Judge orders Democrat primary to go forward

Published on September 9, 2011 by

The 2011 election in Bridgeport has already made history — and it doesn’t even have a winner.

When it seemed Mayor Bill Finch had secured the only space on the ballot for the November general election, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled in a dramatic decision that there must be a primary in the Democratic Party.

On July 29, Democrat Registrar of Voters Santa Ayala declared invalid Mary-Jane Foster’s slate. Ayala, guided by certain Connecticut General Statutes, declared Foster’s primary petitions invalid. According to Ayala, under the City Charter any slate must not include more than three candidates for board of education. Foster’s slate had four and Ayala ruled her petitions invalid.

But Foster took the case to court, claiming Ayala improperly blocked her from the primary ballot. Bellis decided in Foster’s favor, but postponed the Democratic primary until Sept. 27, instead of Sept. 13, as mandated by City Charter.

Bellis’s conclusion: “Judgment is entered in favor of the plaintiffs … Insofar as the Bridgeport Board of Education has been reconstituted by the state obviating the need for a Board of Education primary absent a ruling from a higher court, the court finds in favor of the defendant as to the claims of Walsh, Pipkin, and Cash-Deedon.

A writ of mandamus is hereby issued requiring the registrar to accept the plaintiffs’ primary petitions and place the names of the non-Board of Education candidates on the primary ballot, and requiring the Registrar to forward the primary petitions to the Town Clerk for placement of the non-Board of Education candidates on the primary ballot.

“Therefore, pursuant to the authority set forth in Connecticut General Statutes & 9-329a(b)(2), the date for the primary, originally set for September 13, 2011, is changed to September 27, 2011, with the same two weeks extended to filing of the absentee ballots for the primary.”

After the judge’s decision, close to 100 of Foster’s supporters gathered in front of Bridgeport Superior Court to celebrate the victory. In front a jubilant audience chanting, “Mary-Jane!, Mary-Jane!” Foster said, “Today is not only a victory for me and our slate, today is a victory for Bridgeport.”

She said she was gratified that Mayor Finch had previously stated he wanted a primary and won’t appeal. She also said the decision was an example of American government and the judicial system at its best.

Foster invited supporters to meet at her headquarters to participate in a caravan of cars throughout the city — and then hosted a block party at the Red Rooster, a restaurant owned by John Gomes, a former Democratic mayoral candidate, who recently dropped out of the race and endorsed Foster’s candidacy.