State Senator Marilyn Moore is gearing up to challenge Mayor Joe Ganim marking the birthday observance of Martin Luther King Jr. as a formal entry into the race during a Monday morning announcement at Mount Aery Baptist Church. If she is successful she’d become the first African American to lead Connecticut’s largest city.
Unclear, according to a news release issued on Monday by Moore, if her challenge will be via a primary route or straight to the general election as a petitioning candidate.
“This will be a people’s campaign for integrity and transparency in our city government,” says Moore. “That’s what I believe in, that’s what I’m going to run on, and that’s what I’m promising as mayor.”
Moore, 70, enters the race as an underdog without strong, citywide organizational political support but she’s accustomed to that position. The healthcare professional upset incumbent Anthony Musto in a 2014 primary on her way to a general election win in Connecticut’s 22nd District that covers portions of Bridgeport, Monroe and all of Trumbull. She has since won reelection handily.
Musto, however, is no Joe Ganim, a seasoned retail politician who stormed back in 2015 to reclaim the job he was forced to resign in 2003 following his conviction on federal corruption charges. Moore represents the portion of Bridgeport where Ganim appears weakest–the north and western neighborhoods of the city including the high-turnout Black Rock precinct–hit hardest by the 2016 revaluation of taxable property.
Moore is not well known in the area of the city she does not represent, the eastern and southern neighborhoods.
Ganim’s in full reelection mode leveraging the power of incumbency in the cause of another four-year term, having already raised nearly $200,000. If Ganim holds the line on taxes, as he is expected to do in a reelection year, it will represent three straight years of no tax increase.
Moore is accustomed to raising small dollar amounts under the state’s public financing program unavailable on a municipal level. Candidates for mayor can accept a personal maximum contribution of $1,000.
Ganim will likely double what he has already raised and perhaps more. Moore will not match Ganim’s fundraising prowess. The key question is not what Ganim raises but what Moore packs into her challenge. Can she raise enough to be competitive? That means about $250,000.
Campaigns are about dear ol’ MOM–money, organization and message. Moore must spend the next few months building a campaign infrastructure of money, volunteers and rationale for running while balancing her duties as a state senator during an active legislative session that will include debate over electronic tolls, legalization of commercial marijuana, sports betting, education funding and potential gaming expansion with Bridgeport at the center of maneuvering between MGM Resorts and the state’s tribal nations that operate Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. Moore supports an open, competitive process for a commercial casino with Bridgeport as the possible host city.
Ganim will continue his business of running the city extolling progress–real or imagined–as the well-financed incumbent. He’ll not take on Moore directly unless he sees her as a real threat. If that day comes he’ll selectively pick apart her voting record as a state senator that Moore must vociferously defend while making her case to voters why they should fire the incumbent.
Moore is the first high-profile candidate to challenge Ganim. Will she have company?
Supporters of retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez are urging her entry. If Lopez gets in she brings a skilled orator’s touch framing powerful contrasts. At this point that’s a big if.