As of now, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti’s record-breaking 14th term in office will go uncontested as the city’s Democratic party declined to nominate a candidate to challenge him at its Town Committee meeting Monday night.
Democratic Town Chair Dave Gioiello said he has prospects of candidates to run against the mayor, but they’re not currently ready.
“Shelton, as several of the other Valley towns, is probably as Republican as they come in this state,” said Gioiello. “We all love low taxes, there’s no one in the room opposed to them and that is the issue that resonates most with the community. We have low taxes and yet we run a surplus. We run a surplus because there are departments that consistently are over-funded.”
The consensus of the Shelton Democratic Party is that its reason for not nominating a member of its party to square off against the mayor, as he juggles the race for re election as mayor and his 2018 gubernatorial bid, is to focus on gaining more of a presence on the other city boards.
An unpleasant surprise for Democrats
Despite already having plans to “build” for years to come, the city’s Democratic Party received some surprising news from one of its aldermen who has served 30-plus years that will result in it having to make some other adjustments.
First Ward Alderman of 32 years and longtime lone Democrat on the Board of Alderman, John “Jack” Finn, announced that he will not be running for re election come November via an emotional letter that he read at Monday night’s Town Committee meeting. Read Finn’s full letter here.
“Over my years as your alderman I have gained a wealth of knowledge that I will always treasure. It has been a fantastic learning experience and I’m thankful for the skills I’ve acquired. Representing you all each day has made me a more complete and well-rounded person,” said Finn. “I don’t like to say goodbye, but rather hello. Hello to a new adventure.”
His announcement was a surprise to most, but Finn said the party’s Executive Committee knew of his decision since January of this year. Finn said his decision not to run came from a promise he made to his wife of 42 years before she passed away in 2013. The Executive Committee is made up of the party’s chair, vice chair, treasurer, secretary.
Finn will continue to serve as the Democratic Registrar of Voters.
Overall, the party said it would miss Finn’s presence and service dearly and that it wished him the best of luck in the next phase of his life.
Although his plans for a future in politics are unsure, according to Finn, he said he has been supporting the party’s only candidate for First Ward Alderman, Adam Heller, since he made his decision not to run for re election.
Heller, who lost to Jason Perillo in a race to become State Rep. of District 113 last fall, is opposed by incumbent First Ward Alderman and Republican Town Committee Chair Anthony Simonetti and David Gidwani, who ran but lost to Finn in 2015.
The support of Finn while running for alderman means “everything” to Heller.
“They are big shoes to fill. For a Democrat to survive as long as he has on the Board of Aldermen it’s amazing and he knows what he’s talking about,” said Heller. “I couldn’t do this without him.”
Finn said although he plans to do some door-to-door community outreach with Heller for his campaign.
“Heller will be his own person if elected. It’s not up to me to direct or guide him once he’s elected into office. If he has any questions along the way then he can call me anytime, come to my house anytime and we’ll sit down and discuss it. We’ve done it in the past with the budgets,” said Finn.
The rest of the slate
The city’s Democratic Party nominated four total candidates that have never run for office including three for alderman.
Both Kevin Kosty and Jason Jones are running against incumbent Second Ward Aldermen Eric McPherson and Stanley Kudej.
Pat Jeannette and Tim Bristol, who lost in a race for mayor in 2015 as an independent candidate known for funding his campaign through GoFundMe, will challenge Incumbent Third Ward Alderman and Board President John Anglace and newly appointed Cris Balamaci. Balamaci was recently appointed as the city’s new third ward alderman after Lynn Farrell resigned from the position.
The city’s Republican Incumbent Fourth Ward Aldermen Jim Capra and Noreen McGorty will run unopposed.
Second Ward candidate, Jones said for those judging candidates with little to no experience running for office, “You have to start somewhere.”
“Even Lauretti didn’t just become Mayor overnight,” said Jones.
Key player in the city’s Democratic party, Jimmy Tickey said he came from a similar position of “authenticity” when he first was elected to serve on the planning and zoning commission back in 2013 with no prior experience.
“You want people to be able to unwrap issues and provide the people with a new perspective and I think the best way to do that is to not only find a candidate that’s willing to put in the work, but also has that fresh voice.”
Shelton Democrats are hoping to cause an even split on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission by getting their two candidates, Incumbent Tickey and Ludwig Spinelli, elected. Tickey and Spinelli will face off against Incumbents P&Z Chair Ruth Parkins and Commissioner Anthony Pagoda. Elaine Matto is the other Democrat on the board, but is currently not up for reelection.
Democrats’ Nancy Dickal will oppose Incumbent Ned Miller for the position of the P&Z Commission’s Alternate.
Board of Ed will have new faces
As three Board of Ed members have already announced they will not be running for reelection, other not-so-new faces have emerged as candidates for the position.
Town Republicans nominated active community member Anne Gaydos, incumbent Board members Tom Minotti, Chair Mark Holden, Darlissa Ritter, and Kathy Yolish to run for the city’s Board of Education.
Democrats nominated resident of 36 years and sanitation worker for the Bridgeport Board of Education, Jose Goncalves, Amanda Kilmartin, Wayne Bragg and Incumbents Gioiello and Kate Kutash to run for spots on the Education Board.
Gioiello referred to the city’s board of ed as the mayor’s “whipping post” and said they were short $1 million of their request and only received a $480,426 increase to the city’s board of education budget last year.
The Board of Ed was forced to make cuts for the upcoming year, including eight teachers that will not be replaced.
“It’s unfortunate that he as a former teacher in Bridgeport holds education to so little regard,” said Gioiello. “We have decided that we are going to focus on the boards and commissions. The board of Aldermen have the fiduciary responsibility here in the city, they’re the ones to really set the budget and if we can get some Democrats on there then maybe we can get some better discussion and open up some eyes. I know there are several Republicans that serve that are not favorites of the mayor so maybe we can convince them once and awhile to vote with us if we can get a couple of aldermen elected.”
Preparing to campaign
Gioiello told all of the Democratic candidates to attend a training seminar this Saturday, organized by the State Central Committee, to teach candidates how to efficiently knock on doors and campaign. Tickey also plans to actively be involved in the Democratic candidates’ campaign efforts.