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Testa easily re-elected Bridgeport’s Dem chief

March 16, 2018 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — Mario Testa was easily re-elected Thursday to another two years riding herd on Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee.

It very well could be the 72-year-old’s last term.

Testa afterward admitted that he wanted to continue in the job he has held since the early 1990s, with a brief break in the mid-2000s, for one reason — Joe Ganim. Testa helped re-elect Ganim mayor in 2015 after the latter’s first tenure ended in 2003 with a corruption conviction.

Now Testa needs to complete the second phase of Project: Ganim and get his friend elected governor later this year.

And if that happens and Ganim moves to Hartford, what then for Testa?

“I’m gonna smell the roses,” he smiled.

On Thursday things were already looking pretty rosy. No one stepped forward to challenge Testa for the party chairmanship. The vote, as usual, was held at his Italian restaurant and catering hall, Testo’s, in the North End.

And only one person out of the crowd of 90 town committee members voted “no.”

“I promised my constituents,” said that individual, Donna Curran, an ex-councilwoman and one of the very few critics of Testa’s who won last week’s town committee primaries.

Those results favored Testa and Ganim. They assured the former another two years in charge of the city’s Democrats, and the latter that he could head to the state gubernatorial nominating convention in May with Bridgeport’s delegates — picked by Testa and the town committee — behind him.

Testa said Thursday that he is focused on getting Ganim 15 percent of the total convention delegates for governor, or 300, for the mayor to qualify to compete in the summer’s gubernatorial primary against whoever walks out of the convention as the nominee.

That could require some horse-trading — offering Bridgeport’s delegates to under-ticket contenders from other municipalities in exchange for their delegates’ support of Ganim. For example, Testa confirmed that state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, who is exploring a run for attorney general, just so happened to stop by Bridgeport following last week’s primaries to say hello.

“I’m in the business right now of being a peacemaker,” Testa said. “They need our votes, we need their votes. That’s the bottom line.”

Another of Testa’s projects is getting a casino built in Bridgeport. Earlier Thursday a public hearing was held in Hartford for a bill establishing a competitive process for a third casino. MGM Resorts International has already partnered with a developer and proposed a waterfront casino, hotel and entertainment complex in Bridgeport, giving MGM a perceived advantage over any competition — including from the pair of Indian tribes that operate the existing casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

State Rep. Christopher Rosario provided Testa an update on the public hearing.

“How did it go?” Testa asked.

“We had a good day today,” Rosario reported. Ganim — who could not attend the town committee vote — was in Hartford testifying for the bill, as was the entire Bridgeport legislative delegation. Even state Sen. Marilyn Moore, one of the few politicians in town who publicly advertises her independence from Testa and the town committee.

“Marilyn too?” Testa told Rosario.

Moore has expressed some concerns about MGM’s proposal and during last week’s primaries backed some of the outsiders who failed to be elected to the town committee.

“Maybe she got the message” from the primary results, Testa said.

Even Curran seemed to recognize that, at least on some issues, she will have to work with Testa. She walked up to the chairman following Thursday’s vote and said she would like to sit down and talk at some point.

“My door’s always open,” Testa said.