Now that the State Elections Enforcement Commission has forwarded its findings alleging a conspiracy to commit voter fraud, investigators for Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane will review the information against Christina Ayala and her mother Democratic Registrar Sandi Ayala for possible criminal prosecution. Historically the elections commission reviews complaints of a civil nature and resolves them through settlements and fines. If commission investigators determine state law was violated the case is referred to the chief state’s attorney.
What’s the short-term fallout for the Ayalas? On Wednesday Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey stripped Christina Ayala of her committee assignments. He announced in a statement, “For an elected official, maintaining the public trust is paramount. The fact that this case has moved to a different level calls into question whether that trust has been breached.”
Christina’s brushes with the law over the last year, charged with fleeing the scene of an accident and separate domestic scrapes, have been misdemeanors in nature. Several of the allegations issued to the commission by SEEC investigating attorney Kevin Ahern and referred for review are felonies. More pressure will be placed on Christina Ayala to resign her State House seat if she’s charged criminally by the state. If circumstances allow her to press forward with reelection she’ll likely face a primary in just 10 months.
As for Sandi Ayala, the allegations contained in Ahern’s report appear to accuse her in the performance of her duties as Democratic registrar. Can she lean on the Bridgeport City Attorney’s Office for advise? Not likely because this is a criminal investigation. She’ll need a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Sandi Ayala is also an elected official who’s up for another two-year term next year. She has served in that role for 10 years. The registrar position is endorsed by the 90-member Democratic Town Committee. Opponents can forge a citywide primary. It’s how Ayala won the position. Bridgeport has both a Democratic and Republican registrar.
Christina Ayala represents Connecticut’s 128th Assembly District, map here, that covers the heart of the city’s heavily Hispanic East Side, the Hollow neighborhood, brushes up against the lower North End and a piece of the West End. Locally, candidate endorsement decisions involving Christina’s State House seat are mightiest among politicians controlling the city’s 136th and 137th Districts. Prior to Christina Ayala the State House seat was occupied by her cousin Andres Ayala, now a state senator.
Last year Christina’s father Tito Ayala joined forces with East Side District Leader Gil Hernandez to win a primary for control of the 137th political district over pols aligned with City Councilwoman Lydia Martinez. Potential district primaries would take place next March. So irrespective of what happens to Christina in the long term, political maneuvering for control of the political districts influencing the State House seat is already underway.