Monday, September 17, 2007

Bridgeport Pols Kiss And Do Not Tell

In Bridgeport, it’s all over but for the kissing.

Challenges to Bill Finch, who won the Bridgeport mayoralty primary against corruption crusader state Rep. Chris Caruso, are fast disappearing.

Former Mayor John M. Fabrizi, who indicated he might enter the mayoralty race as a third party candidate should Caruso win the primary, has agreed to settle comfortably into obscurity now that Finch has prevailed over Caruso. And pictures printed in The Connecticut Post show House Speaker James Amann sharing the dais with Caruso after Casuso had been dished by Finch; Caruso, as usual, looks earnestly out at the audience, while Amann stands to his left wearing a Mona Lisa smile. Another photo shows Finch, his left arm wrapped around his wife, punching the air in a victory salute, while Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams smiles and applauds in the background.

It seems odd to find Amann in Caruso’s corner and Williams in Finch’s. Amann was widely criticized by the left wing of his party for having supported renegade Democrat Joe Lieberman, who challenged party endorsed senatorial candidate Ned Lamont in a general election in which Lieberman, with strong support from Republicans, dished Lamont, who has since popped up here and there, in and out of state, supporting left leaning Democrats. Amann is generally regarded by moderates in his party as a fiscal conservative. If pictures really are worth a thousand words, what do these two shots mean?

There are small clouds hovering over the joy fest. During the Bridgeport primary, Caruso, as expected, let loose upon Finch his anti-corruption blunderbuss; Finch, ever the gentleman, did not return fire when the two engaged in debate but is still picking buckshot out of his hide. While it seems unlikely that Caruso would challenge Finch in a general election, he has alerted the authorities that party corruption may have leached into the primary.

“Caruso is considering challenging the outcome in court,” according to the Connecticut Post, which notes that “baring any unforeseen developments like a court order overturning the primary results,” the general election will be crowded with independent and third-party candidates.

Hartford presents a similar tableau, according to the Waterbury Republican American: There, Mayor Eddie Perez, tainted by charges of corruption, won a decisive primary victory, but some of his challengers are considering running against Perez in the general election. In both Bridgeport and Hartford, it is widely supposed that federal investigators are foraging in the corruption debris, and no one, this side of J. Edgar Hoover’s shade, knows what they might already have found.

In the meantime, citizens of Hartford and Bridgeport may not even know the names of the Republican candidates vying for mayor -- so weak is the Republican Party in Connecticut’s cities.

In days gone by, when the parties had funds enough to support candidates, some party money might have been diverted to clean Republican candidates in Bridgeport and Hartford. The money and party support might not have made a difference in cities where Democrats far outnumber Republicans, but an attempt certainly would have been made by Republicans to push forward a plan that would prevent the criminalization of the cities, a dumping ground for ex-cons newly out and on their way back to prison. And some effort would have been make to hold Democrats in the city responsible for the collapse of public education.

That is no longer the case because the influence exerted by parties has been considerably reduced by reforms that prevent funds from flowing anonymously into party coffers. While parties are poor, incumbent politicians have become rich, both in money and influence. Also, gerrymandering has carved out spheres of influence that assign cities to Democrats.

Hartford and Bridgeport await a Republican candidate who can marshal meager forces to wage a forceful campaign against the predations of city politicians. But the smiles and nods and genuflections of Amann and Williams suggests that that day is not yet upon us.

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