In Connecticut Mayor Race, Bobby Valentine Brings in Closer: Himself

Democrats have ratcheted up their criticism of Mr. Valentine in the final weeks of the campaign, but his outsize presence is a formidable campaign asset.,

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In a Connecticut mayor’s race, Bobby Valentine brings in the closer: himself.

Neil Vigdor

Nov. 2, 2021, 4:49 p.m. ET

Nov. 2, 2021, 4:49 p.m. ET

Bobby Valentine, who once managed the New York Mets, is making an unaffiliated run for mayor in Stamford, Conn., against Caroline Simmons, a Democrat.
Bobby Valentine, who once managed the New York Mets, is making an unaffiliated run for mayor in Stamford, Conn., against Caroline Simmons, a Democrat.Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

In Connecticut’s fastest growing city, one of the two mayoral contenders received an endorsement from Barack Obama, burnishing a list of credentials that includes a degree from Harvard, four terms in the Legislature and a stint as a special projects director for the Department of Homeland Security.

But that contender, Caroline Simmons, 35, a Democrat vying to become the first female mayor of Stamford, is facing a uniquely vexing obstacle in Tuesday’s election, a celebrity candidate with name recognition that extends far beyond Interstate 95: Bobby Valentine.

It’s a name that needs no introduction to sports fans, even nearly two decades after Mr. Valentine managed the New York Mets, including a World Series loss to the Yankees.

Dubbed “Bobby V” in tabloid headlines, he once disguised himself with a fake mustache in the Mets dugout after being ejected from a game. He also claims to have invented the sandwich wrap.

Mr. Valentine, 71, who lasted just one season in 2012 as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, has never held elective office.

He is an unaffiliated candidate, and made it on the ballot by getting 188 signatures on a petition — 1 percent of the voters in the last election. But his outsize presence, which includes his own hip-hop jingle telling voters where to find him on the ballot (on Row F “so fresh”) has drawn national intrigue and an influx of money to the race.

Democrats, who have controlled the mayor’s office for all but four of the past 26 years in Stamford, the state’s second-largest city after Bridgeport, ratcheted up their criticism of Mr. Valentine in the final weeks of the campaign.

They drew attention to a video of Mr. Valentine telling supporters, “If you’re not owning, you’re not caring,” which they said was a put-down of renters in the city of 135,000 people. Democrats also panned Mr. Valentine over a lawsuit he filed in state Superior Court in 2020 against the city of Stamford, contesting his property tax assessment for 2019.

Most recently, Ms. Simmons and her supporters rebuked Mr. Valentine for referring to her as “a 35-year-old girl” in an interview with The Associated Press, a reference they said was misogynistic.

Last week, Mr. Valentine sought to contextualize the comment. “When I said that my competition was a girl,” he told WNPR, “I was referring to her private education in a neighboring city when she was in elementary school, junior high school and high school, and if I offended anyone by mentioning her hometown or that she was referred to as a girl when she was in high school, I totally apologize for that.”

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