Oh, this could be so much fun. Jennifer Buchanan, supporter of Republican-endorsed City Council candidates Rick Torres and Phil Blagys, dropped off petitioning sheets Wednesday afternoon at the Town Clerk’s Office with signatures of registered voters from Black Rock seeking another line for the candidates’ names to appear in the November general election. This isn’t just any line. It’s for the Connecticut Working Families Party traditionally aligned with pro-labor, pro-minimum-wage-increase Democrats. Torres, two-time mayoral candidate, is proud of his small-government conservative credentials sometimes contrary to WFP values. Could this be a defining pragmatic moment for both WFP and Torres?
What gives? Both sides have a common enemy–Bridgeport’s Democratic establishment–and see an opportunity to win City Council seats against Democratic incumbents Sue Brannelly and Steven Stafstrom.
The WFP has elected three of its candidates to the nine-member Board of Education since 2009, but has not yet ventured into City Council races. The political party has made its mark in Connecticut elections pushing left of center from moderate Democrats and leveraging its mantra as “an independent party that stands up for hard working every day families across Connecticut–not the Wall Street banks, the lobbyists and the CEOs.” In some cases it has forced candidates to gravitate to positions aligned with the WFP because the extra line can bring extra votes. Example, in 2010 Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley received more votes on the Republican line than Dan Malloy netted on the Democratic line. Malloy won the governorship when the 26,000 votes he received running on the WFP line were added to his column. Some political operatives maintain most of those WFP votes would be Malloy’s under any circumstances but there’s a school of thought about one percent of the electorate cannot stand to vote for either major party so the WFP becomes a viable line for them.
In close races it could matter. Torres is well-liked in Black Rock, where his Harborview Market serves as the mothership of community activists, and has proven so at the ballot box, but prone to candor about national social issues that can focus away from nuts and bolts issues so key in a local race. Blagys, whose roots in the neighborhood can transcend politics, provides a nice complement to Torres. More on the Blagys impact here.
A WFP endorsement of Torres could help his standing with some working-class constituents in Black Rock. In return, a Torres/Blagys win provides the WFP credibility in council races.
Campaign operatives for the community action group Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport were instrumental in trying to broker a WFP endorsement for Torres and Blagys.
This endorsement is not a done deal. Irrespective of submitting signatures to qualify for the WFP line, the party “still must endorse any candidate wishing to appear on our line,” according to communications director Taylor Leake. “The process starts with the candidates filling out the questionnaire, and then the State Committee decides which candidates have earned our endorsement. Candidates cannot just petition their way onto our line, the party must vote to endorse them.”
Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, has influence over endorsements. She is weighing questionnaire responses submitted by Torres and Blagys. An endorsement decision is expected within a few days. WFP municipal candidate questionnaire here.
WFP website here.