An ex-convict who spent seven years in federal prison for corruption reclaimed the Bridgeport mayor's office on Tuesday, completing a stunning comeback bid that tapped nostalgia for brighter days in Connecticut's largest city.
Former Mayor Joe Ganim, who was released from prison five years ago, declared victory in a race involving seven opponents.
"We were in this room a little over a month ago, many of us," Ganim said on Tuesday night, referring to September's primary election. "After months and months of hard work – and we said that night -- that Bridgeport came together, every neighborhood, and spoke about change. And that night in the primary, they said we made history. And tonight, tonight, we not only made history, but we defined a new course for this great city."
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Ganim said "some may call it a comeback story," but Bridgeport is a city he never left. He also called his victory a moment for redemption.
"I never stopped caring about the challenges that people face in every neighborhood. I never stopped thinking that maybe one day we could begin the work that we're going to begin today," he said.
Ganim was sent to prison for steering city contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive wine, custom clothes, cash and home improvements. Since his release, he has worked as a legal assistant at his family's Bridgeport law firm, but he has been blocked by the courts from regaining his law license.
Ganim issued a public apology for his crimes earlier this year. On the campaign trail, where he has tapped nostalgia for what some remember as a times of lower taxes and safer neighborhoods, Ganim said the support he has received shows people are open to supporting somebody who owns up to their errors.
"Taxes were too high. Crime was out of control. Our education system needed improvements and people of Bridgeport needed jobs," Ganim said.
Ganim thanked his supporters for helping him achieve the "historic win."
"I can't even start, I can't even begin, to look out and see your faces and pick people out to say thank you. Because what started as a dream was filled by so many individuals who also shared a vision and a dream for a better Bridgeport," Ganim said.
His road to mayoral victory included a successful primary campaign against incumbent Democratic mayor, Bill Finch, who has held the job since 2007.
Finch had planned to stay on the ballot by running as a third party candidate, but members of the Jobs Creation Party missed the Sept. 2 deadline to endorse him as their candidate.
In September, Finch announced he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Mary-Jane Foster, an independent and co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team, as well as vice president of the University of Bridgeport.
Ganim defeated Foster, as well as Tony Barr, Charles J. Coviello Jr., David Daniels III, Christopher J. Taylor and Enrique "Rick" Torres