BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Joseph P. Ganim, who served seven years in federal prison on corruption charges that toppled his last administration, on Tuesday declared himself victorious in the 2015 mayoral race in Connecticut’s largest city.
Ganim bested University of Bridgeport vice president Mary-Jane Foster, Republican city councilman and Harborview Market owner Enrique Torres and three other petitioning candidates in one of Bridgeport’s most stunning election seasons.
“There’s an element of redemption in all of this,” said Ganim, standing before gleeful supporters at Testo’s, a Madison Avenue restaurant owned by Democratic Town Committee Chair Mario Testa. “It’s real.”
Early unofficial numbers showed Ganim took 59 percent of the vote to Foster’s 28 percent and Torres’ 12 percent.
The 56-year-old said he believes city voters supported him because of the way he ran he city for 12 years from 1991 to 2003, saying he kept taxes low, improved education and supported job creation.
“That’s why we’re here tonight,” he said. “That’s what I think it was about.”
The former mayor was introduced by his 14-year-old son Robert, as daughter Krista, 20, and son Joseph, 18, looked on.
Ganim ran on a theme of second chances – one that rang true in a city where many residents have had their own brushes with the law or know friends and family who have served time. Judging by early returns, much of his strongest support also came from neighborhoods with high minority populations.
“Turnout was what we expected. A high turnout,” Dan Roach, party leader in the Black Rock neighborhood, said just as polls were closing at 8 p.m. “And the proportions were what we expected.”
Speaking to reporters after addressing the crowd, Ganim said he was “humbled and honored” by the win.
“I don’t feel like I went anywhere,” he said of his years in prison. “I never really left the city. I didn’t stop caring.”
The road to City Hall was not without its twists and turns this election year. Current Mayor Bill Finch (D) won his party’s endorsement in July, but Ganim won the Democratic party nomination in a September primary against Finch, a former state senator who has led the city since 2007, and Foster, a co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish minor league baseball team.
Finch had planned to stay on the ballot in November, but his team failed to meet a deadline to run as an independent and he lost his chance. He later threw his support behind his former rival Foster, who ran as an independent Democrat.
Ganim said Torres called to concede. Tony Barr, one of the petitioning candidates, told The Daily Voice he stopped by the victory party to talk to the mayor as well, but he ended up getting in a heated disagreement with some Ganim supporters just as Ganim was taking the stage. The incident ended quickly and Barr moved away from the stage.
Supporters chanted “Let’s Go, Joe!” and the campaign blasted “Eye of the Tiger” while the mayor waved to fans.
Ernie Newton, a former state senator who spent time in prison on campaign finance charges, wiped away tears of joy as the polling numbers flashed on the screen.
“We did it, baby we did it!” he said. “Redemption is real!”
Ganim will be sworn into office on Dec. 1.
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