BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim turned the tables on challenger John Gomes during a news conference on Tuesday, accusing his opponent’s campaign of voting irregularities and ballot stuffing.
At Crown Cafe, Ganim acknowledged that members of his team engaged in wrongdoing, but that the Gomes campaign was far from clean.
“As for the September primary, I own the fact that the court found people connected with my campaign engaged in serious voting irregularities,” said Ganim, adding that he wanted Gomes to be “honest, trustworthy and truthful” on what occurred with his campaign.
Ganim said Gomes needs to admit that “multiple people associated with his campaign engaged in clearly unlawful ballot behavior in the primary as well.” Ganim also said Gomes has been “disingenuous by sending out videos of people putting ballots in boxes from my campaign.”
Ganim said his campaign has sent videos of alleged ballot stuffing and other wrongdoing by the Gomes campaign to the Connecticut State Election Enforcement Commission.
Last month, Fairfield Judicial District Superior Court Judge William Clark said he found subpoenaed footage of two Ganim supporters apparently stuffing city dropboxes with stacks of absentee ballots to be “shocking.” Ganim beat Gomes in a September primary and again by 173 votes in the November general election, but Clark ruled to overturn the primary in response to a ballot fraud lawsuit by Gomes, who once worked for the mayor.
On Tuesday, Ganim announced that his team would not challenge the judge’s ruling for a new primary, now set for Jan. 23. If Gomes wins that primary, a new general election would be held Feb. 27.
The judge’s order also stated that local officials must make absentee ballot applications available on Dec. 29 and have them available to be mailed by Jan. 2.
Ganim claimed that his staff obtained videos showing several Gomes supporters, including “prominent election officials” engaging in irregularities. Ganim declined to name those officials.
In one alleged case, Ganim told reporters that the videos show a Gomes supporter “making 11 trips to the ballot box.” That person, Ganim said, had “so many ballots in her hand in a pile that she drops them on the ground, picks them back up, clearly visible on the video, and then stuffed them in the ballot box. This has got to stop. … As Bridgeport’s mayor, I am, and will do, everything I can to assure that we have a fair and transparent election process.”
SEEC spokesperson Joshua Foley told CT Examiner on Tuesday that he had not received any new complaints or videos from either side this week.
“We have had over 20 [correspondents and complaints] over the past two months from both sides,” he said.
In an emailed statement to CT Examiner, the Gomes campaign said, “Any offender who mishandled ballots in violation of the law should be subject to the penalties outlined in the Connecticut General Statutes. … There were opportunities to call additional witnesses during the civil trial, and the attorneys for the city declined. The city and the Ganim campaign did not discuss the ideas presented today [at press conference] during discussions for a new primary with all parties. The Order Approving Stipulation was signed by Judge Clark on Nov. 17. … If today’s statements by the mayor were genuine, it would have been presented to all parties during the discussion for a new primary date. The announcement by the mayor to not appeal Judge Clark’s ruling and the listening tour that began today is a part of a public relations campaign by the mayor to obtain his law license.”
Ganim also announced he was in the process of sending a letter to the Secretary of the State’s Office, asking the office to play more of an active role in the dispute.
“I am welcoming your office into my campaign and am asking that you dispatch one or more individuals to work with my campaign, and that of my opponent, to ensure that election laws, particularly those regarding absentee ballots, are followed,” Ganim wrote to Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas.
Tara Chozet, director of communications for the secretary of the state, said that, as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, her office had not received the letter.
Chozet shared the office’s response to Ganim’s request — when it’s received — which rebuked the mayor.
“The role of the Office of the Secretary of the State is to administer elections, not supervise campaign staff or candidates. It is both impractical and financially unfeasible, and the taxpayers of Connecticut have already spent too much for election oversight in one municipality,” the response stated. “If Mayor Ganim is serious about his responsibility for the actions of his campaign staff, he should hire someone to educate and supervise those who work under him to ensure they are acting according to the letter of the law.”