Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Dems dominate, but voters have other options
BRIDGEPORT — With 42,408 out of Bridgeport’s 69,359 voters registered as Democrats, most local politicians and observers considered the Sept. 14 Democratic primaries the main electoral event.
But joining the 20 Democratic candidates — 16 incumbents, some of whom survived primary challenges, plus four new faces — in this week’s general election are Republicans, third party nominees and a half-dozen official write-in contenders for voters to back.
There are 10 council districts with two members each, so the two top votegetters in each neighborhood will win Tuesday.
The Bridgeport GOP has matched their Democratic counterparts candidate for candidate, but Republican Chairman Anthony Minutolo admitted this week maybe just six or seven are “actively campaigning.”
There are 4,482 registered Republicans in Bridgeport.
Minutolo said the town committee is helping its serious council candidates as much as possible with money and advertising. Minutolo, who took over that role in March, spoke optimistically about the GOP’s chances and about a potential “pathway to victory” for a few wannabe council members if they win over some of Bridgeport’s 21,908 unaffiliated voters.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot are five council candidates backed by the Working Families Party, four with the New Movement Party and two members of the Independent Party.
Of those minor parties, the Working Families is not always but often aligned with Democrats, acknowledged Roger Senserrich, the Families’ statewide spokesman. So, for example, three of its five Bridgeport council candidates are also on the ballot as Democrats.
But given Democrats dominate Bridgeport politics, here the Families plays more the role of reformers trying to shake-up the status quo.
And yet there are only five registered Working Families Party members in the city.
“We only have five ... because in the Democratic primary you need to be a registered Democrat,” Senserrich explained. “People that support us, we ask them that they register as Democrats” to vote in the primaries.
The New Movement organization was started by late Democratic activist Charlie Coviello, who mounted four failed bids for mayor and passed away in 2019.
Two of its members are involved in the crowded 138th Council District battle featuring eight candidates who — the Democrats included — consider themselves as independent of that party’s town committee: incumbent Maria Pereira and her running mate, Michele Small; Republicans Victor Jones and Jose Quiroga; Independent Party nominees Odalis Inoa and Frank Appleby, Sr.; and New Movement’s Michaela BarrBrant and Tony Barr.
Lastly voters can also support six write-in candidates who have formally registered their campaigns with the Secretary of the State. According to that agency, Bridgeport will have the most write-in candidates of any municipality Tuesday.
It is not impossible for a write-in to win. One of the most famous examples in Connecticut in recent history is Michael Jarjura, who won reelection in 2005 as Waterbury’s mayor. On the other hand, after losing the close 2019 Democratic mayoral primary to Ganim, Moore campaigned as a write-in and lost that November’s general election to the incumbent.
Of the six write-ins running in Bridgeport, perhaps Eneida Martinez is the most high profile. Martinez is a sitting East End council member who lost the Democratic primary to Wanda Simmons, in part because of her arrest last year on charges related to allegations she ran an illegal club — Keystone — where Nyair Nixon, 21, was fatally shot Sept. 27, 2020.
Martinez two weeks ago launched a write-in bid in the wake of Simmons’ public opposition to the coronavirus vaccines despite having recently been hospitalized with COVID-19.
That East End race is a crowded one, with incumbent Ernie Newton and Simmons the Democrats going against Republicans Jasmin Sanchez and Anne Marie Verrilli.
Simmons and Victoria Majewski are also appearing on the Working Families ballot line, and not just Martinez but Devon Brown is running a write-in campaign.
Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said voters interested in supporting a write-in candidate will find a space for that at the bottom of Tuesday’s ballot.
“What the voter would do is fill in the oval for whichever office they want to vote for someone who is a writein, then write the name,” he said. Because of the limited space next to the oval, Rosenberg said the candidate name can be printed near it.
“The underlying principal to all of this is that if the voter makes it clear who they’re voting for, then the vote should count,” Rosenberg said.