Felipe wins Bridgeport race for Santiago’s seat
BRIDGEPORT — Maybe nickname Antonio Felipe “leap frog.”
While many of this city’s state lawmakers began their political careers toiling on the school board or City Council, Felipe, 23, is going from working behind-the-scenes on campaigns directly to becoming Bridgeport’s newest member of the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Felipe bested four challengers to win Tuesday’s special election and succeed the late Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, D-Bridgeport, who died suddenly in March, age 45.
Santiago for over a decade represented the 130th legislative district, which includes the South and West ends and downtown.
Felipe, a family friend and fellow Democrat, easily won the party’s endorsement and had the support of two factions — Mayor Joe Ganim’s and allies of ex-Mayor Bill Finch. Felipe’s father, Ruben Felipe, was an aide to the latter.
Felipe was almost immediately targeted as inexperienced and also because, despite growing up in the district, he and his family had relocated to Stratford. Felipe rented an apartment in Bridgeport to run.
According to Felipe’s campaign, he will be the youngest member of the House, while state Sen. Will Haskell, 22, a Democrat from Wilton elected in November, is the youngest member of Connecticut’s Senate.
Felipe’s main challenger was activist and former school board member Kate Rivera, 41, a Democrat who petitioned her way onto Tuesday’s ballot. Rivera and Felipe were the only candidates to collect the necessary amount of small donations to qualify for $21,112 public grants as part of Connecticut’s so-called clean elections program.
Two ex-state representatives — Hector Diaz, 58, and Christina Ayala, 36 — and Republican Joshua Parrow, 29, also ran for the vacant 130th district seat.
Felipe’s campaign declared victory just short of 9 p.m. — an hour after the polls closed.
And, as is often the case in low turnout Bridgeport races, he needed absentee or mail-in ballots to pull it off. According to unofficial tallies, Rivera beat Felipe on the voting machines, 290 to 240, but Felipe made up for it with mail in ballots, 226 to 54.