Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim has successfully petitioned his way onto a statewide primary ballot in August.
Ganim, a convicted felon, is running for governor and needed 15,458 signatures from registered Democrats in the state of Connecticut to get on the ballot.
Earlier in June, Connecticut Public Radio followed Ganim during his signature drive. On that night, he was on his home turf --Platt Street in Bridgeport.
The home of Carlos Arango, 57, marked Ganim’s first stop.
“Mr. Mayor, what a pleasure,” Arango said. “I can’t believe it. I was looking through the window [and saying] ‘Mr. Mayor is over here.’”
Marie Lisere was exiting her car and heading for the front door of her home when Ganim showed up. After she shook the mayor’s hand, Lisere gave him a hard time about crime in the neighborhood. But like Arango, she put her name down in support of a man who was once convicted on federal corruption charges.
“We don’t even really look at Mayor Ganim for his mistakes or anything like that,” Lisere said. “Just that we know that he was a great mayor and the people have voted for him, we believe in him. That’s why we went back and voted for him and gave him a second chance.’”
Ganim left office in 2003. He was convicted on 16 counts that included felony racketeering and extortion. He used city relationships to his benefit so he could net hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods.
Ganim spent seven years in prison. But then in 2015, he asked for a second chance. And he was re-elected mayor.
And now, Ganim’s on a second “second-chance” tour. This time, he wants to be governor.
“I think Connecticut is very much, to the disbelief of some cynics, a very forgiving and understanding state for second-chance opportunities—and first-chance opportunities,” Ganim said. “I say to people, ‘Yeah for me it’s about second chances and for many of us, it’s about second chances.’ But I want to make it about first chances for individuals to get a job, to raise a family here, and to have a good quality education here in our public schools.”
Ganim was trounced by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont for the gubernatorial nomination at last month’s state Democratic convention. He didn’t get enough support from the delegates, so Ganim needed to petition. That’s why he was knocking on doors on Platt Street on a Wednesday night in June.
Linda Bolling has lived in the city for 54 years. She’s voted for Ganim every time he’s been on the ballot and she stuck with him even after the conviction. Bolling was asked why she would support the convicted felon and couldn’t answer immediately.
Ganim stood nearby and rolled his eyes at the line of questioning. But then he regained his focus and asked Bolling if he’d make for a good governor.
“You know, I think I you’ve learned from your mistakes,” Bolling said.
A week before Ganim got the nod from the secretary of the state’s office, he met the deadline to turn in the signatures to registrar of voters in towns that he performed his petition drive in.
The charismatic mayor put on a show—right in front of the secretary of the state’s office. He showed up in Hartford with a giant black box. It was filled with pages upon pages of signatures.
“Assuming we’re right and these 32,000 signatures qualify me, this will be the first time in history that a candidate for governor or a statewide office has qualified by a grassroots campaign from the registered Democrats or the registered voters from the state of Connecticut,” Ganim said. “I’m very proud to be standing here and announcing that with you today.”
Ganim’s right—mostly because the petitioning process is relatively new and no one attempted a signature campaign until 2010. Since then, he’s one of seven Democrats that have tried to get on the ballot by petitioning. Ganim’s the first of those candidates to make a successful attempt.
In addition to Ganim making the gubernatorial primary ballot by petition, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman will now primary on the GOP side after successful signature campaigns.