Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory in the 2023 Democratic primary. Andrew Brown / CT Mirror

This story has been updated.

The preliminary results from Bridgeport’s Democratic primary Tuesday night showed Joe Ganim, who is running for his eighth term as mayor, defeated political newcomer John Gomes by roughly 348 votes.

But Gomes made it clear on Wednesday afternoon that the primary results would not end his effort to assume control of Connecticut’s most populous city.

Gomes, who previously served under Ganim as a chief administrative officer for the city, issued a press release on Wednesday suggesting that he would run as a third party candidate in November under the Independent Party ticket.

“Opposition to Joe Ganim’s leadership showed up at the polls yesterday, and more will be showing up in the November General Election,” the press release said.

Ganim, who was backed by the city’s Democratic Town Committee, claimed victory Tuesday night after a wave of absentee ballots flipped the results in his favor, and that margin continued to grow on Wednesday as local election officials continued to count some of the remaining absentee ballots, which could be turned in as late as Election Day.

Gomes, however, did not accept the early results on Tuesday, claiming the election was “stolen” and “sabotaged” by the absentee ballot process, which allows political campaigns to distribute applications for absentee ballots.

It was a familiar scene in Bridgeport, where Ganim won in the same fashion in 2019 against Sen. Marilyn Moore, who came up 270 votes short of unseating the Democratic incumbent.

On Wednesday, Gomes continued to insinuate that the absentee ballot process in this year’s primary was fraudulent, though he cited no evidence of wrongdoing.

Gomes did however highlight the recent decision by the State Elections Enforcement Commission to recommend criminal charges against several people who managed absentee ballot applications for Ganim’s 2019 campaign.

“For far too long, the unwritten rule in Bridgeport has been, ‘The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do,'” Gomes said in his press release. “The loss of faith in democracy in Bridgeport elections ends when we all stand up united and declare, NEVER AGAIN.”

“The fight for electoral reform and justice in the Park City continues, stay tuned,” Gomes added.

Just like 2019, Tuesday’s primary election was a relatively low-turnout affair with 8,173 people casting a ballot for either candidate. During the last posted count, there were more than 41,000 active Democratic voters registered in Bridgeport, a city of roughly 153,000 residents.

Gomes could file a lawsuit, if he believes there are enough issues with the absentee ballots to reverse the more than 300 vote lead that Ganim secured Tuesday night. But he made no mention of a legal challenge in his statement Wednesday.

Ganim’s campaign and Bridgeport’s Democratic town chairman Mario Testa projected confidence that vote lead would withstand any challenge that might be leveled.

Testa boasted on stage at the election night party how he and Ganim came up in city politics together, and had never once lost an election while campaigning as a team.

Ganim also put out a statement Wednesday touting the margin that separated him and Gomes.

 “This win reflects the voice of the voters,” Ganim said in a prepared statement. “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the voters who turned out to support me in the primary election. Your trust and dedication drive my commitment to serve you and our city. Together, we’ll address the city’s challenges, achieve great things and continue to move Bridgeport forward.”

Mario Testa, the chairman of Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee, delivers a victory speech following the announcement that Joe Ganim defeated John Gomes, his Democratic opponent, in the 2023 primary for mayor. Andrew Brown / CT Mirror

But a legal challenge isn’t the only option Gomes has at his disposal in order to continue his campaign to oust Ganim. He also has the ability to begin campaigning for the general election in November, since he previously secured a slot on the Independent Party line.

That avenue could potentially shake up the outcome of the general election in a city that heavily favors Democratic candidates in November.

Voter registration numbers show there are more than 4,570 active Republican voters in Bridgeport at last count, and another 22,478 unaffiliated voters — more than enough to sway a municipal election.

Gomes recognized those on Wednesday as he vowed to fight on.

“Last night’s outcome affects every voter in Bridgeport, not just registered Democrats,” he said. “Once again, four years later, voters feel cheated, disenfranchised, and apathetic.”

A previous version of this story reported preliminary results showed Joe Ganim winning by 549 votes, with 8,047 votes cast overall. The unofficial results were updated Thursday to reflect a 348 vote victory for Ganim, with 8,173 ballots cast in total.

Andrew joined CT Mirror as an investigative reporter in July 2021. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Andrew was a reporter at newspapers in North Dakota, West Virginia and most recently South Carolina. He’s covered business, utilities, environmental issues, the opioid crisis, local government and two state legislatures. Do you have a story tip? Reach Andrew at 843-592-9958