Michael J. Daly: Some more stops on Redemption Road
If anyone was happier Thursday than Bridgeport Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa at the news that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was getting out of the cauldron of the governor’s office, it would have to have been Malloy himself.
A positively beaming Malloy walked into a room at the capitol at 2 p.m. and stood before his assembled commissioners and press corps and pulled the cork out of a bottle that had been ready to blow its own top.
Eight years as governor of a state that has struggled would be enough.
The governor’s chair will be up for grabs on Nov. 6, 2018 and if Testa has anything to say about it — and he will — his favorite Democratic politician in the whole world, Joe Ganim, will be in play somehow.
The other day, the 57-year-old Ganim spoke at a lunch at the Holiday Inn in front of the city’s business community. The place was packed. Many of the people there were not in Bridgeport for Joe Ganim the First.
Before the mayor spoke, the room darkened and a video played. A good, slick video, fast cuts with pulsing techno, low aerial views shot from a drone, very sweet stuff, showing a thriving Bridgeport.
A very gubernatorial aspirational video. Ganim took the podium amidst a standing ovation from an audience clearly pumped by the energy of the video.
The mayor is good on his feet. He bantered a bit with some people near the front of the room, Terry O’Connor, a former Barnum Festival Ringleader, and Mickey Herbert, another former Ringleader and the new president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.
Then the mayor got down to the business at hand. He pointed out and complimented Mario Testa, Bridgeport’s long-tenured Democratic town committee chairman.
For any person so aspiring, the road to Hartford is long and winding. You can take a variety of routes, but whatever one you choose, it will pass through 1775 Madison Avenue, Bridgeport, Testo’s Restaurant and Banquet Hall, or, more likely these days, 1023 Brooklawn Avenue, Fairfield, Testo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, a cozy little adjunct, just down the street from the Mother Ship, where Mario spends much of his time and energy.
Former Mayor Bill Finch, many of whose accomplishments — uncredited, of course — are shown on the video Ganim hopes will help propel him to higher office, was not as adept at genuflecting and kissing the ring of the undisputed head of the Bridgeport Democratic organization.
And Mario made no bones about the fact that he did not like that. Mario breathes patronage. I do for you; you do for me. It he were dishonest, he’d have been in jail long, long ago. A generation of FBI agents has salivated at the prospect of collaring him, and have gone to some length to do so. No luck.
Mario likes to put people in jobs. It’s a favor that converts into gratitude and loyalty, the loyalty that he calls on when it’s time to put chips on the table. And that is on Election Day. Go to the polls, and, by the way, drag your cousins, nephews, in-laws, outlaws and make sure they know whom they’re voting for.
And that miscalculation was among the blunders that sent Finch out of Bridgeport City Hall.... and straight into a $175,000-a-year job as head of the New York State Transportation Authority.
Joe Ganim is, of course, a remarkable story. Bob Marley could have been anticipating Ganim when he wrote “Redemption Song.”
He took it on the chin, all right, a nine-year sentence after being convicted in 2003 on 16 counts, including racketeering and bribery, and spent seven years in prison. When the statute of limitations on his appeals finally expired in 2014, he apologized and the voters forgave him. He called it redemption. But when he took his fall, he was on that road to Hartford. In his mind, that will be redemption.
And he’s made those two obligatory stops on the route.
Michael J. Daly is editor of the editorial page of the Connecticut Post. Email: email@example.com.