Dear Mayor Ganim: Bridgeport is an Island; You Won’t Be Governor

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, he of an seven-year prison stay for corruption, seems to be under the impression that because the people of Bridgeport looked past his felonious background, the rest of the state might as well. Well, guess again, Mr. Mayor. In this case (and in others), the people of the rest of Connecticut aren’t as—choose your word—gullible, naïve, culpable, enabling, clueless—as the people of your city are.

Let’s be clear: Connecticut Democrats already have a number of honest candidates for governor—Drew, Lembo, Harris, and others potentially running—Harp, Jepsen, Kennedy, Wyman. We can debate each person’s qualifications, vision, record and goals. But at least none of them has done time.

I am certainly a supporter of second chances. I think Mayor Ganim has every right to make a living and run for office now that he has paid his debt to society, as they say. However, if someone robs a bank, I don’t think we should make that person a teller when the prison sentence is complete.

Ganim had a golden opportunity at making it clear he was remorseful for his pattern of shakedowns, extortion, racketeering, and bribe-taking. It was mid-summer of 2015 on Colin McEnroe’s radio show on WNPR. The incomparable host gave Ganim every chance to clear the air, set the record straight, throw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion. He failed. He actually said, “Huge mistakes were made.”

For those who want to revisit this particular interview, it’s here.

Come again? A mistake is when you ignore a traffic ticket, write something nasty about someone out of anger, or open up too much on Facebook (I’ve done them all). Ganim engineered a mind-boggling pattern of corruption and to this day, he isn’t sorry for it.

Ganim’s backstory has been told many times: an up and coming star of the Democratic Party was caught red-handed, up to his chubby little neck in felonies. He was convicted on 16 counts—obviously not an isolated incident but a stunning pattern of criminal activity. Off to the Big House he went for seven years—the longest prison sentence for any Connecticut political crook (and that’s saying something) and among the top ten in the nation (again, quite an accomplishment).

It doesn’t take a cynic to conclude Ganim wouldn’t even admit guilt until it was clear there might be a path back to the scene of the crime and he might be able to retake the position from which he robbed the people of the city blind.

The bigger question is what’s in the water in Bridgeport? Connecticut’s largest city is an outlier, an aberration in an otherwise reasonable state. An effective and honest mayor (Bill Finch) loses reelection to a crook; state legislators from the city get convicted (Newton, Ayala) or are the target of a criminal investigation (another Ayala); or completely botch the running of the DMV (yet another Ayala, a family hat trick).

We can only hope that someone convinces Ganim that Democrats in Connecticut have no interest in nominating a jailbird for governor.