School Board Challenge Slate Shocks Endorsed Dems, Win All Three Seats; Several City Council Incumbents Toast

The Board of Education challenge slate on Tuesday upset three endorsed candidates in a Democratic primary running up large wins across the city that will change the makeup of the school board. Unofficial returns show challengers Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey winning convincingly throughout the city in Black Rock, North End, West Side and East End over the endorsed slate Kathryn Bukovsky, Simon Castillo and Brandon Clark. Machine totals overwhelmed the political establishment’s mighty absentee ballot operation.

Recent city elections with low turnout generally meant advantage Democratic establishment. This citywide primary cuts against the grain of well-financed Democratic endorsed candidates, aided by party regulars, winning. The convincing win by challengers indicates an undercurrent of voter anger across the city.

The challenge slate stitched together support from disaffected Democrats opposed to Mayor Bill Finch, education advocates, unions Bridgeport Education Association and Connecticut Education Association, as well as the Connecticut Working Families Party that has three of its members on the school board and parents dissatisfied with school changes under Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas whose future to lead the school district will be decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled, in a lawsuit brought by Bridgeport resident retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, that Vallas did not have the proper credentials to lead a Connecticut school district. The city has appealed the decision.

Political operatives on both sides were not necessarily surprised by the low turnout, but certainly shocked by the blowouts the challenge slate achieved across the city.

Operatives supporting the endorsed candidates had expected a close race on the machines with its vaunted absentee ballot operation the difference. The machine totals overwhelmed the endorsed slate’s absentee ballot count.

“People are upset with how the city’s being run,” said former State Senator Ernie Newton who supported the challenge slate. “People sent a message that we want a democracy not a dictatorship. We need a change. Today proved that this isn’t just about board of education, that people are sick and tired about how they are being treated in the city. If I was Finch I would reach out to as many folks as possible and say listen, we’re all in this together, what can I do to be a better mayor for this city. And you don’t have to work for the city to offer your opinion. This was a broad-based coalition of people that said enough is enough. Incumbents got beat tonight. It was a great day today.”

Newton added an effort was made to build upon the coalition that defeated last year’s charter question calling for a mayoral-appointed school board.

In addition, six Democratic incumbents on the City Council also appear to be casualties: John Olson and Evette Brantley in the West Side 132nd District losing to Bob Halstead and Trish Swain; Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney in North End 135th District losing to Mary McBride-Lee and Richard Salter and Angel DePara and Carlos Silva in the East Side 136th District losing to Richard DeJesus and Alfredo Castillo. In the East Side 137th District the race between incumbent Lydia Martinez and Milta Feliciano against ex-councilwoman Maria Valle running with Aidee Nieves was too close to call.

Both sides, backed by independent expenditures from education advocacy groups, dumped a ton of mail and pumped thousands of phone calls to serial Democratic primary voters. Activists for the challenge slate argued that our candidates are independent-minded and unencumbered by the party apparatus. That message won the day.

What was on the line? Future control of the school system and the largest chunk of the municipal budget. The endorsed slate needed two of three seats Tuesday to nearly assure a school board coalition sensitive to reforms implemented by Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. A clean sweep by the challenge slate opposed to Vallas now nearly assures coalition control of the school board with like-minded interests of the Working Families Party. Democrats aligned with Finch and Vallas currently control a 5-4 vote on most contentious issues. Democrats on Tuesday could vote for up to three of the six candidates. The top three vote producers now move on to the November general election as prohibitive favorites.

This victory for the challenge slate will change the makeup of the school board. The three Democratic primary winners have stated public opposition to Vallas. Even if the Connecticut Supreme Court overrules the lower court, how long will he remain with clearly a new makeup opposed to his policies? Control of the school board, however,  continues. The Working Families Party and Republican Party trying to regain viability will each field three candidates in November, joining the three Democrats for five open seats. The Working Families Party and Republicans will slug it out for the two seats reserved for state-mandated minority-party representation.

Democratic primary Board of Education unofficial results from select precincts:

Black Rock School:
Bukovsky 231
Castillo 176
Clark 195
Baker 248
Gardner 257
Hennessey 296

Winthrop School:
Bukovsky 95
Castillo 68
Clark 67
Baker 192
Gardner 201
Hennessey 202

Bukovsky 52
Castillo 60
Clark 58
Baker 98
Gardner 91
Hennessey 85

Bukovsky 67
Castillo 73
Clark 79
Baker 231
Gardner 216
Hennessey 212

Bukovsky 128
Castillo 168
Clark 135
Baker 165
Gardner 125
Hennessey 144

Hooker:Bukovsky 48
Castillo 56
Clark 49
Baker 208
Gardner 208
Hennessey 206

Bukovsky 41
Castillo 43
Clark 46
Baker 127
Gardner 124
Hennessey 120



  1. If this holds this is great news. And bad news for the mayor and all the corporate education privatizers. And real bad news for Moales and Vallas. Could it be the Flim-Flam Man will take his educational fraud show on the road again? What city is next? Sheboygan, Wisconsin? Fargo, North Dakota? Seems like the cities are getting smaller.

    1. If the absentees change anything, expect a court battle. These results are like the Charter revision. Around the beginning of October last year. I knew from my canvassing we were going to beat the Mayor on the Charter revision. A lot of people didn’t like the way he was screwing around with the Board of Ed. To everyone back home who worked on Line B if the results hold, CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done. Wish I could be there!

  2. An endorsement by Finch with the guidance of Thompson is evidently the kiss of death. Vallas, start making some plans and start packing. The number of rubber-stamping BOE members will be dwindling soon. See ya … leave the chromebooks and Smartboards, please.

    1. Three strikes … state takeover stopped, city takeover voted down, three handpicked minions out, too. Next it’s Bill and then it’s Dannel. Goodbye, sellout Dems.

  3. I salute every single person who worked for this amazing achievement. This is a significant harbinger of future Calamarian demise. Watchdogs like JML and others can savor this victory. Maybe someone out there is truly listening.

  4. Congratulations to all of tonight’s winners. I have just been informed all of CW4BB’s endorsed candidates won. Stay tuned for the general election. It’s a new day in Bridgeport!

  5. Congratulations Bridgeport!!!
    This is proof that together we can bring changes through voting. We united together and delivered a crushing defeat to these smug bastards. Let’s all stay united and finish the job we’ve started. Maybe it does take a village to raise a child.

  6. While the turnout was low and should have been higher, it appears Bridgeport now has a real chance to move forward into the 21st century. The BOE victory and the wins in the City Council races demonstrate a sea change has occurred in Bridgeport politics.

    We will now have a truly independent school board and a City Council that will not be a total rubber stamp for the mayor and the DTC. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to those Bpt voters who took the time to make Bridgeport a better place to live.

    I can’t remember an election victory I have been more pleased with and I am very thankful to have been able able to play a small part in bringing it about.

  7. And the question of the night is will Finch and his allies be adults and support the winners or will he act like he did when Lieberman lost the primary and not support the nominated Democratic candidates. My bet is the latter.

  8. Okay Lennie, I was wondering why a three-minute video took so long to download. This is video from the Red Rooster victory celebration by the candidates and friends. I meant to record three minutes, put away the camera without turning it off and it went on recording for about 30 minutes. It appears Bridgeport went head over heels for ROW B. Now let’s see and hear what was said if you can:

  9. *** Now it’s time to win a few more seats in Nov. so don’t get too comfortable there, you political activists. *** OFF TOPIC *** WHAT WERE YOU DOING THE MORNING OF 9/11 THERE, OIB? I was at the Bpt Flyer Diner on Fairfield Ave. having breakfast. *** NEVER FORGET! ***

  10. Although I am thrilled with the outcome, it’s not all good news. It appears Lydia’s absentee ballot scam got her in again. And who’s next to her at the victory party? None other than Senator Andres Ayala. How do you condone that behavior, Senator? Milta is tied with Maria Valle and we can hope against hope Maria pulls it off.

    dePara and Silva turned out to be the anti-Finch candidates. Even though they were endorsed, Finch put up the two businessmen to run against them. We can only hope deJesus and Castillo won’t be two more rubber stamps.

    One more observation. It was interesting yesterday to see the number of City employees at the schools handing out Line A literature. These same employees bitch about Finch all day and then they go back out there like good little soldiers. Never saw so many people with so little integrity.

    1. The Fixer,
      Lydia’s opponents should review the number of absentee ballots (AB). If they are higher than other districts, they should demand an independent and random audit of them. Lydia is not competent as a Council person. She is also a serial offender of the AB process. It’s time for truth, transparency and accountability.

    2. Fixer: The one thing of note in the 136th were the two council people from the 138th Marella and Paoletto who were working for the challenge slate. They definitely are the mayor’s piss boys, shame on them.
      Marella and Paoletto spent very little time at Hooker supporting the party candidates. The results at Hooker should give these two something to think about.

  11. There is lots of grumbling among the incumbents who got beat and pro-Finch folks, attributing the challenge wins last night to the anti-Finch vote.

    Well, guess what they call council candidates who win based on the anti-Finch vote?


  12. OIB probably helped a lot. Free speech has returned, we disagree sometimes, but we get a point of view and it helps us examine our own. Len, thanks for the site. JML and SA and the rest of you full of wind like myself, thanks.

  13. What I don’t quite understand is Gardner, Halstead and Baker are all John Gomes people, the celebration was at the Red Rooster Deli for the winners, Gomes’ wife Janet won the Parents election, but Gomes is very, very quiet.

  14. I just received the results of the detailed voting in the City Council race for District 137. The absentee ballots votes are dramatically different from the machine votes. Given Lydia’s serial violations of the election rules in the past, there should be an independent audit of absentee ballots to make sure the election laws were not violated and for the results of this race to have any credibility.

  15. Congratulations to a simple “NO” being given to establishment mind-games. I would like to think the steam for this has been gathering over several of the last general elections. Where the public has been getting at least a glimpse of the election fraud arm-twisting and hubris those working on campaigns see first hand. A big congrats to Bob Halstead who, more than most, has put his time in with true passion for Bridgeport, he deserves a comfortable seat in the lion’s den for awhile. I bet the vote today came in part from the under-served poorer working families that are simply trying to get an education for their children in Bridgeport.


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