For years Bridgeport’s Democratic leaders have had it easy.
Sure, there’s infighting. But life’s a lot easier when there’s no opposing party to worry about.
And try as they might, Bridgeport’s Republicans have not played a major role in governing for decades. They’ve been relegated to appointed positions on various commissions.
But this year the Democrats are anxious about another group – the Working Families Party.
Though Working Families can be counted on to back Democrats in some statewide races, such as the 2012 contests for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, in Bridgeport members elected to the school board are causing Mayor Bill Finch headaches.
They typically don’t have the votes to actually block the Finch administration’s initiatives, but they certainly like to debate the Democrat-majority. And that has resulted in the kind of heated meetings that arise when one party isn’t used to having to defend its decisions.
Between votes at Monday’s city Democratic nominating convention for council and school board candidates, both Finch and Democratic Chairman Mario Testa – who hosted the affair at his Italian restaurant – urged unity heading into the fall.
Finch – who has not always backed Testa – Monday called him, “The greatest town chairman.” Finch also said Testa has had to suffer some unfair shots in public over the years. The mayor didn’t give examples, but could have been referring to continued questions about whether Testa actually calls Bridgeport home.
“Nobody’s taken more bumps than Mario,” Finch said.
The mayor continued, “We can do anything when we stay together as a party … The only thing that could ever foul us up is if we start fighting.”
It was Testa who, in brief comments following Finch, specifically targeted the Working Families Party.
“My main concern is not the Republican Party. It’s the Working Families Party,” Testa said, adding he has fought with state Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo of Trumbull over accepting cross-endorsements from the Working Families.
“They’re going to come after us with everything (they) have,” Testa said.
Yes, there may be some Democratic primaries for council and school board later this summer, Testa said. But, he warned other party leaders, heading into November’s general elections Bridgeport Democrats must pull together.