Tuesday night’s Democratic convention in New Haven where Mayor Toni Harp was endorsed by acclamation was mellow compared to Bridgeport’s mercurial affair the night before. One night in Bridgeport for Mayor Joe Ganim and Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, the next night in New Haven working the crowd at Harp’s preconvention dinner. The mayor and Mario are moving around the state in their bid to build support for the statewide run of Ganim who’s planning a constitutional court challenge of the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruling denying him eligibility in the state’s public financing program.
Former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei, a Bridgeport attorney who showed surprising fundraising strength in his first quarterly report running for statewide office, also attended the Harp event.
The SEEC is expected to shell out roughly $40 million public dollars for the 2018 election cycle in which the race for governor is the featured attraction. Statewide constitutional offices and legislative races are also in play. For Ganim, it’s a free run. If his gubernatorial bid fails in 2018, he has already banked about $200k for his 2019 mayoral reelection.
For now, however, his focus is raising money in a statewide exploratory committee with a maximum personal $375 donation until he sorts through the legal entanglement of qualifying for the state’s Citizens Election Program that provides large public grants once low-dollar fundraising thresholds are met. Ganim is underwhelmed by the candidates so far that have expressed a gubernatorial interest, but has a lot of catching up to do on the fundraising front. He’s well behind other contenders in the money chase.
If Ganim is rebuffed by a court and presses on with his gubernatorial campaign through a candidate committee he’ll be forced to raise it the old-fashioned way that allows a $3,500 personal maximum contribution. See contribution limits and restrictions here.
Ganim’s stump speech to party regulars around the state parallels what he did during JG1 pulling the city out of bankruptcy court. Basically he’s saying the state’s in a fiscal mess and he has the experience to fix it. He also focuses on a second chance message that he hopes resonates with urban voters. It’s a long shot, certainly. Ganim’s relevance depends on a number of factors. The size and quality of the gubernatorial field, the money piece, reassurance about his past, stabilizing current city finances and the unpredictable crime situation. He was known as the guy who kept a lid on things. Can he do it again?
For Joe and Mario it’s lotsa work moving around the state logging lotsa miles. They’re back at it again, just like the 1990s.