Bridgeport – Summer is coming to Bridgeport, where the living never is easy, not in even-number years, not for Sens. Edwin A. Gomes and Marilyn Moore.
On the day after the Democratic machine denied Gomes and Moore its backing for another term, Mayor Joseph P. Ganim lavishly praised them at a public ceremony Tuesday, taking care to stop short of an endorsement. No stranger to the urban dance, Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, impassively watched Ganim say nothing and everything.
“As you know, anybody who covers urban politics, primaries are pretty much, you know, a normal process. So I’m sure we’ll get through the primaries,” said Ganim, who unseated Mayor Bill Finch in a three-way primary last year. “The one thing is, when you do your job well, as the members of this delegation have, they have records to run on, positive records.”
But Ganim, whose political career improbably resumed a dozen years after he resigned to begin a seven-year sentence for corruption in a federal prison, where he could talk urban renewal with another former New England mayor, Buddy Cianci of Providence, was not about to stumble into the briar patch of someone else’s primary.
“So, whether or not we get involved personally in primaries or not, I think is yet to be determined. It’s kind of inside baseball, local politics,” Ganim said. “But if you want to know, you also have – from what I heard last night, and I wasn’t at the convention, at least the Senate primaries – you have elected officials running against elected officials. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Gomes and Moore, neither a stranger to primaries, stood two paces away, listening to a mayor neither legislator supported last year.
“It sounded like neutrality,” Gomes said.
“I think it’s open. It’s open to interpretation,” Moore said. “I’m comfortable.”
The setting was the mayor’s conference room, where the agenda was a celebration of a good legislative session for Connecticut’s largest city in a difficult year. Looney and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, dropped by to show support for Gomes, Moore and the rest of the delegation.
The General Assembly passed a bill restructuring the city’s pension debt, saving $5 million in each of the next two years. It also boosted state aid by $7 million and retained scarce earmarks for the local institutions, the Beardsley Zoo and the Discovery and Barnum museums.
The University of Bridgeport, an important employer, won legislation modernizing the licensing for the naturopathic physicians it trains at the only such school on the East Coast. Other bills streamlined the process for offering new programs on campus and online.
Mary-Jane Foster, the school’s vice president, said the city delegation worked together to win passage of bills vital to the university. Foster, herself a politician who is friends with Gomes and Moore, all but delivered a plea for their re-election.
“In 25 years, I have never seen a delegation like this,” said Foster, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor last year. “It is an extraordinary delegation. They are smart and talented. They’ve worked incredibly hard, and they always pull together for the greater good. So please, we all owe them a huge note of thanks.”
Gomes, who supported Foster over Ganim, but preferred Ganim over Finch, said the delegation and city hall worked as one.
“We did a lot of good work. It was refreshing. Let me tell you something, years ago, it didn’t go like that,” Gomes said.
His audience laughed.
Losing the Democratic endorsements was no surprise. Gomes and Moore are political outsiders of a sort, candidates who won with the backing of progressives from the city and beyond. They are favorites of organizations like the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and the Working Families Party
Gomes was first elected to the Senate in 2005, winning a special election to succeed Ernest Newtown, who resigned after a bribery conviction. He lost a Democratic primary in 2012, then won a special election in February 2015 on the Working Families line.
The Democratic endorsement in Moore’s 22nd District, which includes all of Trumbull and portions of Bridgeport and Monroe, went to Tom McCarthy, the president of the city council. According to the news site Only in Bridgeport, McCarthy was nominated by Anthony Musto of Trumbull, the senator Moore defeated in a primary two years ago.
The Democratic endorsement in Gomes’ 23rd District, which covers two-thirds of Bridgeport and a slice of Stratford, went to Dennis Bradley, the chairman of the Board of Education.
Ganim is not seen as close to McCarthy or Bradley, which could produce mixed feelings in the mayor. A win would bump McCarthy and Bradley up the political ladder, but also open crucial seats on the council and school board that Ganim could see go to allies.
Looney said there was nothing new in seeing legislators praised for their work, yet fail to win an endorsement for re-election, especially in a city where the primary often is the real election.
“I think it sort of comes under the heading of no one is a prophet in his own country,” Looney said. “They both have done extraordinarily good work during the session. I think they have great records to run on.”