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Bridgeport Democrats stick with Joe Ganim for mayor in primary election do-over

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim greets his supporters at Gather Tap and Tavern in downtown Bridgeport, declaring victory against his challenger John Gomes early in the night before the official vote counts were announced during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary on January 23, 2024.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim greets his supporters at Gather Tap and Tavern in downtown Bridgeport, declaring victory against his challenger John Gomes early in the night before the official vote counts were announced during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim has won a do-over Democratic primary, months after a judge threw out the result of the last one because of allegations of absentee ballot stuffing in Connecticut’s largest city.

Ganim defeated John Gomes, his former acting chief administrative officer who narrowly lost the now-voided Sept. 12 primary and later successfully challenged the result in court, in Tuesday’s vote.

It was the third time the two candidates have faced off in the past five months during this unusual and protracted mayoral election, and things might not be over yet.

It is possible the two candidates will meet again in a general election, set for Feb. 27. Gomes can appear on the ballot as a third-party candidate, if he doesn’t drop out. Before Tuesday’s vote, his campaign manager had indicated he intended to continue to the end.

Ganim declares election win

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim declared victory Tuesday in a redo of the city's mayoral primary, but it might not be the final chapter in a controversial election marred by allegations of misconduct.

Ganim told supporters shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. that he won the in-person vote Tuesday, and holds a decisive lead over his Democratic opponent, John Gomes.

“This is a strong ratification that I wish we had had an election or two earlier," Ganim said. "But you know what, it's not when it happens, it’s that it does happen, and that it did happen for Bridgeport tonight.”

Gomes did not immediately concede the primary election. His campaign manager said Gomes is still weighing whether to compete in next month's general election.

Both candidates secured endorsements from minor parties, meaning both are eligible to appear on the ballot again next month.

Official vote totals from Tuesday's primary were still pending. As of 10 p.m., results available from The Associated Press showed Ganim receiving 50.5% of the vote, with 35% of all votes counted.

John Gomes speaks to the media during an election night party in Bridgeport, Conn. on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim claimed victory in the second primary.
Joe Buglewicz
/
Connecticut Public
John Gomes speaks to the media during an election night party in Bridgeport, Conn. on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim claimed victory in the second primary.

Read our earlier coverage:

Ballots being counted in primary do-over

The polls are closed in Connecticut's largest city, where a third vote was held in a mayoral race upended by allegations involving absentee ballots.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and challenger John Gomes faced off in a do-over Democratic primary that was ordered by a judge. The judge cited "shocking" surveillance video of Ganim supporters dropping what appeared to be stacks of absentee ballots into outdoor drop boxes during September's primary.

Ganim won the first primary and the general election in November by narrow margins, but both those results were tossed by the judge.

Tuesday's vote count is expected to take several hours. A second general election is expected to be held next month.

Democratic voters decide in race between Ganim, Gomes

Isadora Lopez (left) and her mom Sandra Burgos (right) cast their ballots at the Luis Munoz Marin School in Bridgeport during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary where incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim faced off against challenger John Gomes for the third time. “I’ve never seen the ballot so empty,” Lopez said while filling it out.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Isadora Lopez (left) and her mom Sandra Burgos (right) cast their ballots at the Luis Munoz Marin School in Bridgeport during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary where incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim faced off against challenger John Gomes for the third time. “I’ve never seen the ballot so empty,” Lopez said while filling it out.

For the third time, voters in Connecticut's largest city will try to pick a mayor Tuesday in an election upended by allegations of malfeasance involving absentee ballots.

Turnout was expected to be low for the vote in Bridgeport, which is holding a new Democratic primary because results of the first one back in September were tossed out by a judge.

The judge cited “shocking” surveillance video of people who supported incumbent Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim dropping what appear to be stacks of absentee ballots into outdoor drop boxes.

Ganim faces Democratic challenger John Gomes. Polls are open in the city until 8 p.m.

Judge rejects last-minute request to set aside some absentee ballots

A judge has rejected a last-minute request to set aside some absentee ballots in today's re-do Bridgeport mayoral primary.

The city had argued that a Gomes campaign worker improperly gave absentee ballot applications to other campaign workers. But Gomes' campaign argued successfully, that it appears the necessary paperwork is being filed. Even if all the paperwork wasn't filed properly, the Gomes' campaign says it would be a technical paperwork shortcoming, and the ballots would still be valid.

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said Tuesday there are many people working to ensure that the votes of the people of Bridgeport count.

"We've monitored the supervised absentee voting process. We have been watching the video footage from the dropboxes, we've conducted hundreds of spot-check calls to absentee voters," Thomas said.

Absentee ballots are counted at the Margaret E. Morton Government Center in Bridgeport on January 23 during the mayoral primary. Incumbent Joe Ganim faces Democratic challenger John Gomes, again, after the September 2023 primary results were thrown out over allegations Ganim supporters stuffed multiple absentee ballots into outdoor ballot collection boxes.
Joe Buglewicz
/
Connecticut Public
Absentee ballots are counted at the Margaret E. Morton Government Center in Bridgeport on January 23 during the mayoral primary. Incumbent Joe Ganim faces Democratic challenger John Gomes, again, after the September 2023 primary results were thrown out over allegations Ganim supporters stuffed multiple absentee ballots into outdoor ballot collection boxes.

More than 1,700 absentee ballots have been returned to city officials for this election.

—Matt Dwyer

'Oh, that nice lady picked up my ballot'

Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas says her office's election monitors have been in Bridgeport every day, ahead of today's primary.

Speaking Tuesday morning, Thomas said about seven issues have been referred to the State Elections Enforcement Commission for further investigation so far.

"We've been making some spot check calls as part of the election monitor duties. And in a few instances, people have said things like, 'Oh, that nice lady picked up my ballot.'" Thomas said. "So we had to make referrals for all of those."

—Matt Dwyer

In Bridgeport, residents vote for mayor, yet again

Tuesday’s election is the head-scratching culmination of months of political back-and-forth in the state’s biggest city, after a state judge last November threw out the results of the Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary and ordered a new primary to take its place.

At issue were allegations Ganim supporters stuffed multiple absentee ballots into outdoor ballot collection boxes. Ganim said these supporters broke the law, but denied any knowledge or involvement in the scheme.

Assistant Moderator Doris Vasquez sits in an empty gymnasium at the Luis Munoz Marin School in Bridgeport during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary. Turnout at noon totaled around 90 voters for the district.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Assistant Moderator Doris Vasquez sits in an empty gymnasium at the Luis Munoz Marin School in Bridgeport during a re-do of the city’s Democratic primary. Turnout at noon totaled around 90 voters for the district.

In the September primary, Ganim defeated Gomes by 251 votes out of 8,173 cast. The Gomes campaign later sued the city, demanding a new primary after obtaining video surveillance evidence of the alleged ballot box stuffing. The Nov. 7 general election went ahead as scheduled, and Ganim once again prevailed in a close race over Gomes, who ran as an independent, and two other candidates.

But the judge’s order rendered that election moot. Setting up Tuesday’s contest.

The winner will once again face Republican David Herz and independent candidate Lamond Daniels in a do-over of the general election scheduled for Feb. 27.

Who’s on the ballot? 

Ganim is seeking an eighth term as mayor. He previously served from 1991 to 2003 before spending seven years in federal prison for corruption and extortion charges stemming from his time in City Hall. Voters returned him to office in 2015 and 2019.

Gomes served in Ganim’s second administration as the city’s acting chief administrative officer until he was demoted in 2016 and later as an assistant chief administrative officer until his termination in July 2022.

Ganim previously faced a primary challenge in his 2019 reelection bid, when he narrowly defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, by 270 votes. That result was also challenged in the courts, but a judge ultimately upheld the victory.

Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, is a Democratic stronghold. President Joe Biden carried the city in 2020 with 79% of the vote.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story indicated Democratic mayoral candidate John Gomes will compete in the Feb. 27 special general election. His campaign manager said Wednesday morning that Gomes is still evaluating his options, which include competing in the race as a minor party candidate.

Connecticut Public's Patrick Skahill, Matt Dwyer, Jim Haddadin and Erica McIntosh contributed to this report.

Bria Lloyd joined Connecticut Public as an investigative reporter for The Accountability Project in November 2022. She’s also the co-host of the station’s limited series podcast, 'In Absentia'.