BRIDGEPORT – A rally called in support of Wanda Geter-Pataky, who is accused of stuffing absentee ballot boxes, was thrown into disarray as Gomes supporters arrived to protest the alleged election fraud.
Just as Councilmember Mary McBride-Lee, the organizer of the event and a supporter of Mayor Joe Ganim, was about to start her speech in defense of Geter-Pataky, an argument broke out between protestors and a few Gomes supporters in attendance.
While the Ganim supporters said Geter-Pataky – the vice chair of the city Democratic Town Committee and a Ganim supporter – has been mistreated by the Gomes campaign and the press because she is a Black woman, Gomes supporters said their outrage had nothing to do with race.
“Wrong is wrong,” shouted Willie Medina, a Board of Education candidate running alongside Gomes.
“Yes, wrong is wrong. But usually, there’s a different set of rules for Blacks and Whites,” replied McBride-Lee. “I’ve been Black all my life. You don’t know.”
Soon after the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, Gomes posted a video of a woman who he alleges is Geter-Pataky putting multiple absentee ballots into a City Hall drop box. While Gomes won at the polls with 3,110 in-person votes compared to Ganim’s 2,667, a later count of absentee ballots gave Ganim the victory by 251 votes.
Geter-Pataky, who is already under investigation by the chief state’s attorney’s office for similar allegations during the 2019 Democratic primary, has not yet responded to Gomes’s claims. She did not attend a Monday court hearing for the lawsuit by the Gomes campaign challenging the primary outcome.
McBride-Lee said the scrutiny given Geter-Pataky would have been far less had she been a White woman. Behind McBride-Lee, protestors held signs accusing Gomes of disregarding Black people.
“John Gomes does not care about Black people,” one sign read. “John Gomes does not care about Black women,” read another.
Asked for comment, Gomes told CT Examiner that his criticism was aimed at the Bridgeport electoral process, not at Geter-Pataky’s race.
“This issue is not about color or gender; it’s about the integrity of elections in the city and the violation of civil rights on the part of the current Vice Chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee,” said Gomes. “People in Bridgeport need faith restored in the election process given the recent criminal referral of several city officials, including Ms. Geter-Pataky, to the State Attorney from the 2019 Democratic Primary.”
Gomes said that public officials — particularly those named in past and present complaints for violating election laws — should not be exempt from public scrutiny.
But Darnell Crosland, a local criminal defense attorney who attended the rally, said that Geter-Pataky has been unfairly “convicted” without a proper defense.
“When you look at what’s happening here, we’re more concerned about the process,” Crosland said. “And it appears to be they’re convicting and chastising individuals in this community without going through the proper process, and we don’t accept that.”
Crosland said voters should not rush to judgment and instead let the process play out in court.
“I think that that’s what should happen,” Crosland added. “The community is not to tear itself apart, and not to chastise and lynch people in the streets for political gain.”
Later, McBride-Lee criticized Gomes supporters for interrupting the rally.
“I feel very sad today because we had people that come out here and try to upset our rally,” she said. “We are very intelligent people. We don’t do that. We stay in our lane. You need to stay in your lane.”