Candidates, issues and process matter

Published on October 14, 2011 by

We were witness to a Democratic primary full of candidates, issues and surprises.

John Gomes was the first to enter the race. Early in 2010, he was very enthusiastic about the election and walking the streets in search of votes. He was followed by Charles Coviello and then Mary-Jane Foster. By late August, Gomes and Coviello had dropped out of the race and joined Foster to challenge incumbent Mayor Bill Finch.

Numerous community leaders, unions and well-known personalities — including former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker — joined Foster’s campaign. Other well-known politicians, such as Ed Gomez and Bob Walsh, also joined Foster’s team.

But perhaps the issues that plagued the process are what voters will remember the campaign for. First was the unprecedented surrendering of the Board of Education by six members of that body. Then the documented maneuvers of Democrat Register of Voters Santa Ayala to thwart Foster’s candidacy — and, of course, the constant personal attacks between Finch and Foster.

But the real concern of Bridgeport residents should be the low voter turnout in the primary. In an election with plenty of reasons for people to go to the polls, it was all to the contrary. Out of 43,450 residents registered as Democrats, only 9,191 voted in the primary, according to data provided by the city’s Registrar of Voters.

That accounts for only 21 percent of the total Democratic electorate. Those numbers should raise concerns about a truly democratic process.

The low turnout at the polls in the primary also should raise many questions as to why people are not participating in the election of the person who will have control of very important matters in our lives. From the turnout we should at least deduce that the majority of the residents felt they were not represented by any of the candidates.

Could it be that Bridgeport residents are tired of the same players? Or perhaps they are losing hope in a system that has failed them for decades. Frequently, they witness in elections the voluntarily- or involuntarily-contaminated maneuvers of our local electoral system. A good example are the actions of the Democrat Registrar of Voters — and others — to prevent the participation of a legitimate candidate in the primary. Thanks to our judicial system, their scheme did not prevail.

Those and similar incidents are serious considerations that our local government officials must address. Whatever the reasons for the mediocre turnout, it should raise serious concerns from the people who run our city — and ordinary citizens who deserve a just government.

City officials should engage residents in a serious conversation about their lack of motivation. We want the city’s residents to feel comfortable with elected officials and the electoral system. Only then maybe we will see a just turnout in our primaries or general elections.