ctnewsjunkie file photo
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT – Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim announced Friday he is forming an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2018.

Ganim, 57, who served seven years in federal prison for corruption while mayor in Bridgeport, won his old job back as mayor in November of 2015, winning by a near 2-1 margin over his closest opponent.

Ganim, a Democrat, joins a crowded field of Democrats and Republicans who are seeking the position being vacated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who has announced he won’t be seeking a third term.

“I’ve taken a good, hard look at this,” Ganim said Friday in an interview from his office. “We’ve made a lot of progress in Bridgeport and if I decide to run for governor I would want make the success of our state’s big cities one of my first priorities.”

“The big cities are the engines that drive our economy,” Ganim said, adding that it is in the interest of Connecticut’s smaller towns to make sure cities such as Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven prosper.

Ganim said if he runs he would like to participate in the Citizens Election Program, a voluntary program which provides full public financing to qualified candidates for statewide office.

But under state law, convicted felons cannot receive public financing through the program.

Ganim has filed an official request with state elections regulators to seek an exception.

Almost every candidate for statewide office has been using the Citizens Election Program, which means they have to raise $250,000 in qualifying funds to receive a $1.4 million primary grant and $6.5 million for the general election.

Ganim was first elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1991 and served until 2003, when he resigned after his conviction.

Released from prison in 2010, he ran again for mayor in 2015 – and won.

Asked whether he was concerned if his criminal past would be used against him in a campaign for governor, Ganim answered, “I won’t run away it (my past).”

“Some will be supportive, some will not,” Ganim said. “The people of Bridgeport have given me another opportunity and I’ve been encouraged by all the support I’ve received.”

Ganim has plenty of company in those expressing interest in being governor.

On Thursday, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run for governor.

And fellow Democrats Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, former Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei, Jacey Wyatt, and Bathy Guiles have all formed exploratory committees to seek the Democratic nomination.

Malloy announced a few weeks ago that he won’t be seeking re-election to a third term, which opened up the floodgates to those eager to start raising money to qualify for public financing before the Democratic convention in May 2018.

The field of candidates on the Republican side is even larger.

On the Republican side, announced candidates are Joseph Visconti, a contractor from West Hartford, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is making his third run, along with Glastonbury Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, David Walker, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, and Peter Lumaj, who is running for statewide office but hasn’t said whether he will seek the governor’s office.

And those are just the candidates who have already filed their paperwork with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Others who have expressed interest in running include former state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, former congressman Joe Scarborough (who now hosts Morning Joe on MSNBC), Senate Republican President Len Fasano of North Haven, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby.