Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim talks to his fellow Connecticut delegates at the Democratic National Convention. mark pazniokas /
Joseph P. Ganim talks to his fellow delegates.
Joseph P. Ganim talks to his fellow delegates. mark pazniokas /

Philadelphia — The latest step on Joseph P. Ganim’s road to political redemption came over breakfast Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, where Congressman John B. Larson cheerfully introduced him to the Connecticut delegation as “the comeback kid.”

Ganim came back from prison in 2010 and political exile in 2015 with his election as mayor of Bridgeport, the office he resigned in 2003 to begin seven years in prison for corruption. On Wednesday he was one of the mayors who chatted about gun violence.

Imprisoned and stripped of his right to vote, Ganim could only watch the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Now, he is a delegate participating in the selection of Hillary Clinton as the Democrats’ choice to be Obama’s successor.

“It does really give you a moment of reflection. It does mean a lot, especially being there with John Larson,” Ganim said. “We have a great history together, being statewide candidates together. And John’s remained a friend over the years.”

Ganim was elected mayor in 1991, the year before Bill Clinton took the White House. In 1994, Larson selected Ganim to be his running mate in an ill-fated campaign for governor. His return to politics last year left the Democratic establishment uneasy.

But Ganim cannot be ignored as the mayor of Connecticut’s largest city, either as a voice on urban issues or as the leader of a Democratic city whose turnout could be crucial to Hillary Clinton’s prospects in Connecticut this fall.

Bill Clinton was good to urban mayors. He supplied federal funding to hire 100,000 new police officers, and the first Ganim administration got its share. His own comeback was fueled by a sense the city was backsliding on crime and other issues.

He won with the support of the city’s black clergy.

“They get it. They understand that votes make a difference,” Ganim said. “You can make history whether it’s on the local level in the Bridgeport primary or whether it’s on the national level with the first woman president.”

Campaigns and elections are about the future, but some are fueled by the past. The memory of what Bridgeport was under Ganim outweighed how he left — convicted of a racketeering conspiracy that netted $500,000 in bribes and kickbacks. Nostalgia was an element of his win and could be for a new Clinton presidency, he said.

Former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro in Cleveland.
Former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro in Cleveland. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

“Same thing, Clinton 1 and Clinton 2, Ganim 1 and Ganim 2. You know? Elections are about the future. That’s what they are,” Ganim said. “But they relish in nostalgia and people’s memories and experiences. And that was the foundation, certainly, in our comeback. And it will be I’m sure — I’m not sure it’s Clinton comeback — but it’s a Clinton 2.”

Joseph Santopietro, a Republican convicted of corruption as Waterbury’s mayor, was with the Connecticut delegation to the Republican National Convention as a guest. His brother, Jeffrey, was a delegate.

The Santopietro brothers attended Ganim’s victory party last fall. Last week, Joe said he has considered his own comeback. Jeff said Ganim has shown it’s possible.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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