Ganim Closes Out Elections, Returns for Eighth Term as Bridgeport Mayor

Mayor Joe Ganim standing outside of a polling place in Bridgeport prior to the January vote (CT Examiner)

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BRIDGEPORT – After four consecutive elections, an election fraud lawsuit, the launch of numerous State Elections Enforcement Commission investigations and considerable spending by the state, city and campaign supporters, Mayor Joe Ganim won the 2023 mayoral race on Tuesday.

Since September, Bridgeport voters have cast their votes in the mayoral race four times – in the original Democratic primary and general election, and court-ordered primary and general election. On Tuesday, residents voted to give Ganim an eighth term in office.

According to unofficial results from the Secretary of the State, Ganim took home almost 59 percent of the votes, while Democratic challenger John Gomes, who ran on the Independent Party ticket, received about 38 percent. Republican David Herz received about three percent. 

About 2,418 of the 3,146 absentee ballots issued by the Town Clerk’s Office were cast, with Ganim receiving 1,731 absentee votes, Gomes receiving 660 and Herz, 27.

Ganim has now won all of the original and court-ordered races this election season.

At his campaign party on Tuesday night, Ganim – who received endorsements from Gov. Ned Lamont, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Jim Himes days before the last general election – thanked residents for their resounding support.

“Let’s get on with the business of working every day for the people of this great city to make it the greatest city that we can,” Ganim said.

With 10,854 votes cast on Tuesday, the four elections have amassed about 41,772 votes altogether in the last six months. Since September, Ganim has received a total of 21,278 votes and Gomes received 17,536.

The continuation of the 2023 race into January and February was the result of an absentee ballot fraud lawsuit filed by Gomes shortly after his September primary race against Ganim. On Nov. 1, Judge William Clark ordered two new elections based on “shocking” security footage of two Ganim supporters – Wanda Geter-Pataky, a city operations specialist and vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, and City Councilwoman Eneida Martinez – seemingly stuffing stacks of ballots into city dropboxes.

Although Gomes could have dropped out of the race after losing to Ganim in the Jan. 23 primary do-over, he instead opted to stay the course and invoke the Tuesday election.

While the extended election season has seemingly reached its resolution, city and state officials are still assessing the aftermath.

30 open complaints

According to SEEC spokesperson Joshua Foley, the state agency has opened investigations into 30 complaints regarding the mayoral race so far. The SEEC has agreed to look into 25 complaints related to the Sept. 12 primary, one related to the Nov. 7 general election and four related to the January primary.

Foley said the SEEC has not yet opened investigations into complaints surrounding the Tuesday race, but said most complaints typically come to the commission in the weeks following an election. 

In a Monday email, Director of Communications for the Office of the Secretary of the State Tara Chozet said the office has made three referrals to the SEEC since Feb. 1. One referral involved four residents claiming someone else had picked up their absentee ballot, another was regarding incomplete absentee ballot applications, and the third centered around issues with Gomes’s Independent Party endorsement.

Without a final complaint count, the time and costs needed for the Bridgeport-related SEEC investigations are still unknown. 

Per Chozet, the Office of the Secretary of the State is also still tallying the costs it incurred assisting Bridgeport elections.

Shortly after the original primary, the state legislature approved a $150,000 annual budget to place election monitors in Bridgeport. This election season, monitors Tim De Carlo and Peggy Reeves served as watchdogs for the November, January and February elections, training city election staff and reporting issues to the state office.

“I don’t yet have calculations for how much of the $150,000 for this fiscal year has been used, as we don’t have final invoices,” Chozet said.

Chozet said the office is also still calculating the cost of paying its staff overtime for their work in Bridgeport, which will come out of its general fund budget – not the election monitor budget.

She added that additional costs such as election equipment, equipment servicing, supplies, staffing, and poll workers are absorbed by the city. But on Monday, Bridgeport officials did not provide CT Examiner with an estimated cost of the continued race.

Last month, Bridgeport Budget Chief Nestor Nkwo told City Council members that the cost of the continued mayor’s race will likely be at least $100,000 to $120,000. However, Finance Director Kenneth Flatto said on Monday that the city could not yet accurately assemble a list of expenses.

Along with state and city fundings, the total amount accrued in campaign contributions is still reportedly unknown as Gomes has not yet submitted his updated finance report to the city. Based on all of the available filings, Ganim raised about $808,900 in contributions and Gomes raised about $408,955 as of Jan. 20.

Was it worthwhile?

Asked by CT Examiner on Tuesday if he believed the continuation of the mayoral race was worthwhile given the needed funding and resources, Gomes backed both the court ruling and his own decision to invoke the Tuesday race.

Standing outside Black Rock School just a few hours before the polls closed, Gomes said the city needs to focus on improving the integrity of its elections.

“Evidence that was presented in court showed a clear violation of their civil rights and voter suppression,” Gomes said. “This was not a John Gomes campaign decision. It was a decision that came from the court based on overwhelming evidence.”

Gomes said it was imperative for him to see the election process through to Feb. 27.

Ganim did not respond to CT Examiner requests for comment prior to publication.