Bridgeport mayor says supporters broke law by mishandling ballots but he had nothing to do with it

The mayor of Connecticut’s largest city said Tuesday that he believes his supporters broke the law while handling absentee ballots and he doesn’t plan on appealing a judge’s decision to toss out the results of a Democratic primary and possibly rerun the general election.

Speaking in a radio interview, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim denied having anything to do with rule-breaking during the Sept. 12 primary, in which some backers of his campaign were recorded on surveillance videos stuffing multiple absentee ballots into outdoor collection boxes.

“I’m embarrassed and I’m sorry for what happened with the campaign. Granted, I had no knowledge of what was going on,” Ganim said on the Lisa Wexler Show on WICC 600AM. He acknowledged that “there were people in the campaign that violated, you know, the election laws, as the judge clearly saw from the evidence.”

Ganim called on state elections officials to do more to curb potential absentee ballot abuse. He also claimed that the violations captured on the video weren’t unique to his campaign, and he urged his election opponent, John Gomes, to admit that similar issues occurred among his supporters.

“If we’re going to come clean, we need to come clean,” Ganim said. “And that means Gomes has to come clean.”

Bridgeport’s mayoral election was thrown into chaos shortly after Ganim appeared to have beaten Gomes, a former member of his administration, by a small margin in the Democratic primary.

Gomes then released recordings taken by city surveillance cameras that showed people stuffing reams of absentee ballots into collection boxes in apparent violation of Connecticut law, which requires people to deposit their ballots themselves in most circumstances.

A judge later ruled that the videos and other testimony were evidence of ballot “harvesting,” a banned practice in which campaign volunteers visit people, persuade them to vote by absentee ballot, collect those ballots and and submit them.

The judge ordered a new primary, scheduled for Jan. 23, and a new general election would be held Feb. 22 if needed.

Despite the judge’s ruling, the general election for mayor was still held on Nov. 7, even though it ultimately didn’t count. Ganim wound up getting more votes than Gomes.

Ganim, who served seven years in prison for corruption during his first run as Bridgeport’s mayor and won the job back after his release, has pointed to other surveillance videos that raised questions about whether other people were engaging in ballot harvesting.

Gomes, however, has denied any such effort on his behalf.

“The Democratic Town Committee, the machine operatives, were caught doing this. It was not the Gomes campaign,” his campaign manager, Christine Bartlett-Josie, said in an interview. “The Democratic Town Committee has created a culture, that this is the way in which they operate. And that was to benefit the current administration and the current elected. That’s it.”

The State Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating multiple allegations of improprieties.

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