 times base pay? Some nights there have been three. (I guess I was overlooking the fact the Police Department HQ is a half-block away, and response time can always be a problem.) Time will tell.


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