Political operatives of Mayor Joe Ganim in a push to maximize moolah for his big ticket March 23rd fundraiser at Testo’s Restaurant are mining campaign donations from his 2015 opponents.
In a letter to contributors of Mary-Jane Foster, a Ganim opponent in both the Democratic primary and general election, Ganim writes, “Although I may not have been your first choice for Mayor in the last election cycle, I hope you feel as I do that we need to work together to continue Bridgeport’s progress. A large group of friends and supporters will be gathering on March 23, 2017 at Testo’s Ristorante on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport for cocktails to reflect on what we have accomplished thus far and talk about the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for our city.”
Ganim showed surprising fundraising strength in his 2015 comeback. One fundraising market now available to him that wasn’t two years ago is the business community that largely supported then incumbent Bill Finch whom Ganim defeated in a primary and then Mary-Jane Foster, a petitioning candidate in the general election.
Mickey Herbert, now chief executive of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, was among the few high-profile business leaders to back Ganim.
Ganim wants to load up his municipal reelection treasury now with an eye toward a potential statewide run for office in 2018. If that fails he can pivot back to his municipal reelection for 2019.
Finch spent about $600,000 in becoming the first incumbent mayor in city history to lose in a primary. Ganim spent just about that amount between the primary and general election.
What’s a realistic goal for next week’s fundraiser? If Ganim and Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa push it, $100,000 would be a mighty start given the advertised minimum $500 donation to the $1,000 maximum personal contribution.
Once Ganim gets through his municipal budget cycle in June he will begin to assess his chances for a statewide run next year. To be in play he must hold the line on taxes and hope development projects go vertical. A lot of this also depends on the reelection prospects of Governor Dan Malloy and the field of candidates. State Comptroller Kevin Lembo and State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. are Democratic names being floated by statewide political operatives for a run for governor. Several Republicans including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst are raising money for a statewide run.
Ganim, the 1994 Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, was the favorite for the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nomination until derailed by a federal corruption probe of his administration.
Heralding a second-chance message Ganim returned to office in 2015.
Fundraising on a state level is a different animal than a municipal office under the state’s voluntary Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races. Depending on the office sought, it’s a labor-intensive process to raise small donations to achieve a qualifying threshold of public money.
In 2013, the state legislature passed a new law (some refer to it as the “Ernie Newton law”) that prohibits candidates from seeking public campaign grants if the candidate has been convicted of a criminal offense, or served time within an eight-year period prior to seeking state office, or further violates public office. The genesis of the bill was former State Senator Ernie Newton’s arrest on state campaign finance charges accusing him of falsifying $500 in campaign donations that triggered an $80,000 grant under the CEP program during his State Senate run in 2012.
Following his 2003 conviction on corruption charges, Ganim completed his time in 2010 but it’s unclear if he could legally participate in the public money state program. If not, he’d have to raise it the old fashioned way.
In 2015 the state legislature had considered a bill backed by Finch to prohibit officials convicted of public corruption from seeking office. The bill did not come up for a vote.