Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim claimed victory over his Democratic challenger John Gomes in an election that came down to several thousand absentee ballots that were counted late Tuesday night.
But Gomes refused to concede, arguing that the election was “stolen” by Ganim, who was endorsed by the city’s Democratic party.
“There will be tangible evidence that this election was sabotaged and was stolen again,” Gomes told his supporters. “The people voted for us. The people want proper representation. But they continue to manipulate the system and oppress the majority.”
Ganim announced around midnight that he had defeated Gomes, his lone primary challenger, by more than 200 votes.
Unofficial results from the city were not available Tuesday night.
The initial election results showed Ganim was trailing Gomes, a former Bridgeport city employee who was fired by Ganim earlier this year, when it came to ballots that were cast in person on Tuesday. But after the absentee ballots were counted, Ganim claimed to have overcome that gap — the same way he did in 2019 in his primary victory over Sen. Marilyn Moore.
Ganim predicted that outcome when he arrived at his campaign party around an hour after the polls closed on Tuesday. Outside the night club where his party was being held, Ganim said he may lose the in-person vote, but he assured a small group of supporters that he would end up victorious due to the late count on absentee ballots.
“The right vote is more important than the rushed vote,” Ganim said.
“Primaries are close. That’s just the way it is,” he added as his supporters began chanting “Joe stays here. Four more years.”
Gomes also made note of the outstanding absentee ballots early Tuesday evening, but in front of reporters, he questioned whether voters could trust the outcome of those ballots.
In the lead-up to the primary elections, there were numerous issues swirling around absentee ballot process in Bridgeport.
The Connecticut Post published a story in early August about the State Elections Enforcement Commission recommending criminal charges against three people who were associated with Ganim’s reelection campaign in 2019 due to their handling of absentee ballots during that election.
Gomes subsequently asked for the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office to monitor the polls and counting of absentee ballots in Bridgeport.
Addressing reporters outside of his election night party at the Cape Verdean Association of Bridgeport, Gomes said he wasn’t confident that there would be transparency around the counting of absentee ballots.
“I have to say that evidence has shown the track record and things that could be done to manipulate the system,” he said. “So it’s an unfortunate situation. And it’s unfortunate to the voters of Bridgeport, where they need to really understand that their vote was counted fair and equally across the board.”
A victory in the Democratic primary would likely position Ganim, who previously served a federal prison sentence after being convicted on public corruption charges, to serve another four years in office, since there are more than nine times the number of Democrats in Bridgeport as there are Republicans.
That is if Gomes doesn’t mount a third party challenge to Ganim in November. Gomes already secured a spot on the general election ballot under the Independent Party line, if he chooses to run.
Before Ganim claimed victory Tuesday, Gomes hinted that he would use that third party avenue to challenge Ganim again if needed.
“We have to respect those that didn’t come while at the same time appreciate those that did come out to vote, and count those numbers to the fullest, and hopefully it turns in our favor,” he said, adding that he wishes more people turned out to vote. “The one thing that this tells me, that we need to restore the faith of the election process for the people.”
During his victory speech, Ganim criticized the way Gomes campaigned for office, but he made a plea for Democratic unity come November.
“We want you to join and be part of this great Democratic party,” Ganim said.