Joe Ganim couldn’t convince 282 delegates at a Democratic Party convention to support him for governor. So he went out and got 32,000 Democratic voters to sign petitions.
So Ganim reported Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to submit petitions to local registrars of voters to secure a spot against party-endorsed candidates in the Aug. 14 statewide Democratic primary.
Ganim, Bridgeport’s mayor, needed to collect 15,458 signatures of registered Democrats to have his name appear below party-endorsed candidate Ned Lamont on the gubernatorial ballot and keep his campaign alive.
In the end, he announced Tuesday during a victory lap of submitting petitions, his campaign gathered more than double that number.
“I’d rather have 32,000 signatures than 1,500 or 1,600 delegate votes at a convention,” Ganim said during a visit Tuesday afternoon to WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program while en route to delivering petitions to New Haven’s Registrar of Voters Office and then heading to Hartford for a Capitol City drop-off and press conference.
He said the drive “moved” him and gave him more insight into the challenges people face in Connecticut. He spoke of an armless New Haven man he met “who sat and ate nonchalantly with his fork between his toes talked to me about what was needed for public transportation.” He spoke of a woman at Bridgeport’s Trumbull Gardens complex who “had no hands” and “put her limbs together to sign my petition.” (“I hugged her.”)
Ganim cast the petition drive as reflective of a “grassroots campaign” aimed at shut-out voices, targeting a wealthy endorsed opponent who is self-financing his campaign.
“Many people who signed this petition will not be out on their yachts in August or in the Hamptons or the Cape. They’re going to be struggling in a hot summer on the streets. We are looking for them to come out and participate in change on Aug. 14,” Ganim said.
In recent weeks Ganim has emerged as a feisty underdog candidate who seems to be benefiting from efforts by party leaders — worried about the prospect of a gubernatorial candidate who spent seven years in federal prison for taking bribes — and others to sideline or silence him.
He has embraced speaking about his crimes as part of casting his campaign as a “second-chance” quest that speaks for all people who have made mistakes.
And last week he turned a snub — a refusal by CPTV to allow him to participate in a gubernatorial candidates’ forum — into a media victory: Before the candidates on stage put everyone to sleep, a forum official confronted Ganim in the parking lot to tell him he wasn’t even allowed to stand there to speak to reporters. Or even to sit in the audience of the debate if he “want[ed] to talk to the media.” She did that for five minutes. In front of the press corps. As Ganim played straight man in an exchange that almost seemed scripted by Michael Moore to bolster the case that he’s being unfairly excluded from the democratic process. (You can watch the video below.)
“The foundation under that establishment that wants to exclude people and not make this an open Democratic Party or allow new effective leadership,” Ganim declared in Tuesday’s interview, “is in for a big surprise.”
He still faces uphill struggles to be heard in coming weeks, even assuming registrars validate enough signatures as expected to place his name on the ballot.
A judge forbade Ganim to participate in the state’s public-financing system to obtain matching dollars; Lamont has spent up to $10 million of his own money in past campaigns. Ganim said Tuesday he has raised about $650,000 so far and expects to raise enough money to compete.
And it’s unclear whether Ganim will get to share a stage with Lamont.
Lamont campaign spokeswoman Patty McQueen would not say Tuesday afternoon whether Lamont will agree to debate Ganim.
“Tell Joe to give us a call,” McQueen stated, “when he qualifies for the ballot.”
Click on or download the above audio file or Facebook Live video below to hear the full episode of “Dateline New Haven” with gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim.