With a rare four-way primary less than a month away – and one of her opponents already securing her party’s endorsement – Bridgeport’s State Rep. Christine Ayala still has a fighting chance at a second term, despite her ongoing run-ins with the law, according to some political analysts and district hopefuls.
Her opponents, however, feel differently.
With degrees in French, Political Science and Education, Ayala, a Democrat from Bridgeport, has become an interesting yet polarizing figure in state politics. Her early accomplishments in office were marred by allegations of criminal misconduct in both her private and professional lives, including a hit-and-run, a domestic violence incident, and being the focus of a criminal investigation for election finance fraud.
The past year has been relatively quiet for the controversial politician, but she was stripped of her sub-committee designations by house officials. And regardless of the negative legalities surrounding her, she’s not barred from running for office again. In fact, she has a real chance to win another term, according to Leonard Grimaldi, writer and owner of the news site OnlyInBridgeport.com, a political blog.
“Conventional wisdom dictates that an incumbent with baggage has a better chance in a large field because the anti-vote will be split,” he said. And the most familiar face will bring out the highest votes in that low-turnout district of the city.
“Christina Ayala has a fighting chance in a large field, especially if she receives her public financing grant,” he said. “The challenge for Christina is making sure she knocks on as many doors as possible so voters can see her and understand her as something beyond the person they’ve heard and read about for her indiscretions. Christina’s not the most media savvy politician, but she’s very good one- on – one with constituents.”
Ayala did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
Chris Rosario, 33, is a city native, father of three and Bridgeport’s anti-blight chief since 2012. He gained party backing but said he still feels empathy for Ayala. He said the primary is a crowded field, but that he stands out because his job puts him in the economically hardest-hit areas of the city, on the front-line of the city’s problems every day. “It’s unfortunate what has happened to her, with all that’s been in the papers, but at the same time, the district was in the dark while all this was going on,” he said. “I don’t feel the people in the district should pay for any of these transgressions. But I know that anything can happen, and although I’m the endorsed candidate, I know I have to go to the same streets and knock on the same doors.”
Political newcomer Dennis Bradley, a member of the city’s fire commission, and Teresa Davidson are also running for the state representative seat in Connecticut’s 128th district in the Democratic primary August 12. Bradley and Davidson were not available for comment. The district includes the East Side and Hollow neighborhoods, areas with historically low voter-turnout, according to Grimaldi.
Bradley has already qualified for public campaign funds and already has $30,000 to spend on his campaign, Grimaldi said, a decent amount for the area.
“The race will come down to which candidate best identifies their voter and drags them out,” Grimaldi said.