HARTFORD —There was little question that Ned Lamont would get the Democratic Party’s endorsement for governor. The real question was could he deny Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim ballot access for a primary.
The answer from state Democrats was yes ... for a few weeks.
That was the result of Saturday’s state Democratic Party nominating convention, where Lamont earned nearly 87 percent of the delegate vote. Ganim garnered around 12 percent.
Ganim, a former convicted felon, is continuing his quest to gather 15,458 signatures of Democratic voters to qualify for the August primary.
At Saturday’s convention, Ganim came close, but fell short by about three percentage points, of the 15 percent of delegate votes necessary to make it onto the primary ballot.
Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire who consolidated party support in the weeks leading up to the convention by gaining the endorsement of everyone from New Haven Mayor Toni Harp to his rival-turned-running mate Susan Bysiewicz, who dropped her own gubernatorial campaign to run as Lamont’s lieutenant governor, sought to heal possible wounds Saturday when he took the stage to accept the endorsement. He said cities like Bridgeport would be a focus of his administration.
“I’m gonna put together a jobs budget,” Lamont said. “That means, number one, we invest in the people.”
He said Connecticut doesn’t have natural resources like oil or gas, but it does have an educated workforce. He said the moving vans headed to Massachusetts are going to turn around because his administration is going to establish a jobs pipeline. He said the next problem they’re going to tackle is transportation.
“GE didn’t leave because of taxes. They left because of A. jobs pipeline and B. transportation,” Lamont said. “They couldn’t get people to work.”
Ned Lamont takes the stage to accept Democratic Party's endorsement in the primaryPosted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Saturday, May 19, 2018
Ganim made a last-minute plea to delegates Saturday when he jumped on stage and seconded his own nomination for governor.
An unconventional move, Ganim was doing what he could to win the 282 delegates he needed to automatically qualify for the ballot. He used the five minutes on stage to plead with delegates for votes.
He said he wants to build an “economy that’s built on racial, social and economic justice.”
Ganim said he was responsible for wrestling Bridgeport from bankruptcy during his first term as mayor.
“I’ve made my mistakes, I broke the law, I left office and came back,” Ganim said. “I ask for a second chance opportunity.” He said he won back the mayor’s office in Bridgeport with a renewed sense of transparency and accountability.
He said he understands better the “sanctity of the public trust.”
Ganim was convicted for using the mayor’s office to shake down city contractors for more than $500,000 in cash, meals, clothing, wine and home renovations. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
He was re-elected mayor in 2015. Ganim pointed out to delegates that there’s only going to be one ballot. He said he’s heard from delegates that they will have his support on the second or third ballot, but if they’re being honest there will only be one ballot.
“My friends, create an opportunity for us as Democrats,” Ganim urged.
He said the public rights issue of “our time is public education.” He said increasing the minimum wage and collective bargaining rights are part of his campaign.
After Ganim only garnered 247 votes on the first ballot, he doubled down on the New Haven delegation, desperately trying to make a deal with New Haven Democratic Town Committee Chair Vincent Mauro, Jr. that would result in some of the 86 New Haveners who initially voted for Lamont switching their votes. Only 11 New Haven delegates voted for Ganim on the first ballot. Three delegates abstained.
He just wanted to be on the ballot in August, Ganim told the delegates. He asked them to give his campaign an opportunity to primary.
Ultimately, that New Haven push was unsuccessful. No New Haven delegates changed their votes on the second ballot for governor
“I was just asking around if anyone wanted to change their votes,” Mauro said after Ganim came up short on the second ballot. “I was not trying to change anyone’s votes.” He said that no New Haven delegates switched between the first and second ballots.
After the second ballot, Ganim conceded that he had been trying to trade something with Mauro for more New Haven votes, but he would not divulge what that something was.
“We had some things we were talking about,” he said. “But the fact is, we got a very strong showing here.”
He said he was heartened by the final vote, even though he failed to qualify for the primary. He said his campaign has already gathered 11,000 signatures towards his petition to get on the ballot in August. He boasted that he is confident that he’ll be the Democratic nominee for governor after the August primary happens.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim second his own nomination for governor.Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Saturday, May 19, 2018
Lamont did not come on stage to nominate himself or second his own nomination before the delegates from the state’s 169 different town committees cast their votes. Instead, he was nominated by Eloisa Melendez, a 24-year-old councilwoman from Norwalk, and seconded by Sean Connolly, the former state Veterans Affairs commissioner who dropped his own bid for governor earlier this week to support Lamont’s campaign.
Connolly spoke for five or six minutes, passionately invoking the state Democratic Party’s commitment to economic opportunity, equal pay for equal work, high-quality education, and diversity. He spoke of his own background growing up in East Hartford and getting his first job as a dishwasher; he spoke of his own travels across the state, talking with mechanics and students and teachers in his own campaign’s efforts to better understand the struggles that working-class families face in this state.
Not until the very end of his speech did he mention Ned Lamont’s name. He argued in the last 30 seconds of his seconding of Lamont’s nomination that Lamont was the best candidate to achieve the ideals of opportunity and equality that the party stands for.
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp offered a much more forceful and personal defense of Lamont’s candidacy for governor. In her speech seconding Lamont’s nomination, she painted Lamont as a candidate with financial savvy and a heart. She described him again and again as someone who has a proven track record of business success and who feels a deep commitment to the welfare of everyone in the state, particularly in Connecticut’s cities.
“Connecticut needs a governor with a willingness to challenge the status quo,” she said. “Someone with a history of success. Someone who will boldly stand up for what is right and infuse in this state the American ideal about which we all dream: equal protection and equal opportunity for all residents.”
She said that Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who earned his millions in the telecommunications industry, knows the value of stable and predictable budgets. She said he is committed to infrastructure investment and upholding cities as the economic engine of the state.
“We all know Ned was among the first to speak out against the bogus war in 2006,” she said, referencing his anti-Iraq War challenge to U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in which he won the Democratic primary but ultimately lost the general election.
“Fewer of us know,” she said, “that after that, when the cameras were all pointed elsewhere, Ned went to work as a volunteer teacher at Harding High School in Bridgeport.” She touted his volunteering work in Bridgeport as well as at Central Connecticut State University as evidence of his personal commitment to the success of the state’s young people.
“He believes in Connecticut,” she said. “He believes in its institutions. And he believes in the great potential built into all Connecticut residents.” She said she pledged her support to Lamont with enthusiasm and confidence.
Toni Harp nominates Ned Lamont for governor.Posted by New Haven Independent on Saturday, May 19, 2018
The party thought requiring town chairs to hand in vote tallies for their delegates would save time, but it changed the entire atmosphere of the Democratic Party’s convention.
Traditionally town chairs announced their tallies for the candidates and then there switching is allowed to put candidates above or below where they need to be to qualify for the August primary vote.
The process was much more transparent, according to delegates. The new, process which involved paper forms and a Google spreadsheet, seemed to take the “fun” out of the convention process. It was difficult for campaigns to know what their vote count was at any given time because nothing but the switches were being announced.
The delegates were given access to the spreadsheets to see the town counts, but not many seemed to be aware of what was going on. Many towns had already filled out their vote forms for the various races. The switches were announced at the podium. The party allowed five minutes for switches.
Any candidate that received 15 percent on any of the ballots automatically qualified for the primary. To win a candidate needed 50 percent plus one to be the party’s endorsed candidate.