BRIDGEPORT – For six months, former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim has listened intently to the concerns of residents.
After his Democratic mayoral primary win Wednesday, the wildly popular ex-con is one step away from having to begin responding to voters who say there have been eight years of empty promises by incumbent Mayor Bill Finch.
Ralph Ford, who lives on the city’s east side, put it plainly Thursday afternoon at a post-primary press conference.
“Joe, we're looking for you to help us rebuild our neighborhoods, rebuild our community and bring jobs, development, a grocery store and pharmacy – all things we've been promised," he said. " We expect that of you.”
Not enough response to violence in the city’s neighborhoods, like the troubled Trumbull Gardens housing complex, also swayed voters. Ganim, who served 12 years in office before being sent to prison for 7 years on corruption charges, beat Finch by 405 votes
“Mr. Ganim had reached out and told us that he would do everything in his power, if elected, to stabilize our community,” said Stephen Nelson, a neighborhood advocate at Trumbull Gardens, which has seen nearly 20 people get shot this summer, including nine on a single night in June, when one man died.
Finch has tuned out the noise.
“We are creating the jobs over the last eight years. We've been growing the businesses. We've been adding the millions of dollars to our tax rolls,” Finch said
While Finch takes every opportunity to hammer Ganim’s conviction on 16 felony counts, Ganim wants a unified Democratic party.
“We want all of those members of the Democratic party to unite now... those that work for the Finch campaign,” said Ganim.
“Joe will be very outstanding with what he does because he loves and knows the people in the City of Bridgeport better than Mr. Finch,” said Ganim supporter Carleen McDowell.
A longtime West End resident, who was on Ganim's ticket and narrowly lost a chance at a City Council seat last night, says a second chance is what helped him identify with the Ganim.
“I used to be a heroin addict for 32 years,” said lifelong resident Jorge Cruz. “I'm going on 15 years clean. I'm a recovery coach today. I'm going to school to become a counselor. So I believe in second chances.”
From second chances to perhaps a second coming. That’s a big reason Democrats showed up at the primary polls in the highest numbers since Ganim first ran for mayor and won in 1991.