The incumbent Democratic mayor is seen by virtually every resident in the city of Bridgeport as the frontrunner in Tuesday’s mayoral election. The mayor’s opponents in the race are Independent candidate Jeff Kohut and Republican Rick Torres, but both men have their work cut out for them if they are going to replace Finch as the city’s highest ranking elected official.
Bridgeport is obviously heavily Democratic as are most urban industrial centers, and that makes it difficult for Torres or any Republican to get elected. No Republican has been elected mayor since Joe Ganim dispatched Mary Moran in 1991. A Republican with a strong libertarian streak, Torres is pledging transparent government and fiscal policies that will allow new and vibrant business growth here.
Kohut also faces a daunting task in seeking the Park City’s highest office. A long-time community activist, the Lake Forest resident has spelled out a specific platform detailing his vision for Bridgeport under a Kohut administration. His chief plan is to attract General Electric to relocate its solar panel manufacturing facility to its Boston Avenue location.
The challenge for both Kohut and Torres is how to overcome the well-oiled Democratic “machine,” for lack of a better word. The Democratic Town Committee, headed by Chairman Mario Testa, is well-funded and exceptionally adept at getting people to the polls. Since it is a given that in a heavily Democratic city the party will be able to produce a solid block of votes, any challenger will have to offset that by attracting large numbers of his own and generating a large turnout. That is the challenge facing both Torres and Kohut this year.
For his part Finch has remained confident about his chances for re-election, especially after fending off a strong challenge in the Democratic primary by former Bridgeport Bluefish owner Mary-Jane Foster. Finch overwhelmingly defeated his rival in that race, taking the spot on the Democratic ballot with an impressive 19 percent margin of victory.
Essentially, Finch has remained on point both throughout the primary and the general election race. He has continually pointed to the accomplishments of his administration and at campaign forums, candidate debates and virtually all public appearances, the mayor has ticked off a laundry list of strides the city has made under his direction. He has particularly emphasized how there has not been a tax increase in Bridgeport.
“You haven’t had your taxes raised by me,” Finch said in response to an audience question at a recent mayoral debate at the Burroughs Community Center in Black Rock, which was sponsored by the Greater Bridgeport Property Owners Association. “I challenge you to find another city that can say that in these challenging economic times. Yes, we’ve had to make some difficult choices, but we’ve made them and our city services are still operating at peak efficiency.”
Finch also credited the unions for being flexible in contract negotiations and his ability to work with them to hold costs down.
“My administration has been able to hold the burgeoning costs of government down because we have a strong working relationship with the many unions who represent city employees,” said the mayor. “Our union negotiations have been fair and beneficial to both sides of the bargaining table.”
Finch has placed environmental policy and sustainability at the center of his administration, and is particularly proud of the B-Green 2020 initiative, which he has labeled the city’s “greenprint” for the future.
The initiative has included the demolition and cleanup of more than 100 blighted properties throughout the city, the construction of “green” buildings such as the new Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School and a new recycling program designed to make recycling significantly easier for Bridgeport residents.
Among other accomplishments Finch has touted are the relocation of Columbia Elevator Company from New York to Bridgeport, a revitalized downtown, improved public safety and the construction of five new schools under his watch.
During the Greater Bridgeport Property Owner’s debate, Finch stressed his tenure in the state Senate as being a key to Bridgeport being a priority for state legislators, but also cautioned that the Park City has challenges inherent to every urban center in the Nutmeg State.
“Connecticut is a suburban state,” he explained. “At the state level, legislators representing cities are greatly outnumbered by their colleagues who represent small towns.”
Finch said he plans to help forge a strong urban coalition between mayors and state legislators to ensure that the concerns of residents of Connecticut cities are being heard.
For more information about Bill Finch, visit his website at www.finchformayor.com.