BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A crowd of about 20 people waited Wednesday on Grovers Avenue in Bridgeport's Black Rock neighborhood to get a glimpse of former President Bill Clinton as he arrived for a fundraiser across the street to support his wife Hillary’s presidential campaign.
The event was held at the newly constructed waterfront home of software executive Oni Chukwu.
Guests reportedly paid $2,700 each to rub elbows with the former president, who was expected to pose for photos.
The people waiting outside weren't disappointed. Clinton's motorcade arrived at 4:30 p.m., and he got out of his car and — with Secret Servicemen at his side — crossed the street and shook hands and took selfies with excited fans.
"I'm really late," Clinton said, adding he couldn't stay too long.
The former president patiently smiled for dozens of cellphone photos, asking a small child, "What's your name?" before waving and heading back to the motorcade.
"Well, that was worth it," said Bill Pelletier, who lives across the street. "That's what they're paying $2,700 for!"
Pelletier stood in the light rain with his wife, Maureen, and some of his seven children. John Torres, whose father Rick was the Republican hopeful for mayor last year, stopped by around 4 p.m. to say he couldn't stay, but he encouraged the Pelletiers to be patient.
"Best-case scenario? You get to see Bill Clinton," he said.
Torres' mother, Michelle, who runs Harborview Market with her husband, spent some of the day making her famous oversized cookies for the party, Maureen Pelletier said.
"Isn't that cool?" she said.
Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim arrived at the gated driveway not long before Clinton. Clinton staff members stationed at the gate said he was with his son, Robert.
The Black Rock event comes just weeks before the first presidential caucus on Feb. 1 in Iowa.
Clinton’s Connecticut visit is a homecoming of sorts. Bill and Hillary Clinton first met as students at Yale Law School in New Haven.
Formerly the executive vice president of Westport-based Triple Point Technology, Chukwu was appointed president and CEO of etouches in September 2013. Founded as an event management company in 1998, etouches has since evolved into an award-winning software company with a global headquarters in Norwalk.
As the presidential campaign heads into primary season, Clinton’s closest competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, claimed the Clinton campaign was in “serious trouble.” In fact, a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Sanders leading Clinton in Iowa with 49 percent of the vote over Clinton’s 44 percent.
That represents a 9-point increase for Sanders and a 7-point drop for Clinton since the last Quinnipiac poll a month ago.
In response to the ritzy Clinton reception, Sanders supporter planned to host a free rally at the other end of Black Rock. Members of CT Progressives, a local grassroots political group, were expected to gather at Rampage Skate Shop at 7 p.m. to register voters and volunteers and get to know like-minded anti-big money citizens.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.