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Bridgeport delegation readies for 2019 session

November 15, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — During his decade in the legislature, state Rep. Ezequiel Santiago has not been a publicity hound.

“I like to think of myself as quietly effective,” Santiago said this week.

That should change in the 2019 General Assembly session that begins in January. Having aced last week’s elections, Bridgeport’s legislative delegation — all Democrats and all, save for state Senator-elect Dennis Bradley, incumbents — met Monday to begin preparing for next year.

One of their first decisions was to choose Santiago as their chairman.

“One of my tasks is to make sure we work together as a team — that the Senators and House (members) are on the same page and know what each other is doing so we can support each other’s efforts,” Santiago said.

The chairman’s role, Santiago said, also means he will be meeting more frequently with legislative leadership and generally being “more visible, more up front, out there in the public eye.”

At 45, Santiago is not only a local Democratic party insider, but was influenced by two veterans of Bridgeport politics — his father, Americo Santiago, and step-father Mitch Robles.

State Rep. Christopher Rosario said Santiago is a good “consensus builder” and “always willing to lend an ear and listen.”

Rosario has been one of Bridgeport’s more outspoken lawmakers. Asked about Santiago’s ability to be more of a public figure, Rosario said, “In this role, he has to be. We’re working on some major pieces of legislation that will change the future of the city. It’s not time to shy away from the spotlight.”

Whether it is legislation to build a casino in Bridgeport, jump-starting a stalled proposal for an East Side train station or boosting the city’s share of education aid, Rosario said, “Ezequiel needs to be in that room” brokering deals with legislators and incoming Gov. Ned Lamont.

“And he won’t be alone,” Rosario said. “I’ll be right there, nudging him. We’re all going to help him.”

That includes Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. Santiago works for the mayor as a special projects coordinator in the Public Facilities Department.

Bridgeport’s delegation has increasingly been exercising its political clout. Last year, for example, with help from New Haven’s politicians, Rosario, Santiago and their Bridgeport colleagues in the House forced a vote on the controversial casino bill.

The 2019 session could see bigger roles for the delegation as a whole, and its individual members. State Rep. Steven Stafstrom is interested in becoming a chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Rosario would like to be a Transportation Committee Chairman.

Also, Lamont has 22,973 reasons to pay attention to Bridgeport’s legislators — the votes cast in Connecticut’s largest city that helped the candidate from Greenwich triumph last week over Republican Bob Stefanowski.

Lamont also enjoyed early and strong support from Bridgeport state Sen. Marilyn Moore, and even considered her as his running mate for lieutenant governor before ultimately tapping Susan Bysiewicz.

Asked if he believes Lamont owes Bridgeport, Santiago said: “I really do. ... This is another instance of us being there when (state Democrats) needed us. We really want to make sure they recognize that and act in kind. We can definitely improve our circumstances with some state assistance.”

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