Sen. Marilyn Moore campaigning in a race for mayor. Kelan Lyons / CT Mirror
State Sen. Marilyn Moore at the polls. She won there, but lost once the absentee ballots were counted. Kelan Lyons / CT Mirror

State Sen. Marilyn Moore, the loser of a tantalizingly close Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, now must decide whether to investigate the lopsided absentee-ballot vote that saved Mayor Joseph P. Ganim from an upset. 

Her campaign staff and key supporters planned to meet Wednesday night to explore whether there is a case to be made for overturning the primary results, obtaining a line on the November ballot or continuing as a write-in candidate.

Unofficial returns updated Wednesday showed Ganim beating Moore, 5,304 to 5,034, a 270-vote margin of victory attributable to Ganim outpolling Moore in absentee ballots, 923 to 303.

“He should be humiliated,” said Carlos Moreno, the deputy state director of the Working Families Party, which backed Moore. “He basically lost the popular vote. He lost at the polls.”

Neither Ganim nor Moore could be reached Wednesday.

The vote Tuesday exposed a deep vein of dissatisfaction with Ganim’s second tenure overseeing government in Connecticut’s largest city, but Moore currently has no path to a place on the November ballot, absent a legal challenge over petition signatures rejected by the registrar’s office.

Her campaign relied on the Working Families Party to guarantee her a ballot line in November, but the union-financed group fumbled what generally is a simple task in political organizing: Collecting sufficient signatures, just 207 in this case.

Compounding the error, the Moore campaign decided against securing its own independent ballot line. Moore essentially repeated a mistake made four years ago by Mayor Bill Finch, who also relied on a minor party for ballot insurance in November.

Finch lost the Democratic primary to Ganim, then discovered that the Job Creation Party missed a deadline for designating Finch as its nominee for November. “Whatever the problem is, I’m sure we’ll find a way to get on the ballot,” Finch said then.

He didn’t.

And Ganim won, returning him to office a dozen years after a federal jury convicted him of a far-reaching extortion scheme during his first stint as mayor. Last year, Ganim ran for governor, losing a Democratic primary by a 4-1 margin. 

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim declared victory over Sen. Marilyn Moore. Kelon Lyons / CT Mirror

Ballot insurance — securing an unaffiliated line on the November ballot while seeking a major-party nomination — is not uncommon in Connecticut’s cities, where the primaries can act as runoff elections.

In New Haven, for example, Justin Elicker, ran a two-pronged campaign, simultaneously seeking the Democratic nomination in a primary, but also securing a line on the ballot in November as an independent. 

Elicker didn’t need the insurance, soundly beating Mayor Toni N. Harp on Tuesday. But if he had lost the primary, Elicker could have had a second chance by appealing to the 15,000 unaffiliated and 2,400 Republican voters who could not participate in the Democratic primary.

Getting a November ballot line is easy, especially compared to qualifying as a challenger for a municipal primary.

 It only requires gathering signatures from the number of voters equal to one percent of the vote in the previous election. So, in the case of the Bridgeport mayoral race, that meant 207 signatures. To qualify for the primary, Moore had to collect more than 2,000 signatures — five percent of the 47,000 enrolled Democrats in the city.

The Working Families submitted 271 signatures to Bridgeport registrars to get Moore on the November ballot, a margin of safety of 64 extra names. But the registrars validated only 168. Roger Senserrich, the communications director of the Working Families, said the party is exploring whether some signature were improperly invalidated.

A challenge of the registrars would require going to court.

Moore came close Tuesday night to an upset, but not nearly close enough for an automatic recount. The standard in Connecticut is a winning margin of fewer than 20 votes or one-half of one percent of the total vote cast.

A judge ordered a new election in Bridgeport in 2017 over a mishandled absentee ballot. Moreno had no specific evidence of wrongdoing regarding the absentee ballots Tuesday, other than calling the large number “troubling.” Were more than 1,200 of the 10,290 voters who participated Tuesday really out of town or otherwise unable to vote in person?

The only way to find out is for the campaign to survey the voters who used absentee ballots to see if they were properly used.

Votes in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven

Below are the unofficial results for the nominations of chief elected officials.

Democratic Primaries

Republican Primaries

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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