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The Joe And Mario Show, Ganim Returns To Statewide Ambition

May 2nd, 2017 · 23 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, State Politics

Ganim Testa fundraiser

Ganim and Testa again raising money for governor. CT Mirror photo.

Joe Ganim’s in the 2018 race for governor, an exploratory phase anyway. Now what? He raises money while waging a parallel campaign to qualify for the state’s public financing program either through an administrative remedy or court action. And along the way he needs to choose his words carefully about what he says about pols in Hartford who influence the flow of dollars to the state’s largest city.

The notion that Ganim should step down from the mayoralty as he explores a run for governor is a fallacy. Where else will he earn a salary/benefits package worth $160K? Also, he leaves office and his fundraising base is toast. His only shot to be a relevant player is to raise money and tout city successes, real or imagined, as part of an eventual message.

To some, Ganim’s ambition is galling.

Ganim is acting no less ambitious now than JG1 when at 34 years of age in 1994 he became a candidate for governor shortly after winning a second term. How did that happen? The then-publisher of the Connecticut Post Dudley Thomas had a man crush on Joe. Thomas had a fancy for running a newspaper and fantasy for running Bridgeport. He was always barking in Joe’s ear about doing this and that.

At the time I was Joe’s political adviser. Incumbent Governor Lowell Weicker, who treated Bridgeport benevolently, did not seek reelection. In early 1994, I received a Saturday call from the late John Gilmore, a seasoned journalist at the Connecticut Post who was friendly with Thomas. “You’re not going to believe what you see in Sunday’s paper.”

And there it was screaming across the top of the front page: Our Choice For Governor. Dudley Thomas, by fiat, endorsed Ganim for governor when Joe wasn’t even in the race. That’s all Joe needed. “Now we have to run.”

Running for governor was different then, largely an insider’s game. The only way to qualify for a primary was securing 15 percent delegate support at the party convention. Direct primaries through the signature route did not exist. So off we went around Connecticut to parts unknown into the Litchfield hills, to the southeast corner of the state along the Rhode Island boarder and northward near the Massachusetts line to pitch Democratic insiders about why they should look at this young new mayor as a gubernatorial prospect who resuscitated the city from bankruptcy. Senate President John Larson, State Comptroller Bill Curry and State Senator Richard Balducci were also in the race and the candidates often crossed paths to pitch delegates.

As the convention approached, Joe’s campaign was cash-rich and delegate-poor. We had to shake up the race a bit so we flooded the television airwaves (social media as we know it today did not exist) with an outsider’s message framing the party insiders in Hartford as all talk, no action. It struck a nerve. Senate Majority Leader Bill DiBella, a Larson supporter, called. “You remind your mayor that his city is still on life support.” Translation: keep it up and we’ll cut off your financial cashews.

Well, at some point they’re going to need us, Joe responded. So we pressed on, but pragmatism kicked in. Joe did not have enough delegate support to primary the party endorsed candidate.

Joe backed out of the race one week before the Democratic convention throwing his support behind likely endorsed candidate Larson (today Congressman Larson) with the hope he’d select Joe as his running mate.

During the Democratic convention in Hartford, as Larson’s boys including DiBella pondered selection of the second slot, a contingent of Connecticut mayors who wanted one of their own on the ticket adjourned to a watering hole in the Hartford Civic Center, among them Hartford Mayor Mike Peters and Waterbury Mayor Ed Bergin as well as Bridgeport Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa and Ganim.

Mayor Mike and Mayor Ed were lubing up the joint. They were feeling pretty good. Finally the call came. Larson had made his decision. They all squeezed into a conference room while delegates in the civic center convention hall waited for an answer.

Larson, facing dozens of Democratic big shots, announced, “I think it’s time to embrace Rich Balducci,” he told the crowd. Emerging from a back room thumping his chest, Balducci announced, “I want everyone to know that I’ll be running as an independent lieutenant governor,” suggesting he’d take the second slot but he’d not be breaking his ass for the ticket. Balducci had also given his word to Curry that he would not work against him.

The place was in stunned silence. This is the person Larson chose? Testa would have none of it. The little man with big ones edged closer to Balducci. “Wait a minute, Mr. Balducci,” declared Testa in his Italian accent, “are you telling us you’re not going to support Larson?”

Balducci stammered on his words. In a flash there was chaos.

“What the fuck is going on around here!” Mayor Peters screamed.

“Yeah, what the fuck is this!” Mayor Bergin yelled.

Peters walked up to Larson and declared: “We’re going to settle this right now.”

Peters, Bergin and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano circled with Ganim. “Joe,” Peters asked, “do you want to be lieutenant governor?”

Joe nodded yes.

“That settles it,” Bergin chimed in.

The mayors walked up to Larson and said “Enough of this horseshit, Joe’s gonna be the candidate.” So it was done. That’s how 34-year-old Joe Ganim became the candidate for lieutenant governor in 1994. It didn’t work out. Larson lost the primary to Curry (who did not select a primary running mate) and Curry lost the general election (with Joe as his running mate) to Republican John Rowland.

Fast forward to 2017. Joe’s mayor again with the same ambition as young Joe.

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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    No matter what Joe Ganim is a lying prick. Mario I am ashamed of you

  • Bob Walsh

    Why are you ashamed of Mario?
    He is as much of a lying prick as Joe!

  • Donald Day

    Why are you ashamed of Mario?
    He is as much of a lying prick as Joe.
    Sorry Bobby I liked your response so much I felt it needed to be repeated.

  • Jimfox

    Lennie, if elected will (Bridge Mayor Ganim) be considered a (Bridge Governor) seeing that he once ran as a Lieutenant Governon in 1994?

  • Lisa Parziale

    Frick and Frack will end up where they ended up the first time. Both banished, in different ways. I little here, a little there, posturing, ducking, making promises neither can deliver; it’s called deflecting. Trump doesn’t hold the game on this, Joey G. makes Trump look like a boy scout. In the meantime, our residents are so distracted by this nonsense, they live with everyday problems that could easily be addressed if someone cared enough to pay attention. This dog and pony show is soooo boring.

  • Bob Walsh

    I loved the story in the CT Post about looking for $180 Million for fixing up the Ball Park and Arena. What are these some bill he found lying around?
    Or to build up the election kitty fund.
    Included in this is fixer uper for the Port Authority building, Shops in the area, paving the parking lot, yadda, yadda, yadda.
    I think its called hush money. Pay him off and maybe he’ll stay in B-port.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Bubba he’s throwing out projects hoping one will stick. They won’t, they’re not realistic in this financial climate. Joey G. is not interested in another term as Mayor, so to those holding patronage positions, do the best you can, keep your heads down, and maybe the next Mayor will evaluate your relevancy and performance and you may end up working in a new administration because you’re qualified and needed. John Ricci need not apply!!!!

  • Bob Walsh

    Ike Thomas’s roof.
    Joe Kasper’s arena.
    Same old, same old.

  • charlie

    They would make good cell mates.

  • Jeff Kohut

    People are forgetting about Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin — the Gold-Coast anointed next governor of Connecticut… He’s Dan’s protégé… Moved to Hartford in 2012 to work for Dan who got him elected Mayor of Hartford in 2015… Dan will use his lame-duck prerogative and call in scattered markers to get the Hartford XL the
    $250 million that he promised… Hartford wiil get a big boost… Little Luke will get big boost, and bingo!, we’ll have the Democratic nominee for Governor… The Gold Coast $ behind the Gold Coast Golden Boy, along with golden propaganda generated by the $250 Malloy gift will put him way out I front of all of the other D’s and R’s… The Gold Coast gold will be able to shield Luke from godfather Dan’s political specter… And there we’ll have it… He’ll announce somewhat late in the game, after the rest of the pack has savaged itself and turned-off their Party and popular support…

  • Jeff Kohut

    Corrections:

    People are forgetting about Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin — the Gold-Coast anointed next governor of Connecticut… He’s Dan’s protégé… Moved to Hartford in 2012 to work for Dan who got him elected Mayor of Hartford in 2015… Dan will use his lame-duck prerogative and call in scattered markers to get the Hartford the $250 million for the XL that he promised… Hartford wiil get a big economic boost… Little Luke will get big political boost, and bingo!, we’ll have the Democratic nominee for Governor… The Gold Coast $ behind the Gold Coast Golden Boy, along with golden propaganda generated by the $250 million Malloy gift will put him way out in front of all of the other D’s and R’s that have put their heads in the 2018 Connecticut gubernatorial noose… The Gold Coast gold will be able to shield Luke from godfather Dan’s political specter… And there we’ll have it… He’ll announce somewhat late in the game, after the rest of the pack has savaged itself and turned-off their Party and popular support…

  • Ron Mackey

    Lennie, let me tell you a short back story about the 34-year-old Joe Ganim who became the candidate for lieutenant governor in 1994. The morning of the nomination former Hartford Fire Chief and Hartford Council Majority Leader, John B. Stewart, who was the first African American fire chief in New England and former Hartford Fire Captain who was also a Hartford City Council member called me over and started questioning me like a prosecutor on what Joe Ganim had done to deserve to run for any state position. They asked what has Ganim done for Bridgeport and what has he done for the black community. Well, needless to say I was speechless

    Lennie, you wrote, “a contingent of Connecticut mayors who wanted one of their own on the ticket adjourned to a watering hole in the Hartford Civic Center, among them Hartford Mayor Mike Peters (who was a firefighter) and Waterbury Mayor Ed Bergin as well as Bridgeport Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa and Ganim,” when that became known Harris and a few other Hartford black delegates called for a meeting of blacks in another watering hole to discuss what are these candidates were going to do about jobs and the big cities. Rev. Vernon Thompson who was a big Ganim supporter and who was appointed to a City position by Ganim,  was also  in that meeting and attempted to change the dialog but nobody was listening to him. Of course Rev. Thompson told Mario and Joe what was going on.   

    Lennie, said all of that to say that nothing has changed from 1994 to make voters from the larger cities to vote for Joe Ganim to be governor or any other statewide position. 

  • Mojo

    Another run for city Mayor is much more do-able for Ganim instead of the seat for Ct. State Gov. Bpt. Voters due to either personal experience , family members or close friends having had run in’s with the law are much more forgiving, however state voters in general, May not feel or look at voting for an ex-felon from Bpt. The same way! Also, Ganim is not as known now a days as he was in the past politically through-out the State ! Think good & hard on this one Joe, there’s still time after another 4-yrs. as Mayor, no ? ***

  • Frank Gyure

    Ganim is done and finished at all levels of elective office. Just a question of how and when. Unfortunately we,in Bridgeport, don’t have a two yet term for Mayor. We have this ridiculous four-year term. If it was two year,we would have had the pleasure of kicking this bum out in November 2017. We will have to suffer under his insufferable mayoralty until 2019. He is a lame duck dead in the water.

  • John Marshall Lee

    You are posting wishes that will require a Charter initiative. Is this Mayor likely to proceed with any activity like that which would change his structural or implied powers including term of office? What about some watchdogs over public funds who have experience, and competence in such areas,and who develop and make public regular, timely, and simple reports to the public on all revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities of the City? Why not give the taxpayer citizen a “second chance”? Time will tell.

    • Frank Gyure

      My support of returning to a 2 year mayoral term is a “big picture” thought that would not necessarily impact the very near future.I just don’t believe that a 4 year term is a proper amount of time for a Bridgeport mayor. I would assume an incumbent mayor would not support such a charter change. I would have to look into the City Charter and find out the parameters of charter revision. I would hope that approval of the mayor is an integral part of charter revision.

      • Frank Gyure

        I have problems with some of the discussion that has been going on for a number of years about a so-called “expert” citizen board to be involved in city government. First of all,setting the parameters of the power of this “citizen watchdog committee” is problematical. Not enough power and the effort is useless. Too much power means that UNELECTED people are making major decisions. We live in a democracy,not a meritocracy. Ideally,the City Council should be the tool of checks and balances to be able to strong enough to be able to interpret and make decisions about city budgets and all other issues. The present City Council situation leaves a lot to be desired. The BPT City Council needs to make itself independent and equivalent to The Executive/ Mayoral Branch of City Government. Obviously,we are not there.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Quack-quack-quack. Joe Ganim test drove Donald Trump’s campaign strategy: appeal to a segment of the community that is angry toward the established status quo, resentful of the real or imagined antipathy of previous City Hall administrations. It worked in Bridgeport. Joe must think it will play well in the suburbs of Hartford, Waterbury and New Haven.

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