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Voters Head To The Polls As Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch Faces Primary Challenge

Bill Finch and Mary-Jane Foster (credits: Bill Finch for Mayor, Foster for Bridgeport 2011)

Bill Finch and Mary-Jane Foster (credits: Bill Finch for Mayor, Foster for Bridgeport 2011)

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BRIDGEPORT, CT (AP / WCBS 880) - The mayor of Connecticut’s biggest city is facing a challenger from his own party in a Democratic primary election Tuesday.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau On The Story

Mayor Bill Finch, who is seeking the party’s nomination for his second term, is running against Mary-Jane Foster, a co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team and a vice president of the University of Bridgeport.

The vote was delayed from Sept. 13 due to a court fight over the validity of petition signatures that ended with a state judge allowing Foster to run. Seats for the city clerk, city council and other posts are also on the ballot.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday she is sending election experts to monitor voting in Bridgeport, where a shortage of ballots caused delays in determining the results of last year’s gubernatorial election. Merrill has warned that local elections officials could be relieved of their duties for incompetence or failing to follow voting rules.

Like other Connecticut cities, Bridgeport has no shortage of challenges. The state Department of Education decided this summer to take over management of the troubled Bridgeport schools and replaced its education board after some city leaders, including the mayor, said the current board was too dysfunctional to run the system.

Finch, a former state senator, took office as the city’s 52nd mayor in 2007.

Both candidates called voters on Monday to remind them about the primary, and Finch invited supporters to a rally at a restaurant that serves as the headquarters for the Democratic Town Committee.

“We’ve had a longer battle than we expected and it’s been hard on everybody,” Finch told supporters in remarks reported by The Connecticut Post. “But tomorrow is going to be a sweet victory.”

The Post reported that Foster was greeted by dozens of supporters at the University of Bridgeport, where some wore purple “Knights for Mary-Jane Foster” shirts.

“I know you come to UB because you want internships and jobs,” she said into a microphone. “I will create those for you.”

The city is often under Democratic control, and there are 42,799 registered Democrats in the city compared with only 4,472 registered Republican voters.

Polls are open until 8 p.m.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)