Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim became the first Democratic candidate in state history to petition his way onto a Democratic primary ballot by submitting more than 17,100 valid signatures.

Ganim, an ex-convict who was elected to another term as mayor in 2015, beat the odds again by gaining ballot access after falling short of the 15 percent he needed at the Democratic convention.

Ganim submitted more than 32,000 signatures to Registrars of Voters across the state. It was more than double the 15,458 he needed to qualify for ballot access.

During his petition drive, Ganim would ask voters if they were registered with the Democratic Party and then he would explain that he needed their signature “because a whole bunch of people got together and they didn’t want me to run.”

Ganim said the petition drive was reflective of a “grassroots campaign” aimed at shut-out voices, targeting a wealthy endorsed opponent who is self-financing his campaign.

Ganim, who served seven years in federal prison for racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, theft of honest services, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, and filing false tax returns, has had a lot of doors shut in his face. After making an improbable comeback as mayor, a federal judge told him he couldn’t participate in the clean elections program. When he was left out of a gubernatorial forum he turned it into a media event by walking up to the venue with cameras rolling, making it look as if he was excluded unfairly.

Ganim walks into event without invitation

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim doesn’t have ballot access so he was not invited to attend the gubernatorial interviews at the Rell Center. Mildred McNeil confronts Ganim as he approaches the venue.

Posted by on Thursday, June 7, 2018

But every time someone tells him he can’t do something, Ganim seems to find a way to succeed.

“They’ve thrown up hurdles to my candidacy from the beginning,” Ganim said Tuesday night in a phone interview. “But the campaign has gotten stronger as a result.”

He believes the petition drive, while difficult, will give him an advantage over Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, the endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Lamont has spent up to $10 million of his own money in past campaigns. Ganim told the New Haven Independent that he has raised about $650,000 so far and expects to raise enough money to compete.

“The campaign has gotten stronger because I’ve been able to bring it to the Democratic voters,” Ganim said.

He said he was humbled by the support he’s received.

Guy Smith of Greenwich is also trying to petition his way onto the Democratic primary ballot. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday he only had 5,165 of the necessary 15,458 verified. Wednesday morning is technically the deadline for registrars to send their final signature counts to the Secretary of the State’s office.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
David Stemerman (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

On the Republican side, David Stemerman joined Bob Stefanowski in petitioning his way onto the Aug. 14 Republican primary ballot.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office determined that Stemerman received 9,781 valid signatures. He only needed 9,081.

That means there are at least five Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates on the Aug. 14 ballot for their respective party primaries.