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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, do-over mayoral primary

Jan 19, 2024, 5:02 AM

FILE - Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim addresses the media in Bridgeport, Conn., Nov. 7, 2023. Last Nove...

FILE - Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim addresses the media in Bridgeport, Conn., Nov. 7, 2023. Last November, a state judge threw out the results of the Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport and ordered a new primary to take its place. At issue was evidence that supporters of Mayor Joe Ganim had stuffed multiple absentee ballots into outdoor ballot collection boxes. Ganim said these supporters broke the law but denied any knowledge or involvement in the scheme.(Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, file)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) — There may be a collective feeling of déjà vu among Democrats in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Tuesday, when they head back to the polls for a court-ordered do-over of a mayoral election they thought they had decided months ago.

Last November, a state judge threw out the results of the Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport and ordered a new primary to take its place. At issue was evidence that supporters of Mayor Joe Ganim had stuffed multiple absentee ballots into outdoor ballot collection boxes. Ganim said these supporters broke the law but denied any knowledge or involvement in the scheme.

In the September primary, Ganim defeated challenger John Gomes by 251 votes out of 8,173 cast. The Gomes campaign later sued the city, demanding a new primary after obtaining video surveillance evidence of the ballot box stuffing. The Nov. 7 general election went ahead as scheduled, and Ganim once again prevailed in a close race over Gomes, who ran as an independent, and two other candidates. But the judge’s order rendered that election moot as well, and now Ganim and Gomes will face off for the third time in four months.

The winner will once again face Republican David Herz and independent candidate Lamond Daniels in a do-over of the general election scheduled for Feb. 27.

Ganim is seeking an eighth term as mayor. He previously served from 1991 to 2003 before spending seven years in federal prison for corruption and extortion charges stemming from his time in City Hall. Voters returned him to office in 2015 and 2019. Gomes served in Ganim’s second administration as the city’s acting chief administrative officer until he was demoted in 2016 and later as an assistant chief administrative officer until his termination in July 2022. Gomes has suggested publicly that his ouster was in retaliation for being a possible mayoral hopeful.

Ganim previously faced a primary challenge in his 2019 reelection bid, when he narrowly defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore by 270 votes. That result was also challenged in the courts, but a judge ultimately upheld the victory.

Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, is a Democratic stronghold. President Joe Biden carried the city in 2020 with 79% of the vote.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

PRIMARY DAY, PART 2

The special do-over Democratic primary for mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, will be held on Tuesday. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide coverage for the special Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Connecticut has a closed primary system, meaning that only registered Democrats may participate in Tuesday’s special primary. The deadline to register is Friday by noon ET.

DECISION NOTES

Turnout for regularly scheduled mayoral primaries in Bridgeport has been relatively modest. It was 17% of registered party members in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, down from 21% in the 2019 primary. As a late addition to the election calendar, Tuesday’s do-over primary may be a particularly low-turnout event, especially considering voters already weighed in on this contest just four months ago. As with any low-turnout election, a competitive race could hinge on just a handful of votes, which would slow down the race-calling process.

Ganim eked out his disputed win in the September primary with 51.5% of the vote, compared with 48.5% for Gomes. Gomes was the vote leader on primary night, but Ganim pulled ahead once the absentee votes were counted. The same pattern held true for the November general election. The AP did not call a winner for the general, since the special primary had already been ordered by that point.

Given that both the primary and the general election were extremely competitive and that absentee votes lie at the center of this drama, it’s very possible that there won’t be a race call until the absentee ballots are taken into account.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow a trailing candidate to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Connecticut law requires an automatic recount if the margin is less than 0.5% of the total votes cast or fewer than 20 votes but not more than 1,000 votes. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE

As of Oct. 31, there were almost 49,000 registered Democrats in Bridgeport.

Turnout for the first Democratic mayoral primary on Sept. 12 was about 17% of registered Democrats in Bridgeport. In the 2019 Democratic primary, it was about 21%.

In the Sept. 12 primary, 28% of all ballots were cast before Election Day. That was up from 13% in the 2019 Democratic primary.

As of Wednesday, 756 ballots for the special primary had already been cast.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the 2022 midterm primary in Bridgeport, the AP first reported results in Bridgeport at 8:13 p.m. ET. The election night tabulation ended at 12:17 a.m. ET with all the votes counted.

In the 2022 midterm general election, the AP first reported results at 8:28 p.m. ET. The election night tabulation ended at 4:50 a.m. ET with about 87% of total votes counted.

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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, do-over mayoral primary