The comic strip Doonesbury once included a panel that contained the phrase – "It was like spending a night in Bridgeport, only worse."
The strip's creator, Garry Trudeau is a graduate of Yale University - a short trip east on Interstate 95 from the city of Bridgeport - so presumably he knew what he was talking about.
Bridgeport as a city and political entity has long been an easy target for comedians. But in addition to being the butt of jokes, Bridgeport made serious national headlines two years ago when allegations of gross election improprieties – including "discovery" of bags of previously uncounted ballots after the polls were long closed - led to the alleged election of Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.
Bridgeport’s vote totals weren't available until three days after Election Day, and surprise, surprise they provided just enough of a margin to ensure that Malloy was elected – even though the majority of the rest of the state went for GOP candidate Tom Foley – and that the total was outside the legal margin to require an automatic recount.
Now Bridgeport is back in the news, and once again not in a good way. Last Friday, according to a release from the US Senate campaign of Linda McMahon, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch was caught on camera laughing while assuring McMahon's opponent, Democrat Congressman Chris Murphy that he will receive a “big turnout in Bridgeport.”
But that wasn't enough, Finch went on to joke to Murphy and a gaggle of tittering followers that “We may come in a couple days late; (but) you can be guaranteed you’re gonna get the vote.” You can watch it here and see the reaction from Murphy and Finch's followers yourself.
This video is disturbing on a number of fronts. First, they obviously are mocking and as far as I can see, validating, Bridgeport's reputation as the Chicago of the East.
Bridgeport is the city where there are more votes cast than there are voters, where the dead rise up and travel to the polls not on Halloween Night but on Election Day, and where the final count will come in days after the election when the exact number needed to sway the election is known.
This may be funny to political insiders, but to me it is no joke. And it shouldn't be a joke to the people who live and work in Bridgeport either.
If this is what we see on the surface we can only imagine what goes on under the covers. Are the city's schools up to par, are the streets in good repair, do the sewer and water departments provide the services the taxpayers deserve, is the police department above reproach? If not, you can see for yourself where the problem begins.
I realize that there are many political insiders who blame the Bridgeport debacle two years ago squarely on the party. The voter registration disparity between Republicans and Democrats is huge, and GOP candidates rarely campaign in Bridgeport unless they are running for a city office. But the video nonetheless gives us an unvarnished look at Murphy and his campaign to be a US Senator; as his opponent calls it a "promotion" from his current job as a US Congressman.
Any serious candidate knows better than to be caught in public – or private – mocking the wisdom of the voters or the integrity of the system. Yet here he is, surrounded by staff and supporters, laughing about the very real possibility of stealing the election.
McMahon's campaign forwarded the video to former Republican State Party Chairman Herbert Shepardson and he in turn sent a strongly worded letter to both Murphy and Finch. Whether that will have any impact on politics in Bridgeport is debatable but at least the issue is out in the open – on the Internet. I haven't seen anything about it in local news reports but that doesn't exactly surprise me.
We have a serious election facing us, statewide and nationally, and even the hint of voter fraud should raise the ire of voters and the media as well as state and national election watchdog agencies. Where is the outrage?
McMahon's campaign released a commercial this week showing Murphy as "a funny guy," who voted against defense funding in a state that relies to a huge degree on the defense industry, but then puts a photo of a Norwegian submarine in his campaign communications.
McMahon has a good point, especially since we already have one comedian in the US Senate, Al Franken, Democratic U.S. Senator from Minnesota and judging from the sparse news we get on that guy, his election – in a hotly disputed vote by the way – was not the best thing to come out of Minnesota. One comedian in the Senate is too many; we don't need another.
When you peel back the layers of protection he gets from campaign staff and a media that spends all its time looking the other way, you see that he might be a character – and not a likeable one at that. But we don't need a Senator who is a character; we need a Senator who has character. It seems Murphy is sorely lacking in that department.