HARTFORD, CT — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim is disappointed he won’t be on stage Thursday night when a group of Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates meet for a forum hosted by the Governor M. Jodi Rell Center for Public Service at the University of Hartford.
Ganim isn’t officially on the ballot yet because he didn’t get the support of 15 percent of the delegates at the convention, and he is still trying to petition his way there by collecting more than 15,458 registered Democratic voter signatures.
Ganim called Monday on the Rell Center and the head of Connecticut Public Television, which is broadcasting the event live, to reschedule the event.
Leslie Smith, director of the Rell Center, said the criteria for getting into Thursday’s event was issued weeks before the conventions.
That means all the gubernatorial candidates who qualified at their party’s convention will be on stage, including Democrat Ned Lamont, and Republican Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Tim Herbst, and Steve Obsitnik.
Also left off the stage will be Oz Griebel, who is petitioning his way onto the November ballot as an independent candidate.
Ganim said the organizers were doing a “disservice to Connecticut voters by allowing participation only by candidates endorsed by the state Democratic and Republican parties, while denying participation to candidates who are collecting signatures to get on the August primary ballot.”
“With the primary not until August 14, rather than only promoting candidates endorsed by party insiders, this event should either be rescheduled or petitioning candidates should be allowed to participate,” Ganim said. “Allowing it to continue as planned does a disservice to Connecticut voters.”
However, “In fairness to these candidates who have met the criteria we had specified and shared with your campaign, we will be conducting the event on June 7th as planned,” Smith wrote to Ganim Tuesday. “While we empathize with your disappointment, we ask you to understand that we are structuring this program to give voters an early opportunity to learn about those candidates who qualified at the conventions with the understanding that there will be more than sufficient time and several upcoming broadcast debates to learn about candidates who might ultimately qualify by petition for the November ballot.”
In a press release, Rell said the event was “not a debate, nor is it a typical candidate forum; rather it is something voters truly want to see, which is an unedited and unrehearsed look at the qualifying candidates for governor and having them answer questions based around the premise of ‘Why should we hire you?’”
“Take it from someone who knows and who has been there; there is no job in the state of Connecticut quite like being governor, and the best way for voters to get a close, unbiased look at the people vying for governor is through a frank and open discussion. That’s what the June 7th program will be all about,” Rell said.
The event will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Lincoln Theater on the campus of the University of Hartford in West Hartford.
Tickets for the event are free and can be ordered through the online box office.