Bridgeport, CT mayor wins re-election after controversial do-over vote

Bridgeport, CT mayor wins re-election after controversial do-over vote

  • Post category:Politics
Bridgeport, CT mayor wins re-election after controversial do-over vote
  • Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim won a do-over election, defeating fellow Democrat John Gomes and Republican David Herz.
  • Ganim’s victory came after a judge nullified the results of the original election due to allegations of absentee ballot box stuffing.
  • Gomes had successfully battled in court to get the mayoral race rerun on the grounds that a September party primary was tainted by voting irregularities.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim won a do-over election Tuesday in Connecticut’s most populous city, months after a judge threw out the results of the first one because of allegations of absentee ballot box stuffing during a Democratic primary.

Ganim easily defeated fellow Democrat John Gomes, the city’s former acting chief administrative officer who had gone to court to get the race rerun on the grounds that the original result was tainted.

Yet in the end, Gomes was not able to turn that legal victory into votes. Tuesday marked the fourth straight time Ganim beat him during the messy race, including the now-voided primary in September, a nullified general election in November and a rerun primary last month.


“If wasn’t clear three times in a row. It’s clear today. Louder than ever. Bridgeport has spoken,” Ganim told supporters as he declared victory at a campaign party less than an hour after polls closed. He called his long-awaited victory “a mandate.”

Joe Ganim speaks

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim speaks during a debate in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 12, 2018. Ganim won a do-over election on Tuesday in Bridgeport, months after a judge threw out the results of the first one because of allegations of absentee ballot box stuffing during a Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Speaking to supporters, Gomes said he was proud his campaign brought attention to longstanding voting integrity issues in the city. He didn’t concede, but spoke about his campaign being “at halftime” and said he planned on staying involved in Bridgeport and Connecticut civic affairs.

Ganim also defeated Republican David Herz.


Bridgeport’s path to Election Day has been complicated — and to some voters, embarrassing.

After narrowly losing to Ganim in September, Gomes released surveillance videos he had received from city-owned security cameras showing a woman making multiple early-morning trips to stuff what appeared to be absentee ballots into a drop box.

It looked like a blatant violation of Connecticut law, which requires people using collection boxes to drop off completed ballots themselves or designate a family member, police officer, election official or caregiver to do it for them

Superior Court Judge William Clark threw out the result of the primary following a multi-day court hearing in which at least two Ganim supporters who were dropping documents into the boxes refused to answer questions, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Ganim said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Because the court decision came less than a week before the general election was scheduled, the November vote went ahead as planned. Ganim won by a narrow margin, but that result didn’t count.

A new Democratic primary was held on Jan. 23. Ganim won again, this time more comfortably, but the two Democrats faced off again Tuesday because Gomes had also qualified for the ballot as an independent candidate.

For the finale, top Democrats rallied for Ganim. In the campaign’s final days he picked up endorsements from Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz appeared at a get-out-the-vote rally Saturday.

The repeat votes left some Bridgeport residents exhausted.

“I hear customers talk about it,” Nick Roussas, owner of Frankie’s Diner, said before Tuesday’s final vote. “A lot of people are tired that we’re coming to a fourth election.”

Gomes mentioned that weariness in his speech to supporters.

“Bridgeport right now is a divided city. We understand the voter fatigue, frustration and many who didn’t show up to vote,” he said. “But we respect them. We appreciate them and we love them.”

Both Democrats spent the final weeks of the race trying to rally voters to once again cast ballots. They also sniped at one another. Ganim, who said he had to fire Gomes from his city government post, accused his onetime aide of running against him out of revenge, saying putting him in charge would be a “mistake.”

Gomes, in turn, brought up Ganim’s criminal record, which included having to take a hiatus from the mayor’s office to serve prison time for corruption.

“I can no longer tolerate the abusive insults and ad hominem attacks aimed at me by a lawless, immoral, and unscrupulous disbarred lawyer who is bent on perpetuating a corrupt enterprise in the City of Bridgeport,” Gomes wrote in a recent opinion piece.

First elected mayor in 1991, Ganim, 63, served 12 years in the post before quitting when he was caught accepting bribes and kickbacks. Convicted of racketeering, extortion and other crimes, he spent seven years in prison but then won his old job back in 2015. He was reelected again in 2019.

During the latest campaign, Ganim sought to tout improvements in the city under his leadership and urged voters not to change course.

Gomes, 53, was born in the Cape Verde Islands, immigrated to the U.S. at age 9 and grew up in Bridgeport. He called for a more inclusive and transparent city government.

Bridgeport, a heavily Democratic working-class city of 148,000 about 60 miles (100 km) east of New York, has been under state and federal scrutiny for decades for alleged irregularities involving absentee ballots. New primaries have been called over the years in state legislative and local city council races because of problems.

Many of the issues relate to a practice known as ballot harvesting, where campaign workers go to people’s homes, help them fill out absentee ballots and then either mail them in or deposit them in drop boxes.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission voted in September to launch an investigation into the September primary.

Various steps were taken to restore voter confidence. Two interim election monitors were assigned by the state to spot-check absentee ballot applications in parts of Bridgeport to confirm they were legitimate. They also worked to educate the public and city election workers about election rules.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said she hoped the state Legislature would respond to the scandal by passing laws requiring absentee ballots to be dated and labeled as to how they were submitted. She’s also calling for limits on when absentee ballot applications are available before an election, as well as new funding for nonpartisan voter education.


“It’s always problematic that most of the money in elections and voter education comes from the political parties and the political candidates,” she said.

Republicans have accused Democrats who control the state Legislature of not taking the issue seriously. The GOP has unsuccessfully pushed for measures such as eliminating absentee ballot drop boxes or at least suspending their use in Bridgeport until the state’s two election monitors issue a report.

“It’s been an embarrassing scandal. Repeated ballot-stuffing was caught on tape. The whole world saw it on video. People in Bridgeport were disenfranchised. They now have election fatigue, and they feel their vote doesn’t count,” said Sen. Rob Sampson, the top Senate Republican on the Legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. “Yet, majority Democrats at the State Capitol have shown zero urgency to strengthen election security policies in Connecticut.”

by FOXNews