When To Attack A Campaign Opponent

Mayor Bill Finch’s reelection operatives dropped more campaign attacks on Democratic primary opponent Mary-Jane Foster the past few days questioning in a mail piece her effectiveness as owner of the Bridgeport Bluefish and a lit drop in African American neighborhoods claiming she’s really a Republican. Foster’s husband Jack McGregor was a lifelong Republican before switching a few months ago to a Dem to vote for his wife. Foster herself has strong Democratic credentials.

This campaign warfare is intriguing because my Finch friends say we’re way ahead in the polls, no problem, we have this in the bag. Really? An experienced campaign team is not going to unload on an opponent if they’re in fact way ahead, would they? To do otherwise is sorta like taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito … if you hit it. But what if you don’t hit it? You risk the mosquito coming back around to collect its pint of blood.

When an incumbent is comfortably ahead you don’t gain additional margins by going negative, you gain by rising above the fray, running on your record, making folks feel good about the future of the city, giving them an incentive to reelect you. You go negative when you’re behind or when it’s close. Unless you let your ego get ahead of the correct strategy.

One of two things is going on here. The Finch campaign is floating fibs about its polling and needs to place a dent in Foster. Or two, political handlers seek retribution for Foster’s negatives against Finch, damn the potential consequences of turning off your own supporters. Nothing of substance happens in the Finch campaign unless Finch’s chief strategist Adam Wood signs off.  If he wants to attack, they attack. If he wants to play nice, they play nice. Bill Finch is the most powerful man in Bridgeport city government. Wood, as his chief of staff and closest adviser, is second.

The Foster campaign has made an issue of Wood being a key player at the center of its elections complaint claiming Finch has an improper financial relationship with a political action committee controlled by Finch friend and campaign contributor Bill Beccaro who has inexplicably propped up his octogenarian parents as officers of the PAC. The Foster camp has dubiously included Wood’s wife in news releases and allegations about Finch and associates receiving improper reimbursements and payments. The State Election Enforcement Commission is examining whether the allegations have merit. Bringing wives into a complaint, unless they are directly involved public officials, adds personal nitro to the mix. It’s human nature to want to respond, if not challenging the allegation directly, through a counterstrike. Wood and Foster’s campaign manager Jason Bartlett don’t appear to like one another. They served as co-chairs of Hillary Clinton’s presidential operation in Connecticut. Barack Obama won the Connecticut primary.

Do attacks stick? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Wood was a campaign strategist for Ned Lamont’s failed gubernatorial campaign last year. Lamont dropped a negative hit on Dan Malloy claiming Malloy improperly received home improvements from city contractors when he was mayor of Stamford. Lamont ran with it even though the case was vetted years ago by state law enforcement officials who cleared Malloy of any wrongdoing. Just because a poll shows a negative attack could move voters doesn’t mean it will definitely work. It depends how it’s presented.

The fact is Finch shouldn’t even have a race. He has all the advantages of incumbency: boatloads of money, support from the political payroll and most of the Democratic political organization including chairman Mario Testa and his extensive, if dubious, absentee ballot operation.

One thing’s for sure, the next two weeks leading up to primary day September 27 promises more charges and countercharges.



  1. Of course Mayor Finch is vulnerable. The mayor has governed through a lousy economy and has few, if any, wins.

    OIB polling shows him around 40 percent consistently. The voters are uneasy if nothing else.

    The question, to me, is whether the administration has tanked budgets. He says he hasn’t. Foster is challenging him on that, among other things. I trust NO Bridgeport mayors on budgets–let’s be clear on that. They made believers out of me years ago. Whether Bridgeport Democratic Party voters feel that way is another matter.

    Finch’s advantage is incumbency and committee support. Most challengers do not reach the bar needed to develop a city-wide political organization in this community. You need money for mailings, foot soldiers, and what-else to get your message out.

    Foster must match the organizational standard of the Democratic committee and surpass it. Then the four points or so she is off in polling does not matter. She’s right there. Enthusiasm, while encouraging, is not the same as political organization.

    I’m sure the mayor’s own polling shows he is vulnerable at some level. Maybe the Finch people feel the level is rising.

    It is reasonable for the Finch campaign to take measures to counteract Foster, forcefully. What is “reasonable” is open to question. By observation, Finch is not opposed to playing rough. He tries to come off as the aggrieved party, and is very good at it. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to whack a long-neck beer bottle over someone’s skull.

    Hey, Simon Lake made a submarine or two in town. You usually need a deep-sea submersible to find the bottom in Bridgeport politics. It’s tradition.

  2. There is very little doubt Finch and Company are hearing and feeling the footsteps of MJF.
    Finch has not done very well in any of the debates. Finch has really nothing to show for his last three years in office, everything he points to was started or finished under his favorite toady John Fabrizi.
    Finch still has not closed the deal on the new high school with Trumbull. They have refused to deal with him.
    Finch claims a balanced budget with a $151K surplus; what bullshit, he fails to mention the $30 million he has not paid to Pension plan A for the past two years.
    Finch claims success with the BOE. He started undermining them back in December and it culminated in his unseating the elected BOE who by the way were a 6 to 3 majority in Finch’s favor.
    The list goes on and on. Finch is dropping daily in the polls and at this point I would think MJF has drawn even or slightly ahead. We will win on the 27th and Bridgeport will finally head in the right direction after having had two bad mayors.

          1. city hall smoker // Sep 12, 2011 at 9:06 am
            To your posting

            Lieberman ONCE had a track record to be proud of when he was a state senator/senate majority leader, but that was back in the Ella Grasso days when a strong woman’s leadership was at the helm for our State. Finch cannot even claim a Senate record that isn’t riddled with political chicanery … with Adam Wood by his side.
            So when Lieberman tanked and became a radical conservative, he sent a clear message to Connecticut voters that only rich hedge fund players were on his favored list. So much for Lieberman, so much for Finch, with his favorite hedge fund person Mandell.
            Got the picture?

  3. I wonder what the Finch add says in the black community that says MJF is really a Republican? Before I even looked into Mary-Jane Foster some people were telling me she is a Republican. In a Democratic city having anything to do with the Republican party is not a good thing and if Finch is giving out flyers saying MJF and husband supported McCain and Palin over Obama, that can be very dangerous ground for Foster. She needs to make it clear she is a Democrat and do not let these lies she is a Republican hurt her chance of being mayor because I have heard numerous Democrats both black and white tell me she is a Republican which I know is a flat-out lie!!!

    1. donj: MJF has been a registered Democrat for years and years. Her husband has been a Republican for years. He donated money to Palin, big deal.
      I always vote for the candidate regardless of party. The problem today is if the Dems put up Rootie Kazootie people would vote for him no matter what. This is why we are so screwed up, we are voting party not the most qualified candidate.
      Finch and Company are desperate and will resort to anything. Finch’s campaign has been one big lie.

      1. I’m still pretty sure the Palin thing is false. He has donated to many right-wing Republicans, but I’m fairly certain the Palin contribution was fabricated. Happy to see evidence to the contrary.

    2. If you know it’s a lie, don’t you think others do? Dignifying this ridiculousness with a response calls more attention to it than the original rumor, which by the way, has not made its way into my neck of the woods. Preposterous, really.

  4. Mary-Jane Foster a Republican? Bill Finch’s policies and management style resembles those of George W. Bush. Finch claims the City of Bridgeport is on a sound financial footing and poised for major developments. Bush claimed Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    When the smoke cleared in Iraq, there was no such weapons; Saddam and his regime arrested and executed. When the smoke clears after this race, regardless of who wins, the feds will eventually come in and inquire about the mass thievery of city funds; instead of looking into ‘rockets’ they will look into the rackets; instead of looking for Saddam, they will look for all the Ben Franklins. Who sounds more like the Republican here?

  5. Finch is dialing voters who have been IDed as Foster votes and pulling his best Eddie Haskell routine. “Hello Mrs. Cleaver! Is there something I did or should do that will change your vote to me? Some of these tele-Cons have gone on for over 20 minutes in length. If you are up by 25 you go into the old 4-Corner Stall and run out the clock.

    Mario is dialing for more AB’s from his paisans working the North End.

    Wood, Finch and spouses are knee deep in this PAC shit with Beccaro. In fact they are probably up to their eyes in it.
    It appears Beccaro et al. were running a “Straw Operation” that may also include charges of elder abuse, money laundering, mail fraud, forgery and significant IRS issues. Paging the FBI???

    Finally it appears when you look at Finch’s three biggest lies. The check is in the mail! We have a $150k surplus but I don’t have to follow the Charter for financial reporting only follow the Charter when it comes to Mary-Jane Foster comes under the heading of “I Love You!” The
    third biggest lie will drop this week under the guise of “Lights!” “Action!” And all of a sudden Derecktor will yell “Cut!” and sail out of town. If you know what the three biggest lies are then you know the third will speak for itself. It’s time for the Bridgeport Voters to Spit the Bit and vote for Foster!

  6. Since we are talking about Republicans let’s not forget about Stewart McKinney and Chris Shays, both were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as moderate Republicans from the 4th congressional district. Blacks in Bridgeport had no problem voting for those two Republicans.

  7. Finch needs to go back to school. A Charter School!

    Speaking of lies, Marie Hoffman Heller was correct in calling Mary-Jane a liar about Larry Osborne using a city car. Problem is Mr. Osborne has been using Board of Ed cars swiped from the Nutrition Center. And whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch or a free car in Bridgeport?

  8. Lennie there is a lot of good stuff in this but it’s a mash-up. You might be right, but that would be more likely under normal circumstances. One big thing that isn’t business as usual is the court challenge to the–predictable–11th-hour game-changing technicality. Another is this guy Bartlett. He’s not the usual weak sister, whatever his limitations and baggage. And Foster herself isn’t another of the usual cast of malcontents. And they’ve dinged Finch pretty good with that PAC stuff. It might be personal, but not necessarily. It’s a primary. Turnout will be low, normally. 15% of not much to start with isn’t a lot of votes. Might not take much if people think Finch is in play. Why take the chance? The bigger and more unforgivable mistake would be complacency. This is the election, not November. Shouldn’t they leave the magazine empty?

  9. Finchites are getting out the words; true or not, they are getting them out.
    No one goes to the debates, you want the best debater, it was Gomes by far.
    No undecided voters are reading OIB or Finch would be sending releases out on here.
    Time for M-J to kick it up and pound the streets, people at this late date still don’t know who she is and the primary date has changed.

    This is where Tito and Ernie work their areas and prove they can pull in their people. Gomes gotta hit the Hollow hard.
    Work the streets and get a big turnout or the sad city employees fearing for their jobs and the loser DTCers will be the only ones showing up on the 27th.

  10. What upsets me the most is in less than four years Finch has made so many enemies among people who used to be friends. I am not the most politically smart person but I know it is easy to have enemies; but people who were once your friends, political donors and supporters? What must a person be like to make so many of his friends turn against him? I know he doesn’t like women in his administration. Ms. Hadley, Ms. Mount, Ms. Bakalar, Ms. Kaufman, Ms. Harriman, Ms. Curry, Ms. Moore, and Ms. Mary-Jane Foster herself either worked for him or supported him. I know there are probably more but those are the ones I could find. These are all fine, smart woman who work hard and support Bridgeport. I don’t know anyone who ever said anything nice about Adam Wood. From what I hear from my friend in Bridgeport, they are all scared of him and the Mayor. They feel if they don’t support him or if they like Mary-Jane they will get fired. They feel like the City is run by a dictator. Maybe Finch isn’t guilty of everything they say but if even half of it is true then why and how could Bridgeport elect this man and his henchman again! Also with all his attacks on the Bluefish I think he is making more enemies. People love the Bluefish and are happy they are there. They don’t care about accounting, we just know we go there to have fun and the team is something to be proud of. When Ms. Foster brought this team here she brought, jobs, fun and something the City could be proud of. How dare Mr. Finch try to insult her and the team. What has he done as Mayor to put people back to work or say hey this ____ whatever makes me proud? Please get all your friends and everyone who ever enjoyed a Bluefish game to go out and vote for Mary-Jane Foster.

  11. In terms of not leaving anything in the magazine, I’m sorta with Bunny there. What they are firing, and what they are caught firing, is of interest, however.

    One screw-up, incumbent-wise, is having the court challenge last long enough for the judge to add two weeks to the primary. Many challenge campaigns have a difficult time getting their act together. The extra time may be helpful to the Foster people.

  12. Finch’s Penny Loafer Gang is the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight! They are misfiring on all cylinders. I’m sure happy they never used Bill’s Gun-Locks we heard about for all those years along with his barge container shipload of crap while he was in the senate representing bucolic Trumbull.

    He’s a Counterfeit Bill!

  13. Four douche bags, Bill “village idiot” Finch, Marie “you have a big mouth” Hoffman Heller, Larry “over my head” Osborne and Brian “I wish I had a brain” Rooney.


  15. Negative ads are a real drag. Walking in the Beardsley Park area today to remind the residents of the Derail the Jail fiasco a while back. Ogh the people remember well and were disgusted with a negative piece they just received from Bill Finch. Only a week after she is put back on the ballot they attempted to destroy her three years with the Bluefish. People love the ballpark. Not to mention the little kids, many from impoverished neighborhoods. If the Arena and Harbor Yard were not the anchor downtown how many millions of dollars would have been lost by the city? No need for any restaurants that continue to struggle. Mary-Jane Foster had vision and investors who were willing to invest in Bridgeport. I know the majority of people, especially those who have supported that venture are excited it had come to fruition. Her money is a belief and commitment to this city. The ad Finch sent out is pathetic. Keep them coming. You are turning off voters–one by one, two by two. And they told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on.


    Dear Friends of Beardsley Park, Nob Hill and Eastwood Condominiums,

    Remember Mayor Finch knew of the Jail Proposal for one year in advance, yet he was the last to come out in opposition.
    We must remember we had the support of our Councilmen Richard Paoletto and Bob Curwen, as well as Senator Musto and State Rep. Chris Caruso. Unified, we fought the potential degeneration of the Beardsley Park and Treeland neighborhoods. “NOB HILL ACADEMY,” a fancy name for a jail facility in our residential neighborhood.

    We must remember Mayor Bill Finch had known of this proposal a year in advance and decided to jump on the bandwagon months after we, the residents, made it clear this was a totally inappropriate form of Economic Development. Ironically the BRBC remained silent, as though this kind of facility could enhance Bridgeport’s already poor image to developers, not to mention affect all property values in an already depressed market.

    Mayor Finch displayed his lack of leadership and concern for our neighborhood. Imagine, a Jail with park views in a lovely Bridgeport residential neighborhood across the street from the only Zoo in the state of Connecticut.

    I am asking you to join me in supporting Mary-Jane Foster for Mayor this September 27th.
    Please note the change of the Primary date due to the lawsuit against the city. The City lost its attempt to keep Mary-Jane Foster from running for Mayor. An abuse of power and a gross waste of taxpayer dollars. People deserve a choice! Thank the courts for siding with the people.

    I am supporting Mary-Jane Foster because Bridgeport deserves better. A leader with vision and determination. I believe with Mary-Jane Foster, Bridgeport will enter a new era without the corruption that has plagued this city for decades.

    Steven L. Auerbach

    Paid for By Steven L. Auerbach, former Nob Hill resident for 17 years and a very active member in the Derail the Jail Campaign.

    1. That letter has been delivered to over 1100 area residents in the Nob Hill area. I did 600 yesterday and 500 today. Was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I am sure quite a few Finch supporters called about the letter crying. Of course I was not just passing out this letter!!! I am waiting to drop the bomb in the North End where I now reside. The North End has other issues, even more intense than the Jail by Beardsley Park on Virginia Ave. I spoke to so many people today and it gets pretty exciting. Was at Madison School today, word on the street is Mary-Jane Foster needs more lawn signs. On my way home today I saw a few Finch paid walkers wearing their sharp black tee-shirts and yellow writing. I just had to stop and have a chat. They are working so hard and impressing so many voters–NOT!!!

  17. chs: I think Steve is working today so I will answer Yes, we hand-delivered that paper yesterday to the area you asked about. chs, what do you think about Derecktor Shipyard moving out of Bpt by Friday this week?

  18. Let’s get back to a point Lennie made:
    “Nothing of substance happens in the Finch campaign unless Finch’s chief strategist Adam Wood signs off. If he wants to attack, they attack. If he wants to play nice, they play nice. Bill Finch is the most powerful man in Bridgeport city government. Wood, as his chief of staff and closest adviser, is second.”

    Um … last time I checked, Wood is paid with taxpayer dollars and there’s a paid campaign manager. Is Wood working on the campaign during City Hall hours? Shouldn’t he have taken a leave of absence like he did for Lamont’s campaign? What are the chances he’s working less time on this campaign than he did for Lamont? Seems to me that’s something to look into as well … and why is it Finch’s City Hall communications director is the one prepping the mayor before debates … (She was huddled up with him at the N. End library.) Isn’t she on the City payroll too? Where’s the campaign manager and campaign press person? Amazing … these guys are just breaking the law, abusing their power left and right. Why isn’t the CT Post looking into any of this?

  19. You have read it here before, but perhaps forgotten, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
    Keila Torres’ article yesterday shined the spotlight on Mayor Finch and his facile recitation of what he considers facts: something about not having provided monthly budget reports to Council and public for 30 years. She went to John Fabrizi for his recollections and he supported Mayor Finch, but Mayor Ganim did not. I have talked to former Council persons during the past 10 years and Ganim’s memory is the one supported.

    Then Finch goes on to talk about how the Charter posted on the City web site has been “passed by convention.” Translating that is to say a Mayor in the past 10 years found it CONVENIENT to miss the monthly deadline on one or more occasions, let the City Council know quarterly would be the way of the future, and that steadfast “check and balance” group replied, “No Problem, Mayor, we don’t need to review the paperwork monthly anyhow. Besides, we trust you.”

    So convenience was the Mother of “passed by convention” until somebody raises the fact in three years you have made no attempt to get Charter change. So if the Mayor drives on I-95 at 68 miles per hour, or 73 miles per hour, he is over the speed limit in either case and may be arrested and penalized. Convention would observe many people are driving above the posted speed limit but they are at risk to be called on their wrongful and in that case illegal behavior.

    You know, when Finch came to the office four years ago, you could go to a lender to borrow money for real estate, with no job, no assets, no income and qualify. The lender did the deal and passed the risk on to someone else and ultimately the US taxpayer has a big chunk of that toxic stuff. In the same way the Mayor has moved his OPM budget along and handled the debt and liabilities for the City in similar fashion. If you fail to report, who can call you on it? Pretty neat, until the music stops, and when you scramble for a solid chair, the facts are not there to support you. Time will tell.


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