Ex-con former Bridgeport mayor reaches brink of comeback

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/11/03/ex-con-former-bridgeport-mayor-reaches-brink-of-comeback/

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Five years after his release from prison, former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim has ridden an unlikely comeback bid to the brink of winning back his old job in Connecticut’s biggest city.

Ganim, who spent seven years behind bars for corruption, enters Tuesday’s election as the endorsed candidate of the hard-luck city’s most powerful party after defeating two-term incumbent Mayor Bill Finch in the Democratic primary.

His strongest competitor is expected to be Mary Jane Foster, an administrator at the University of Bridgeport who petitioned her way onto the ballot after losing in the Democratic primary. Foster, who has been endorsed by Finch and the city’s largest newspaper, says the city of 150,000 people is still battling a reputation for corruption earned by Ganim’s criminal conviction.

The party’s leader, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, has declined to endorse a candidate in the race.

Five other candidates including Republican Enrique Torres also are on the ballot for mayor.

Ganim, 56, served as mayor from 1991 to 2003 before being convicted of 16 charges, including bribery, racketeering and extortion. He was sent to prison for steering city contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive wine, custom clothes, cash and home improvements. Since his release, he was worked as a legal assistant at his family’s Bridgeport law firm, but he has been blocked by the courts from regaining his law license.

Ganim issued a public apology for his crimes earlier this year. On the campaign trail, where he has tapped nostalgia for what some remember as a time of lower taxes and safer neighborhoods, Ganim said the support he has received shows people are open to supporting somebody who owns up to their errors.

“It shows me that people do understand that people can make mistakes, deal with them openly and honestly, and recommit themselves to helping others,” Ganim said in an interview with The Associated Press.

His opponents contend that his achievements as mayor have been overstated, and that he has not taken full responsibility for his misdeeds. In 2013, the median household income in Bridgeport was $42,687, compared with $67,098 statewide. About 13.6 percent of households, or 6,574, lived on less than $10,000 a year.

Democrats make up the city’s largest voting bloc, with 42,122, followed by 15,416 unaffiliated voters, 3,578 Republicans and 266 others. Typically, the endorsed Democrat wins the mayor’s office.

— Written by Susan Haigh

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