Accusations fly after judge overturns Bridgeport primary
Accusations of continued cheating flew on Thursday, one day after a judge overturned Bridgeport’s mayoral primary over alleged ballot box stuffing.
The ruling means one-time political pals turned rivals, Joe Ganim and John Gomes, could face off in a new primary – after next week’s general election.
If Ganim is worried, you couldn’t tell. The mayor was all smiles at a Wakeman Boys & Girls Club event, one day after a judge stripped away his crucial Democratic primary win.
“The ruling yesterday is significant,” he told reporters. “The lawyers are going to look at how that plays in, and whether – what decisions they make.”
In a scathing ruling, Judge William Clark accused the mayor’s supporters of “ballot harvesting.” The case centered on nearly 20 minutes of surveillance footage showing people stuffing absentee ballot drop boxes.
“IT CONTINUES TO HAPPEN”
Despite the ruling, next Tuesday’s election will go on as planned. Judges do not have the authority to postpone a general election, even if they order a new primary.
Both Ganim and Gomes are on the ballot. The mayor will appear as the Democratic candidate, while Gomes is listed on the Independent Party line.
At a news conference Thursday, Gomes’ team accused Ganim’s side of more dirty tricks but acknowledged they have no direct proof.
“It continues to happen,” said campaign manager Christine Bartlett-Josie. “We’ve also gotten a number of phone calls into this office detailing that the very same operatives are out there.”
STATE ELECTION MONITOR
The state is stepping in.
An interim election monitor is now in place for Bridgeport. Former state Rep. Peggy Reeves is overseeing how the town clerk processes absentee ballots. She’s also accompanying campaign volunteers when they pass out ballot applications at housing complexes.
“For any of the supervised absentee balloting that has been requested, she has been going with them during that time,” said Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas.
But Thomas said her office does not have access to current drop box surveillance video – yet.
“They don't have time to sit and watch hours and hours of footage, so I am working with our legal staff to see if there is an opportunity for us to hire additional people,” she said.
Thomas said the search continues for a permanent monitor, who would oversee elections in Bridgeport through the end of 2024.
CHAOS FOR VOTERS
Caught in the middle of all this are voters, who aren't sure if next week's election will even count.
“Am I going to vote? Yes,” said Joyce Marie Elliott Tate, of Bridgeport. “It might not matter. I’ll still vote because I have the right.”
If Gomes pulls off an upset on Tuesday, that might be the final word. A new primary would not be necessary since Gomes got the relief he was seeking, according to his attorney, Bill Bloss.
But if Ganim wins, we will likely see a do-over – unless the Connecticut Supreme Court reverses Wednesday’s ruling.
Despite the damaging videos, Ganim still enjoys plenty of support.
“Ganim did some good stuff, and then the bad,” said Angel Villafaine, of Bridgeport. “I'm just going to vote. And that day, I'm just going to go in – wherever the finger points.”