Politics has taken center stage once again in the Park City, thanks to State Rep. Chris Caruso’s appointment to the state economic development office. (Just because politics is the talk of the town, doesn’t mean people will actually vote, but that’s a story for another day.)
Caruso’s resignation opens up a seat in the 126th District, which comprises much of the city’s North End and Upper East Side, and has attracted eight candidates eyeing the coveted state position, which will be up for grabs on Feb. 22. The race is shaping up to be a free-for-all with a host of different personalities vying for the opportunity to serve in Hartford.
The slate includes the Rev. Charlie Stallworth who is backed by Mayor Bill Finch and Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa; police officer Verna Kearney, who has been endorsed by a powerful anti-Finch coalition that includes Caruso; former state Rep. Bob Keeley, who served in office for better than two decades; businessman and Town Committee member Mark Trojanowski; Upper East Side community activist Tom Lombard; City Council member Carlos Silva; and political activists Joe Giaquinto and James Keyser.
Add the fact that there will be a mayoral race this year and the special election becomes highly significant.
Whoever wins the election——and how well he or she serves——certainly will have an impact on the city. A newcomer could reduce the delegation’s already paltry political clout in Hartford. The Bridgeport legislative delegation is one of the weakest in the state and will be under pressure to produce in these terrible budgetary times.Caruso may have been loud and abrasive in the Legislature, but he was passionate and served the city well during his tenure. He will be tough to replace.
The good news is that in his new job he will specialize in urban economic development and could significantly help create positive economic development in Bridgeport. And, needless to say, the Park City’s economic scene is shaky at best.
Yet to be successful in his new role Caruso will need strong cooperation at both the city and state levels. A strong state delegation will be necessary; a weak one could be disastrous. On the city side, longtime Caruso adversary Finch has said he extremely pleased that Caruso, a lifelong Bridgeport resident, has been named to the post.
Of course Caruso will have Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s ear and that is another positive development. That type of clout can overcome legislative incompetence at the state level and animosity at the local level.
The special election will have tremendous impact on the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary as well. The winner could possibly Caruso may have been loud and abrasive, but he was passionate and served the city well during his tenure. turn around and try for Bridgeport’s top job. And a strong showing by any of the losing candidates could make him or her a viable candidate. And there is no question that some of them jumped into the special election just for that reason.
Former congressman Chris Shays used to call the campaign season “the silly season.” Things can be especially silly in Bridgeport. And ugly. And fun. And important. Now it’s up to the candidates to generate enough interest in the race to get voters to the polls on Feb. 22.