BRIDGEPORT — State Sen. Marilyn Moore stunned Mayor Joe Ganim on city voting machines Tuesday night, but lost the Democratic mayoral primary because of the city’s controversial absentee ballots.
Meanwhile, her backup plan for continuing the fight in November’s general election seemed to be in last minute jeopardy.
In a typically low primary turnout — around 11,000 of 46,500 registered Democrats participated — the insurgent Moore beat the incumbent at the polls, 4,140 to 3,796 votes, but was trounced by Ganim’s absentee or mail-in vote operation.
Unofficial numbers had Ganim winning 932 to Moore’s 303.
The three Republican mayoral candidates, meanwhile, scraped up roughly 600 votes in total — with John Rodriguez getting 282, Ethan Book ending the night with 167 and Dishon Francis at 144. There are 4,300 GOP voters in Bridgeport.
Moore’s campaign all along has feared it was outmatched by Ganim’s and Testa’s absentee ballot operation, complaining unsuccessfully earlier in the summer for greater oversight from state elections officials.
Ganim called for post-primary party unity.
“You, us, me, together ... have four (more) years to bring opportunity and a better city for every citizen who calls Bridgeport home,” Ganim said. “As difficult as primaries are, it’s now important to move forward together ...”
But Moore, who, beginning in 2014, has won her legislative races as an independent and scorned Testa and the town committee, hoped to fight on.
But that latter backup plan seemed to suddenly fall apart Tuesday evening. The Working Families in August announced Moore had submitted the necessary 207 signatures — 1 percent of the total voters who turned out for the 2015 mayoral race — to the Town Clerk.
But Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office told Hearst Connecticut Media Tuesday only 168 signatures were deemed valid.Read Full Article
Merrill’s office said it only received 14 pages of signatures from the Town Clerk. Moore and Working Families officials insisted they turned in a far larger number. Moore said she would be tearing her headquarters apart Wednesday looking for proof of those missing pages.
Another option, she announced, would be running as the endorsed candidate for a different third party — the New Movement Party, founded by the late activist Charlie Coviello and maintained by another activist, Tony Barr.
But it was also not certain Tuesday if the New Movement Party had a line on the November ballot. Barr, who was at the Bijou, insisted it did. But when Coviello ran for mayor in 2015, he only received 72 votes — not the 207 or one percent necessary to maintain that ballot spot.
Another idea floated by some Moore supporters was a write-in campaign. This tactic worked for Democrat Michael Jarjura in retaining the mayor’s office in Waterbury in 2005.
Former state Rep. Christopher Caruso, himself a twice-failed mayoral candidate, was Moore’s running mate for Town Clerk.
“All of us have been through this before,” Caruso lamented. “It’s always the absentees that loom over the election process. Continuously good citizens are denied the opportunity to have the mayor of their choice.”
Though he has been campaigning hard against Moore, the mayor in a recent interview told Hearst Connecticut Media he had not expected to lose Tuesday.
“Look, I was a long-shot challenger (in 2015),” the mayor had said. “I would venture to say if you put your ear to the ground, you might say the situation’s changed a bit since then as far as likelihood of success. I don’t think we’re gonna lose the primary.”
Ganim certainly had vulnerabilities in this race — his may-never-be-built economic projects, numerous scandals within the police department, an ongoing FBI criminal probe of the public facilities department, under-funded schools, a high tax rate.
When Ganim ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, he only won Bridgeport in his primary against Ned Lamont — and even that small victory on the mayor’s home turf had been closer than his allies preferred.
But Ganim is widely recognized as a relentless campaigner. That energy and passion greatly aided his against-the-odds 2015 comeback. Four years later, he has had the additional advantage of wielding the power of incumbency, with every mayoral action — knocking down some buildings as he did Monday, cutting ribbons, showing up at various events — also aiding his primary campaign.
Ganim had Testa and a majority of the Democratic Town Committee behind him, as well as some previous Finch supporters-turned-allies, like state Rep. Chris Rosario.
Moore’s candidacy had been anticipated since at least April 2017, when the state senator was a guest on WNPR’s “Where We Live” radio program and was asked by host Lucy Nalpathanchil, “Why not run for mayor?”
That message was the main focus of Moore’s campaign, sometimes to the detriment of offering specific proposals to voters. Earlier this week on Facebook, the Moore campaign urged supporters to head to the polls “to bring integrity, accountability, transparency, fairness and trust back to our city government.”
But when asked recently by Hearst Connecticut Media to contrast herself with Ganim on the major topic of economic development, Moore criticized the major projects the incumbent has touted which have failed to break ground, yet offered few ideas about what she would do differently.
“If she was really black I probably would support her,” McBride-Lee had said. “I think, sometimes, she forgets she’s black.”
Moore on Tuesday said she was extremely hurt by McBride-Lee’s comments. She and her family sought to use McBride-Lee’s criticism over the weekend to the campaign’s advantage, greeting voters in T-shirts that read, “#BlackEnough.”
Ganim also has been fundraising for a few years, and had accumulated a much bigger war chest — $325,025 versus Moore’s $127,390 as of the end of August.