BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — At first it seemed like an audacious proposal. The disgraced Joseph P. Ganim, who spent seven years in prison on federal corruption charges for spearheading a “pay-to-play” atmosphere during his first City Hall tenure from 1991 to 2003, asked Bridgeport voters to re-elect him as mayor of the state’s largest city.
But as the months went on, the momentum built around Ganim’s talk of redemption and second chances. On Nov. 3, city voters re-elected him by a 2-1 margin over his closest competitor.
“Some will call this a comeback,” the 56-year-old told a crowd at his victory party. “But for me, this is a city I feel I never left. I never stopped caring.”
Some might say Ganim actually won the election in September: Though then-Mayor Bill Finch clinched the Democratic Party’s endorsement back in July, Ganim won the September primary with a 400-vote lead. In that crucial match-up, he bested both Finch, a former state senator who had led the city since 2007, and Mary-Jane Foster, a University of Bridgeport vice president and co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish minor league baseball team.
In a city of about 60,000 registered voters, only about 3,500 are Republicans. Winning the Democratic nod gave him strong odds in the general election.
After losing the primary, Finch planned to stay in the November race. But in a stunning twist, his campaign failed to meet a paperwork deadline and he lost that chance. Foster and Republican Councilman Enrique Torres failed to garner the votes needed to end Ganim’s return to City Hall.
Ganim took the oath of office Dec.1 before a roaring crowd packed into the Klein Memorial Auditorium.
Lt Gov. Nancy Wyman took the stage before Ganim’s swearing-in, alluding to the many challenges the city faces.
“You’ve got a big job on your hands,” she said. “I know that you will make things happen in the city of Bridgeport.”
Quoting the poet T.S. Eliot, Ganim asked supporters to help him rebuild the city.
“‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice,’” he said to cheers and applause. “Tonight, we are that voice. The past is done and the future, our future, has begun.”
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