Home Stretch For Historic Democratic Mayoral Primary

mayoral debate 2015
Finch, Ganim, Foster spar at forum.

Two weeks remaining to this surreal Democratic primary for mayor that features a two-term incumbent seeking to become the second longest serving mayor in history, a former mayor trying to make history returning to the job he had for 11-plus years and a third candidate seeking history as the first Democratic female mayor. And it’s possible, after all the charges, countercharges, give and take, mail pieces, commercials, door knocks, phone calls, all three, Bill Finch, Joe Ganim and Mary-Jane Foster, could continue on to the November general election irrespective of the September 16 primary result.

Out of breath? Yes, so are campaign workers, political strategists and even perhaps fatigued candidates trying to catch a second wind with two weeks left. These races can be a battle of attrition.

So bizarre is this election cycle that for the first time supervision of absentee ballots will actually take place in a city housing project–P.T. Barnum Apartments named for the man who marketed the circus worldwide–as a result of a three-ring circus of requests by residents there who claim they cannot make it to the polls. Connecticut is among a handful of states requiring an excuse–work, sickness, military, etc.–for a voter not making it to a designated polling location. Seems like a whole bunch of folks are unable to make it to the Aquaculture School near the housing project September 16. State law allows local elections officials to supervise voting by absentee ballot to cut down voter manipulation. So a date will be set for folks who claim they cannot trek to the polling place to vote under supervision at the housing complex. It also allows electors to vote in person primary day if their stated excuse somehow has resolved itself.

The candidates:

McMurray, Finch, Houston, Dance, Morris
Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris, far right, joined Mayor Bill Finch and legendary outdoorsmen Jimmy Houston and Bill Dance at the official announcement in July of 2012. At left is 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray.

Bill Finch won the mayoralty in 2007 as a state senator running reluctantly for mayor because party regulars needed someone to defeat maverick State Rep. Chris Caruso after incumbent Mayor John Fabrizi hemorrhaged under revelations of cocaine use in office and seeking leniency in court on behalf of a sexual offender. Polling showed Fabs could not survive a Caruso challenge. Party regulars prevailed on him not to run. They recruited Finch who squeaked a primary win over Caruso then won the general election over Republican Mike Garrett. Finch won reelection in 2011 defeating Foster in a primary and then dispatching Republican Enrique Torres who will be on the ballot for mayor in November. Finch has leveraged the power of incumbency to raise money, spending in the neighborhood of $600,000 for this primary and touting development projects such as the urban-renewal Steel Point on the East Side that will feature Bass Pro Shops as the anchor tenant. Finch is spending heavily to cast doubt about returning Ganim to office.

Ganim, cops
Ganim has made public safety a centerpiece of the campaign. Photo courtesy of Don Sikorski.

Joe Ganim served as mayor from November 1991 to April of 2003 when he was forced from office following conviction on federal corruption charges. He is the second longest serving mayor in city history behind Socialist Jasper McLevy 1933-57. In his comeback bid Ganim is staying largely focused on taxes, public safety and quality of life issues such as blight, areas where he thinks the incumbent is vulnerable. Ganim, just like when he won election in 1991, says he will hire 100 police officers to address low police staffing levels facing an increase in violent crime this summer. Ganim has emerged as a public relations lightning rod conducting news conferences on crime, creation of an Office of Public Integrity to address his troubled past and proposing public financing of mayoral races. He will spend about $300,000 for the primary raised during a compressed election cycle this summer.

Foster hq
Mary-Jane Foster says she’s the honest choice for change.

Mary-Jane Foster, once friendly with both Finch and Ganim, is trying to become the first Democratically elected woman mayor. The only female mayor in Bridgeport history Republican Mary Moran was defeated by Ganim in 1991. Foster, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team with her husband Jack McGregor and entrepreneur Mickey Herbert, had a falling-out with Ganim before his corruption case went public in 2000 after Ganim torpedoed the couple’s management proposal for the now-called Webster Bank Arena that was their concept. The arena became part of the Ganim corruption case. While Foster supported Finch for mayor in 2007, it wasn’t long before they knocked heads starting with Finch’s public criticism of the University of Bridgeport where Foster serves as a vice president during a major growth period for the anchor of the city’s South End. An arm of the Unification Church of which Finch is a critic helped finance the university’s recovery more than 20 years ago but is not involved in the day-to-day operations. Foster, outspent nearly two to one, cracked 40 percent of the vote against Finch in 2011. She entered the primary season late hoping to catch on as an alternative to her opponents.

There’s no love among these three candidates. Finch and Ganim, although politically aligned in the 1990s, were not close. As for Foster she has equal enmity for the two of them. Depending on the tightness of the primary outcome, the three candidates could face each other again in November.



  1. The Finch Era is drawing to a close. Hope he finds gainful employment. It must be hard with all those terminations on his résumé. Maybe Uncle Richard will give him a job polishing hubcaps.

  2. Yawn–this has been the most quiet election cycle ever. I knew it would be. I wish Mayor Finch continued success. Thank goodness development will continue. What a great time to be a part of Bridgeport’s changing image. Of all the great projects in the works, I am particularly excited about the Cherry Street project. A new Charter School. 336 units of housing and a grocery store. It has been derelict for years, of course including the 11 years of Ganim. Finally it will clean up Bridgeport’s image from 95 and hopefully be the incentive for other developers to refurbish derelict buildings into affordable and market-rate housing.

    1. What about grocery stores for the East End/South End, which have been neglected since Tax Bill became mayor?

      I would also like to know how you support Charter schools, don’t you teach in the public school system?

      1. Frank the Cabana Boy, a couple questions for you. First, I mentioned a grocery store for a factual project of 336 housing units and a Charter school. You mentioned an East End and South End grocery store. I do not recall Joseph Ganim ever addressed a grocery store in the South End or East End, and I certainly haven’t heard Mary-Jane Foster mention any economic development projects let alone an East End grocery store. Is that the Mackey/Day East End strategy??? Did you want to elaborate on the East End grocery store proposal from Foster? I’d be excited to hear it.

        Btw, the 138th is about to get a new grocery store. Food Bazaar Farmers Market. Nice!!!

  3. Joe Ganim didn’t hold the line on taxes. Hartford did that for him. In short, Hartford handled Bridgeport’s bankruptcy and handed Ganim a budget that made tax increases unnecessary.
    The 2008 bailout of too big to fail banks hurt Mayor Finch and haunts Bridgeport even now. The massive developments underway are a credit to Finch’s ability to construct a network advancing Bridgeport’s interests while other regions tread water.
    In 1991, crime was a problem, too. Both hired more cops but only Mayor Finch has the kind of progress underway that deters crime. Prosperity is crime’s worst enemy. Think of the future.

  4. So you’re saying we should just say “Fuck it?” Bill Finch deserves some credit for getting new development off the ground. By the same token it is logical to ask “he’s had eight years, why is this stuff only happening now?” All the construction will continue under a new mayor; canceling the contracts would precipitate a long legal battle.

    No one is blaming Finch for shitty schools or the short-staffed police department or any of the socioeconomic ills hampering the city’s progress. But he should be held accountable for letting the problems fester, for not doing anything about them. It is doubtful he will do anything about them in a third term.

  5. The economic development projects are coming at lightening speed. Very exciting for sure. Has anyone heard of economic projects from Foster and Ganim? I know Ganim has that great sidewalk project and I know Foster supported that. Can we expect that in the first term? These are great ideas and do address safety issues. I know a few jobs may be created, and it does sound a hell of a lot more exciting than Steelpointe.

  6. Why do other cities define “economic development” in terms of numbers of living-wage jobs created and percentage increases in tax revenue, but the Finch Administration defines “economic development” in terms of tax-deferred property (housing for the Stamford workforce), non-taxable property (such as train stations to accommodate Stamford workforce needs), power plants that serve the needs of our neighbors who are competing with us for tax base (and the former of which crowd out high-value tax base and devalue surrounding taxable property), and parking-lot-intensive, low-employment strip malls on precious waterfront property? Bridgeport under the Finch Administration is the economic Twilight Zone, where bad is good, less is more, and stupid is smart.

    The tax-oppressed, tax-strangled people of Bridgeport are sick of the “Rod Serling” narrative coming out of City Hall.

    The people of Bridgeport know the Stamford-Greenwich-dictated, perverse economic policies of the Finch Administration must come to an end, and must be replaced by the comprehensive, long-term, jobs/tax base creation plan of Joe Ganim.

    1. No one gives you a living wage job or a paycheck. You earn those. A development like Steel Point will have jobs in many income tiers. The job you are qualified for is no one’s fault but your own. Train stations go both ways. Is Grand Central a train station to accommodate Stamford workforce needs? Is Greenwich slave quarters for the New York City workforce? Great floods start with a single drop of water. Bridgeport’s basin is starting to fill. Let us see if we can keep it going.

      1. Great post, BOE SPY. Kohut seems more than a bit obsessed with seeing us as slaves to the well-heeled down county.

        Too many posters condemn the incumbent mayor (any incumbent mayor) for not being perfect and having perfect outcomes. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and you have to build off reality.

        And the reality is quite simple. Like all industrial revolution cities, Bridgeport has very limited open and clean land to develop. Instead we have a really tight footprint that has to be heavily remediated.

        When you combine municipal corruption as seen under Ganim with that remediation reality, it’s not hard to understand why it is so difficult to get anything done here or why it takes so long.

        That’s why we have had to make sweetheart deals just to get something going. If we do okay, better deals will result.

        Of the two variables; contaminated property and municipal corruption, if we are cleaning up properties for new uses, why would we bring corruption back into the picture with a new Ganim administration?

    2. Are we living on the same planet? Until he understands living-wage jobs are reserved for living-wage people, Jeff Kohut will remain a wonk with a horn to honk. Mayor Finch’s initial plans call for low-wage jobs to set the stage for office development on the idea modern office workers enjoy networking, drinking coffee and eating food. That’s where it starts.

  7. When it comes to taxes in Bridgeport, Ganim’s supporters should thank Hartford and not their hero. They have misplaced nostalgia. The cure: make the switch and vote for Mayor Finch. Think of the future.

    1. The Phantom, I think the only person working for the City is John from Black Rock. He works for the library. A real political dream job. I think his posts are fair and balanced.

      Most city employees do not post or have signs on their lawn. It kind of changes the narrative of Adam Wood intimidating city employees.


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