Ganim: Go Ahead. Call Me “Felon”

Markeshia Ricks PhotoHey, you want to keep calling Joe Ganim a crook? Think that’ll stop him from becoming Connecticut’s next governor?

Ganim has three words for you: “Bring it on.”

Actually, he had those words for Republicans and any other opponents of his quest. He offered the response Thursday toward the end of a 52-minute appearance on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

It was one day after Ganim, Bridgeport’s mayor, formally announced he is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

Relaxed and confident, Ganim did not look like someone who had just pushed his way through a blizzard to travel from Bridgeport to the WNHH studio in New Haven. He did not sound like someone who has been pushing his way through a blizzard of press condemnation for the speed at which he traveled to his campaign announcement or for “shamelessly” asking for the state’s votes after having spent seven years in federal prison for racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, theft of honest services, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and filing false tax returns during his first stint as Bridgeport’s mayor.

He was a man ready to rumble. He said he’s ready to keep hearing about his conviction. And he’s confident he’ll prevail. The way he did when he defeated incumbent Bill Finch to regain the Bridgeport mayor’s office two years ago.

“If [GOP State Chair] J.R. Romano and the Republicans want to continue attacking Joe Ganim as a guy who has a ‘colorful’ past — I’m not running away from the word felon. I’ll be happy to talk about it. Bring it on. OK? They can just look at what the Finch people did. They just pounded away and pounded away and pounded away at that. [People said:] ‘OK, I get it. I understand what Joe’s about. I understand the good things that he’s done. I think I understand this guy as a person.’

“It differentiates me both good and bad from the other Democrats. Your mainstream established Democrats who will go nameless wouldn’t go anywhere near Joe Ganim. So I ran as an outsider. I ran against what was. I went out and I talked to people in neighborhoods, people who wanted positive change in their lives. That’s what I plan to do in this campaign. It’s not going to be based on standing next to the establishment.
I want to make positive change for Connecticut.”

While leading state Democrats privately fret about having a candidate with a corruption conviction on the November ballot, Ganim has worked hard to cultivate support among urban Democrats. He has visited New Haven regularly in recent months and took a front-row seat at Mayor Toni Harp’s Monday inauguration. He’s pitching his successful return to elected office after a prison sentence as a redemption tale, the kind of “second chance” needed for many urban dwellers who made mistakes in the past. In a multi-candidate primary, that urban base could have a big impact if he succeeds in turning it out.

Along those lines, Ganim said in the WNHH interview that his campaign is focusing on urban economic development to create new jobs and turn around the state’s flagging economy. 

“Realizing the brainpower and the human power in our cities will be the engine, the driver of a new Connecticut economy,” he said. He spoke of projects in the planning stages in his city — including renovation of the downtown Poli and Majestic theaters and MGM Grand’s bid to build a new casino — as examples of the kind of urban development he’d promote as governor.

Snow Mayors & Governors

Paul Bass PhotoGanim also cited his experience as an urban mayor as a qualification for running a state with persistent budget deficits — and for being at the helm when, as is happening more often in the era of climate change, superstorms create emergencies.

Any Bridgeport mayor knows well how elected officials need to take seriously snow clean-up. According to a popular story, voters threw Jasper McLevy, the only Bridgeport mayor to serve longer than Ganim, out of office after he made this declaration during a snowstorm: “God put the snow there. Let Him take it away!” It became a cautionary tale for politicians.

In truth, it was McLevy’s public-works director, not McLevy, who made the statement. In not quite those words. (The true story is even more colorful, as told here by Bridgeport journalist Lennie Grimaldi.)

But Ganim said he learned in office the importance of dealing with storms, and how to do it. Among the lessons: “Have the right equipment. Invest in the equipment. Be prepared.” At the same time, manage storm response hour by hour with an eye toward avoiding “burning your crew out” before they’re needed to complete the clean-up job.

How Not To Raise Taxes

 

Ganim cited his city experience as well in responding to a listener’s question about whether he’d raise taxes as governor.

He responded that he would seek to avoid that. But he wouldn’t rule it out, because he hasn’t seen the state’s books in detail. He promised to bring smart advisors into the room to examine the fiscal situation and explore alternatives before considering tax increases.

“The last thing I want to do,” he said, “is raise taxes.”

He was asked if he was repeating Lowell Weicker’s famous wiggle in the 1990 gubernatorial campaign. Weicker, too, refused to rule out new taxes but insisted that was the last thing he wanted to do. It became the first thing he did in office. Weicker released a campaign commercial declaring his opposition to instituting an income tax, comparing increasing taxes to pouring oil on a fire. Once elected, he brought smart advisors in a room — notably his budget chief, income tax proponent Bill Cibes —  and declared that they discovered no alternative to instituting an income tax.

Ganim responded that his record shows that in tough budget times, he did manage to avoid tax increases. In the early ‘90s, he succeeded a mayor who sought to have Bridgeport declare bankruptcy. Ganim said he shelved that idea and negotiated a new city health self-insurance compact with labor that saved money while preserving key benefits. More recently, he said, he obtained state permission for a bond sale with an interest rate that will eventually save $60 million on police and fire pension costs.

Asked about state revenue options beyond tax increases, Ganim came out in favor of interstate highway tolls, legalizing recreational marijuana use, and approving the MGM Grand casino deal in Bridgeport. Combined, that could eventually add $1 billion in new annual revenue, he argued. He acknowledged objections to the casino deal —  such as the impact on gambling addicts and on the existing state deal with the Mashantucket Pequot tribe for its casino. Ganim said he believes the total benefits would outweigh the costs.

“I Wasn’t Driving”

 

A listener posted a question on Facebook Live asking Ganim about what became the biggest story of his gubernatorial announcement day: The decision by a state trooper not to issue a ticket to Ganim’s driver (who’s a cop) after he was clocked speeding at 87 miles per hour as he ferried the candidate to Hartford.“Why are civilian cars able to drive 90 mph with out a ticket? How is this holding police accountable (the person driving the car)?” wrote the listener, going by the handle Be Jammin.Ganim responded by criticizing the media for focusing on the story and questioning how far above the speed limit the car was actually going.“I wasn’t driving,” he pointed out. He added that “there was no deference given to me.” The state police stated that the trooper was acting within protocol by deciding not to issue a ticket to the driver.“I’ve gotten plenty of tickets in my life,” Ganim said. Then he added: “Not recently.”

Click on or download the above audio file or Facebook Live video below to listen to the full interview with Joe Ganim.

 

WNHH interviews with other gubernatorial candidates:

 

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for an interview with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dita Bhargava on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.”

 

Click on or download the above audio file or on the Facebook Live video to below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Handler on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program. Click here for a story about that interview.

 

Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Prasad Srinivasan on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about that interview.

 

Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear a WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik. Click here to read a story about that interview.

 

Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH FM “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim. Click here for a story about that interview.

Click on or download the above audio file to a an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program; and click here to read a story about that interview.

Click on or download the above audio file to hear an interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew; and click here to read a story about the interview.

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posted by: AverageTaxpayer on January 5, 2018  12:01pm

Bridgeport is a political cesspool in which someone like Ganim might get elected despite being a convicted felon. (Robbing the City when he was Mayor.)

The rest of Connecticut, not so much, although shame on Mayor Harp for being seen as an ally of Ganim.

Ganim is the Dem version of John Rowland. Gifted politician, but slimy to the core and devoid of any ethics. Note his non-apologetic response to having been caught going an outlandish 100mph down our public freeways. Smug, egotistical, shameless.

The only question is whether Harp is going to embarrass New Haven by getting further in bed with the sleazeball.

posted by: Commontater on January 5, 2018  2:32pm

By running for governor, Mayor Ganim is an embarrassment to the Democrats of Connecticut. His kind of past behaviors may qualify him for a successful presidential run in the current era, but responsible citizens of both parties should not permit him to hold the Connecticut governorship. He may have “done his time” for his past crimes, but that does not mean that we should consider him to be a model leader for the state. There are enough good people of both major parties who could be good governors.

posted by: Razzie on January 5, 2018  2:45pm

If “Republicans want to continue attacking Joe Ganim as a guy who has a ‘colorful’ past — I’m not running away from the word felon. I’ll be happy to talk about it. Bring it on. OK?”

I don’t think anyone believes the problems of Joe Ganim stem from a “colorful past”. Ganim’s misdeeds are EPIC ... As usual, Paul Bass captures the true essence of Ganim’s new political gambit: ” “shamelessly asking for the state’s votes after having spent seven years in federal prison for racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, theft of honest services, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and filing false tax returns during his first stint as Bridgeport’s mayor.” Only in Ganim’s world does that type of crime equate to a “colorful past”. Yet he wears it as a badge of accomplishment, a testament to everything he has accomplished in the last 20 years.  Go figure. “Bring it on!” Not a hint of remorse, or any evidence that he has changed his tune or reformed his criminal tendencies to atone for his gross breach of public trust.

Let him make his case to the broader public. I can’t see any evidence that Bridgeport is any better off as a city, or its residents any better as a result of his history and 10-year service on their behalf. Empty talk about economic development and delivery of public services to citizens rings very hollow at this point.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on January 5, 2018  3:10pm

This is going to sound somewhat discombobulating, because those who know me, know, that character means a great deal to me.  Is Ganim perfect?  Absolutely not.  Are you?

I’ve never met the man, but like many; I too have come to learn about his rise, his fall and his rise again.  And that I find to be admirable. 

Some in society are of the belief that one must be unblemished in order to run for public office.  It is not for me to determine the sincerity or the depth of Mr. Ganim’s contrition, that’s between he and God.  However, Mr. Ganim was punished for his errors, and therefore, the focus should be on the issues that strengthen the State of Connecticut economically.

The Republicans are in NO position to cast aspersions on Mr. Ganim when the captain of their party is currently grappling with a whole host of unsavory issues.  Not to mention the subsequent findings of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Stay on the offense Mr. Ganim by making your opponent defend their horrible Tax Bill that will decimate Connecticut’s middle class and further harm the poor and the handicap.  If you allow them to dictate the tenets of the argument, you will lose.  That is of course if you’re the nominee.

Finally, know this Joe, the New Haven voter is one of the most knowledgeable of voters in the state.  So I suggest you always be straight up when speaking to the voters in New Haven.  NH voters can forgive your past, but they know disingenuous behavior when they see disingenuous behavior.  Apply this, and you should do well in NH.

posted by: hionamt on January 5, 2018  11:25pm

Seems were missing some thing here,, if I was stopped going 90mph by a state policeman who had to chase me . I would get a ticket…His driver did not . What was the state police rational for not giving a ticket or even a warning? professional courtesy? What the differents . Anyone going 90mph is endangering the public safety..Some one should be held accountable here. Where is the public outrage?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 6, 2018  12:56am

“When you’re dealing with frauds and liars, listen more to what they don’t say than what they do.”
― DaShanne Stokes


“Leadership by deception isn’t leadership. It’s fraud.”
― DaShanne Stokes

Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.
Ray Davies

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices”

― George Orwell

posted by: Mooks on January 6, 2018  1:35am

Ganim’s success in beating Finch in Bridgeport has as much bearing on the statewide election as Clinton beating Sanders in the California primary did on the Presidential election. None.

Voters in the Democratic primary should realize that the Democratic nominee for governor will get 95% of the vote in a place like Bridgeport, regardless of who they are. To win they need to be able to get votes from the suburbs and more rural areas. Ganim’s shtick is not going to play nearly as well in those areas as it did in Bridgeport and he is delusional if he actually thinks it will.

Not only will it not work but I think people in the suburbs would be so disgusted by having someone who spent 7 years in prison for crimes directly related to his time in politics (every single voter in the state would know about it come election day as the commercials would write themselves) that the Democrats risk poisoning their entire ticket and negating any negative effects Trump may have on generic Republicans.

posted by: 1644 on January 6, 2018  10:36am

Ganim got elected in Bridgeport because of a nostalgia for a pre-2008 crash period when things seemed better to many Bridgeport residents.  The fact is, when Ganim had to deal with the same problems Finch did, such as dealing property values throughout most of the city,  a lot of folks in Blackrock, the one unblighted area of Bridgeport, got hammered with huge tax increases as the burden shifted to them.  Meanwhile, Ganim shows his disdain for his taxpayers by insisting on a personal protection.driving detail, and, according to other outlets, racking up $70K in overtime costs alone incurred by his campaign.  I suppose Harp has the excuse that she is too old to be driving, but Ganim is a lot younger.  In any case, it’s hard for suburbanites to take the cities’ pleas of poverty seriously when their mayors insist on police drivers, while suburban chief executives, of whatever age, all drive themselves.

posted by: JCFremont on January 6, 2018  11:59am

No, No NO! An old question circa 1994 ? What is the difference between Bridgeport and Providence RI? In Providence you get a better return on your graft. New Haven voters are the most knowledgeable in the state? Really the only way an elected position changes in this town is through retirement. I think many New Haven voters have more knowledge and worry more about national and global elections than those in their backyards and are still completely wrong on why the 2016 presidential election came out. Connecticut is acting like a wealthy benevolent relative who’s fortune and businesses are declining yet still lives in a manner so to keep up appearances. What is Connecticut looking at to get out of this downturn? Casino’s, Cannabis and Campuses? The state needs revenue coming in from stable businesses not just have a middle class propped up by revolving government payments.

posted by: narcan on January 6, 2018  3:34pm

Ok, you’re a felon, Mr. Ganim. Hardly the “smoked some pot in college” type of criminal, which is what most people mean when they claim a “colorful” past. We expect our government to conduct itself according to rules to maintain some semblance of justice and equity.

“Don’t question the manner in which I provide” doesn’t cut it, Colonel. Shame on you for fooling the citizens of Bridgeport once, and shame on the citizens of Bridgeport for being fooled a second time by corruption worthy of Tammany Hall. Racketeering, extortion, and bribery are absolutely reasons to disqualify someone to hold a position of public trust. Don’t expect the rest of us to be fooled by your shenanigans.

posted by: opin1 on January 6, 2018  4:24pm

I’m a democrat, but will almost certainly vote republican before voting for Ganim.

posted by: Razzie on January 6, 2018  6:20pm

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time. — Abraham Lincoln

God hasn’t made any “perfect” people, so that’s not what I expect. However even among politicians, I would take care not to set the bar too low. I believe in second chances and understand he did his time as a criminal. However, If Ganim is asking for my vote,  he will need to meet my expectations as a leader.