After months of being played out on the airwaves and in the courts, the Bridgeport primary finally took place on Tuesday, Sept. 27, two weeks after its originally scheduled date of Sept. 13, and the clear winner was incumbent Mayor Bill Finch. And the Democratic Town Committee also enjoyed a banner day.
Shortly after the polls had closed the Town Clerk’s office posted the unofficial totals, which were overwhelmingly in favor of the incumbent. Unofficially, Finch had 5,393 votes to Foster’s 3,798. Those numbers translate into the landslide totals of 59 percent to 41 percent.
The most significant number involving the Democratic primary was 21, however. That number represents the turnout for the election, meaning that only 21 percent of the city’s registered Democrats bothered to cast their ballots. The paltry turnout was a boon for Finch; Foster needed a big turnout to have a shot at dethroning Finch.
“I can’t believe it,” said Jack Lyons, a Bridgeport postal worker and Foster supporter. “People can’t even show up to vote? This city deserves what it gets.”
Finch was in an ebullient mood following his victory, and spent much of the night dancing around Tiago’s, the downtown restaurant where his victory celebration was staged.
“You know what,” Finch told his raucous supporters. “We stayed positive. There were those who wanted to tear Bridgeport down but we remain focused on all the good we’ve accomplished in this city in the past four years and the voters agreed. We’ve got more work to do, sure, but we are moving this city forward.”
While the atmosphere at Tiago’s was certainly electric as Finch and his supporters tripped the night fantastic, the atmosphere at the Foster celebration was surprisingly upbeat. Although she had suffered a nearly 20 percentage point defeat, Foster was able to stir her supporters and the atmosphere was one of jubilation rather than defeatism.
Foster’s crew had gathered at the newly renovated Bijou Theater on Fairfield Avenue, and they were in a joyful mood. After being introduced by former state senator Ernie Newton, former rival John Gomes and campaign manager Jason Bartlett, Foster loudly summed up her feelings about the quest for the big chair at City Hall Annex.
“This was worth it, we fell short but it was worth it,” Foster exclaimed. “We took the issues to the voters and we held the mayor accountable for his record. Make no mistake about it, we are going to be watching and speaking up at every turn from here on in.”
Despite finishing a distant second and having to cope with an exceedingly low turnout, Foster noted that there are far too many positives from her run for mayor and the campaign should not be measured solely on the results.
“I have made so many great new friends with this campaign and that’s the best part about all of this,” she said. “And if I can allow myself one pat on the back, I have become a rock star to teenage girls. We have all these young ladies at the University of Bridgeport who now want to be the next woman mayor of the city.”
On a somber note, Newton asked for a moment of silence to pray for state Sen. Ed Gomes who has been hospitalized.
In a conversation with the Fairfield County Independent, Finch stressed that despite the landslide results, this had not been an easy campaign to run.
“It was a lot of work,” said the mayor. “An incredible amount of work. And then with the extra two weeks it made the process that much tougher. I am very glad that it is finished.”
When Foster won the court decision to put her name on the ballot, she was also awarded an additional two weeks to campaign for the primary. This decision moved the primary date from Sept. 13 to Sept. 27.
It’s not over yet for Finch, although the winner of the Democratic primary is usually elected Bridgeport’s mayor. Finch faces challenges from Independent Jeff Kohut and Republican Rick Torres in the general election, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8th.