If you happen to be the mayor of a city that you desperately tried and failed to escape by running for governor last year, you might expect this to be a brutal primary season. So far, though, Mayor Luke Bronin of Hartford and Mayor Joe Ganim of Bridgeport look like they may get lucky and survive.
Luke Bronin promised Hartford voters he’d serve a full four-year term in 2015, but then turned around and ran for governor two years later. That left a bad taste in residents’ mouths and evaporated a lot of the goodwill from his 2015 win. He’s promising to stay put this time, but residents are having trouble believing it.
This has been one of the problems that plagued Bronin from the start; he was seen as an outsider who wanted to polish up his political resume instead of someone who was genuinely committed to the city. His children, for example, attend a private school in West Hartford instead of his neighborhood public school. He has his reasons, but it’s a bad look.
Despite all of this, Bronin is in good shape to win another term. He easily won the Democratic Town Committee convention, a sign that the party faithful aren’t ready to turn on him yet. In 2015 Bronin, then the challenger, bested incumbent Pedro Segarra at the convention before going on to win the primary.
Bronin has a decent record to run on. He can claim at least some of the credit for stabilizing the city’s budget disaster, though the state’s bailout of the city certainly didn’t hurt. The mayor is also fortunate that his opposition, while vocal, is fractured.
Bronin has two primary challengers, State Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, and, for some reason, former mayor and ex-con Eddie Perez.
I have no idea why Perez thinks he’ll get a second chance. Is there a lot of nostalgia for the Perez era out there? What, exactly, does he bring to the table that isn’t baggage?
Unfortunately for Brandon McGee, Perez is vacuuming up a lot of the air in the room by throwing around a lot of wild accusations and making stuff up. Perez is also the bigger story, and will continue to be as he has amassed enough signatures to be on the November ballot as well.
McGee may yet break out at an upcoming televised debate or Perez may catch fire, but as of right now it looks like Bronin may get another four years to try and find a way to escape Hartford.
Mayor Joe Ganim of Bridgeport also tried to flee the city he was elected mayor of midway through his term. He had a bit more success running for governor than Luke Bronin, though he found the rest of Connecticut was a lot less forgiving about his felony corruption conviction than the people of Bridgeport.
Ganim is finding re-election a lot easier. He was endorsed by the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee in a 78-11 vote over his rival, state Sen. Marilyn Moore. Moore claims that Ganim wore out his welcome when he ran for governor, but clearly the DTC, which still has a lot of influence in Bridgeport, doesn’t agree.
Ganim’s first post-prison term hasn’t been the carnival of FBI investigations his detractors fretted about, but it hasn’t been wine and roses either. Ganim is staking his re-election in large part on economic development, but a quick glance at the record suggests he has little cause to brag. A lot of the initiatives he’s taking credit for either have yet to materialize, such as the dumb idea of an MGM casino on the Bridgeport waterfront, or were started under his predecessor, Bill Finch.
And yet things aren’t desperate enough that Bridgeport residents seem willing to get rid of Ganim. I’m guessing he’ll win the primary and the general election easily enough, meaning we’ll have to keep explaining just how a city lets an ex-con be mayor again for another four years.
Still, could be worse. Eddie Perez could win, too.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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