Lau­retti to run for mayor of Bridge­port?

Shel­ton’s top elected of­fi­cial ru­mored to be con­sid­er­ing bid for Park City post

Connecticut Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Mayko and Brian Lock­hart

SHEL­TON — He took the an­nual Colum­bus Day Pa­rade away from Bridge­port Mayor Joe Ganim.

So does Shel­ton Mayor Mark Lau­retti, a Repub­li­can, want Demo­crat Ganim’s job, as well?

It sounds un­likely, but Lau­retti, a sea­soned politi­cian, was happy to keep peo­ple spec­u­lat­ing Thurs­day.

“I have a good base in Bridge­port,” Lau­retti said, re­spond­ing to a sud­den spurt of ru­mors over 24 hours that he was eye­ing that City Hall over the bor­der. “At this stage of the game, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Lau­retti, who has chalked up 14 two-year terms as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Shel­ton, added, “I’ve al­ways said Bridge­port is a city of a lot of po­ten­tial un­der the right lead­er­ship.”

The Shel­ton mayor said if he did run for that job in Bridge­port — af­ter mov­ing to the city, ob­vi­ously — “I don’t think it’d be as a Repub­li­can. Prob­a­bly un­af­fil­i­ated.”

Like Lau­retti’s term in Shel­ton, Ganim’s term in Bridge­port is up for voter scru­tiny in Novem­ber 2019.

Lau­retti is not ex­actly a stranger to Con­necti­cut’s largest city. He taught and coached bas­ket­ball at Cen­tral High School, was a Bar­num Fes­ti­val ringmaster and a co-grand mar­shal of the 2016 June­teenth Pa­rade mark­ing the abo­li­tion of slav­ery.

“Me, a white Ital­ian from Shel­ton,” Lau­retti said.

In 2017, Lau­retti was the grand mar­shal of Bridge­port’s 109th Colum­bus Day Pa­rade. He re­cently agreed

to host this week’s 110th an­nual pa­rade in Shel­ton be­cause of a dis­pute be­tween or­ga­niz­ers and the Ganim ad­min­is­tra­tion over the cost of po­lice over­time.

Lau­retti said that when he has walked Bridge­port pa­rade routes, peo­ple come off the side­walks to shake his hand and wish him well.

“That’s flat­ter­ing,” he said. “It’s a recog­ni­tion of what we’ve been able to ac­com­plish in Shel­ton.”

Given the Bridge­port GOP’s ane­mic reg­is­tra­tion num­bers com­pared with the Demo­cratic party’s, Lau­retti might have a bet­ter shot of un­seat­ing Ganim as an un­af­fil­i­ated con­tender.

But Bridge­port Repub­li­can Chair­man Mike Gar­rett said af­ter speak­ing briefly with Lau­retti Thurs­day that the lo­cal GOP would em­brace some­one with the Shel­ton mayor’s track record. Asked if there were any Bridge­port Repub­li­cans con­sid­er­ing tak­ing on Ganim, Gar­rett ad­mit­ted, “I don’t have names I can give you presently.”

Lau­retti would likely be crit­i­cized as a carpetbagger. But Ganim, Bridge­port’s mayor from 1991 un­til 2003, was liv­ing in Eas­ton when he de­cided to mount a suc­cess­ful 2015 comeback for his old job. He rented a Bridge­port apart­ment and won.

Ganim did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment for this story.

The Mi­das Touch

Lau­retti’s state­ments Thurs­day brought dis­be­lief from Shel­ton Repub­li­cans and snick­ers from its Democrats.

“I’m speech­less,” said Dave Gioiello, Shel­ton’s Demo­cratic Town Chair­man, while un­suc­cess­fully at­tempt­ing to re­press laugh­ter.

John Anglace, a long­time Repub­li­can and Lau­retti sup­porter, be­lieves Lau­retti’s spec­u­la­tion to­ward Bridge­port’s top spot is just “rhetoric.”

“He’s done a great job here but he still has his hands full,” Anglace said. “Our peo­ple wouldn’t want him to leave.”

One Shel­ton Repub­li­can leader and Lau­retti sup­porter was shocked.

“Every­thing he touches turns to gold,” said the Repub­li­can, who asked not to be named. “Look at the Colum­bus Day Pa­rade he brought here from Bridge­port. It filled the streets.”

And cost less than it would have in Bridge­port, ac­cord­ing to Lau­retti.

Lau­retti has cer­tainly in­di­cated he is grow­ing rest­less run­ning Shel­ton. He un­suc­cess­fully tried to run for gov­er­nor this year, but failed to ob­tain enough con­ven­tion votes or pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures to par­tic­i­pate in Au­gust’s GOP pri­mary.

He then tried to seek the In­de­pen­dent Party’s en­dorse­ment and lost that. The third party in­stead cross-en­dorsed Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Bob Ste­fanowski.

Ganim sought the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for gov­er­nor, los­ing that party’s pri­mary to Ned La­mont.

State Rep. Jason Per­illo, a Repub­li­can who some see as Shel­ton’s fu­ture mayor, com­mended Lau­retti for the job he has done over the past 27 years.

Per­illo, whose grand­fa­ther Vin­cent Tisi was Shel­ton’s mayor, said if Lau­retti stepped aside, “I’m sure there’d be a lot of good Repub­li­can can­di­dates ready to step for­ward.”


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