Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s self-deprecating sense of humor hasn’t gone over well with Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon’s campaign.
During a Friday jobs tour of Bridgeport by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, McMahon’s opponent in the race, Finch promised Murphy a big turnout from Bridgeport as the event broke up. “We may come in a couple days late,” Finch said, with a smile, “but you can be guaranteed you’re going to get the vote.”
McMahon campaign manager Corry Bliss fired off a blast. “Was this a joke?” he asked in an email. “Maybe. Finch’s remark drew knowing chuckles from Congressman Murphy and Democratic aides. But we believe voter fraud is no laughing matter. Especially after what happened in Bridgeport just two years ago.”
What happened in Bridgeport two years ago? The failure of the city’s Democratic registrar of voters to order enough ballots resulted in chaos — long lines of voters and the use of thousands of photocopied ballots. The results from Bridgeport did not get counted and certified for three days. In the meantime, the city was the butt of humor on television and other media.
In the end, Democrat Dannel P. Malloy got the votes he needed to vault into the governorship. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley didn’t challenge the results, but the Connecticut Post sponsored a recount by the League of Women Voters and other good-government groups of all the gubernatorial ballots cast in Bridgeport. The informal recount found that 1 in 4 photocopied ballots had been miscounted; the actual results would have meant a few hundred additional votes for — not against — Malloy.
Since then, election law has been changed to give the Secretary of the State’s Office the authority to intervene if it’s felt that local registrars in Bridgeport or anywhere else haven’t acquired sufficient numbers of ballots for an election.
Bliss is taking no chances. He announced Sunday that the McMahon campaign has hired attorney and former Republican State Party Chairman Herbert Shepardson to oversee Election Day monitoring activities. Shepardson will be prepared to respond immediately to any issues that may arise on Election Day and will oversee a team of election monitors with a goal that no voting irregularities take place, Bliss said.
Election law already provides a role for observers, so it’s unclear what Shepardson’s squadron of monitors will be doing over and above that.
Democrats enjoy an enormous registration edge in Bridgeport. In 2008, Obama pulled 33,976 votes in the city to John McCain’s 6,507. Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes got 17,544 votes in Bridgeport to 3,447 for Republican Dan Debicella. So if Finch can’t deliver a sizable margin of victory for Murphy it may indeed be cause for an investigation.