© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Joe Ganim declares lead in Bridgeport mayoral election, but race still up in the air

Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes (left) and his campaign manager Christine Bartlett-Josie (right) get up from a table in the back of the Cape Verdean Association seconds after receiving information from City Hall that Joe Ganim (far left on screen) received more votes than Gomes, November 07, 2023.
Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes (left) and his campaign manager Christine Bartlett-Josie (right) get up from a table in the back of the Cape Verdean Association seconds after receiving information from City Hall that Joe Ganim (far left on screen) received more votes than Gomes, November 07, 2023.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said Tuesday that he received the most votes in the city’s municipal election, but the results may not determine the final outcome of a bizarre race thrown into uncertainty due to allegations of ballot box abuse.

Voters headed to the polls just days after a judge invalidated the results of Bridgeport’s mayoral primary, citing evidence that absentee ballots were mishandled.

The ruling upended the race for mayor, casting uncertainty on the significance of this week’s general election contest, and creating a confusing scenario for voters.

Legal questions have swirled in the wake of the decision, including whether Bridgeport will need to hold a second mayoral primary, and if so, conduct another general election.

With those questions still unanswered, Ganim said at an election night party that the outcome of Tuesday's vote signals residents have rejected the allegations raised in court of voting misconduct by supporters of his campaign.

"Enough's enough," Ganim said. "We need to be able to move this city forward, not to be held back by what I, unfortunately, had to describe as a campaign of vengeance and bullying."

Official results from this week’s election were still pending as of early Wednesday morning. The Associated Press, which customarily provides race calls, said it would not declare a winner in the mayoral race yet due to the pending court challenge.

Speaking to his supporters shortly before midnight, Gomes said he believes he fell short in Tuesday’s election by 173 votes. He vowed his campaign for mayor isn’t over.

“We’re going to have a conversation with our attorney first thing tomorrow morning, and we’ll develop a course of action where we’re going to go from here,” he said.

Ganim, a two-term incumbent, was sent to federal prison for corruption charges following his first stint as mayor in the ‘90s and early 2000s. He narrowly won the city’s Democratic primary in September by 251 votes.

But the primary results were quickly contested in state court by Gomes, Ganim’s challenger and former aide. Gomes filed a complaint after video emerged of a person making what appeared to be multiple early morning trips to stuff stacks of papers into a ballot drop box.

On Nov. 1, Superior Court Judge William Clark overturned the primary results and ordered a new election.

State and local election officials were still determining how to put the decision into effect. Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said Tuesday that outstanding questions about the election will likely need to be resolved in court.

“I think this is far from over,” Thomas said.

Ganim achieved an unlikely political comeback, winning the mayor's seat eight years ago after his release from prison. He has touted economic development initiatives, financial stability and better quality of life in each of the city's neighborhoods during his second stint in office.

But Ganim's detractors have characterized the mayor as ineffective and detached from his duties at city hall. Gomes said his goals for the city include strengthening the education system, creating a stronger partnership between city government and the public, making the city more efficient, bolstering public safety and creating consistent economic development.

Gomes is a Democrat, but is listed as the Independent Party’s candidate for the November election. Ganim and Gomes faced Republican challenger David Herz and petitioning candidate Lamond Daniels in the race.

Absentee ballots played a significant role in this year’s contested municipal primary, which drew relatively low turnout overall. More than one quarter of the roughly 8,000 ballots cast in the race came by absentee votes, according to state election figures.

Bridgeport voters requested more than 2,500 ballots in advance of this week’s election. City officials reported 1,691 had been returned as of Tuesday morning, the vast majority of them from Democratic voters.

Bridgeport, the state’s most populous city, has seen legal challenges to a series of local elections in recent years. Lawmakers responded previously by installing an election monitor to oversee voting in the city.

State officials announced late last week that a temporary election monitor was in place once again. That monitor, Peggy Reeves, is an attorney who spent 14 years as a registrar of voters in Wilton. She also spent two years as a Democratic state representative, and served eight and a half years as the director of elections at the Secretary of the State’s Office.

The election monitor’s role is to ensure local officials follow state law and best practices for handling ballots and tabulating votes. Thomas said the monitor accompanied election workers to pick up absentee ballots from drop boxes in the city. The state has also requested surveillance video recordings of those boxes from Bridgeport police.

Reeves was stationed Tuesday at the city’s central counting location, where absentee ballots are recorded. Four attorneys from the Secretary of the State’s Office were also on call throughout the day to address election issues that surfaced in Bridgeport.

The controversy surrounding this year's primary drew national attention. Mishandling of absentee ballots was also top of mind for some voters, including Bridgeport native Carla Crumb. She said conduct that occurred during the primary was shameful.

"That's not a good thing to do when it comes to elections," Crumb said. "People should be honest at the end of the day."

Ann Cote voted at Thomas Hooker School in Bridgeport. She said the biggest issue she faces is the cost of living, but she also worries about how the city is run.

"The city's a mess,” Cote said. “The school system is horrible; the taxes are insane. So, I don't know where to go. The city is corrupt from the get-go."

This story will be updated. Connecticut Public's Jim Haddadin and Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

Kate Seltzer joined Connecticut Public as an investigative reporting fellow in January of 2023. She's also the co-host of the station‘s limited series podcast 'In Absentia'.
Ashad Hajela is CT Public's Tow Fellow for Race, Youth and Justice with Connecticut Public's Accountability Project. He can be reached at ahajela@ctpublic.org.
Bria Lloyd joined Connecticut Public as an investigative reporter for The Accountability Project in November 2022. She’s also the co-host of the station’s limited series podcast, 'In Absentia'.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content