Another election and another cycle for probate judge Paul Ghanim…without an opponent.
His older brother Joe has his history as Bridgeport’s youngest mayor, and after falling out of favor in 2003, a return to the mayoral role in 2015 is unlikely, but Paul’s fait accompli Coming now, 24 consecutive years of service and another four more in the bank when he’s elected again in November, eclipsing Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy’s 24-year consecutive run from 1933-57.
It hardly happened.
In 1998, when Joe’s popularity in the mayor was at its peak, Paul decided to run for the job desperately. Staunch Democratic regular Kevin Boyle maxed out party support for Jonas Meyer at age 70, a mandatory retirement milestone for probate work. For Boyle, well-regarded with the party faithful, this was the elected position he had always wanted.
It seemed like a lock for Boyle.
At the Democratic town committee support meeting in July 1998, Boyle put it all over. Paul put his name on the nomination list with little support. Everyone thought he was going to leave. Except for Paul Ganim, who decided to run a primary election to get petition signatures to be eligible to vote.
His loyal friend, Chris Meyer, Jonas’ son, went on to serve as Bridgeport’s general counsel more than a decade later. It’s Paul Ganim and Chris Meyer against the world. Paul has no business to win.
Brother Joe ignored Paul’s plea for help. The party has decided to support Boyle.
Paul moved on, even though he had little experience with the essentials necessary to build a winning game, especially against entrenched party machines. Paul is heading for the bombardment.
The twists and turns of politics are amazing when you least expect it.
A fool in Boyle’s camp (who knew who he was) put a “loyal over royalty” sticker on the bumper that only party insiders could understand. Joe Ganim also knew it was a clear blow to him.
They poked the bear, and the bear hit back with its paws.
Rather than leaving it alone, Boyle and his company energized the mayor.
“They did it to me when I told them I wasn’t involved,” Mayor Joe told me back in the day when I was his campaign guru.
In 1998, Joe Ganim was popular with voters, but party regulars he disliked were unpopular by their poor and greedy standards of patronage work.
“They (people in the party) don’t care that it’s Paul’s loss, they want it to be yours,” I countered.
That’s it for Joe. He had to rescue his brother to reply. Without Joe involved, Paul would have a toast no matter how hard he tried.
For me, it became the summer and fall of Ganims. In addition to calling voters to amend the City Charter to approve a four-year term as mayor, I have signed up for my youngest brother Tom’s state Senate race. Now Paul is in it.
Instead of spending a summer and fall on the golf course (unfortunately for me), I was dragged into multiple campaign headquarters to deal with the Ganim trio of Joe, Tom, and Paul.
Rescue Paul was not easy.
Yes, I have a popular mayor, and a tireless Paul who coaches how to attract voters. Paul goes to work. Still, to get there, money and boots on the ground are needed. Making money is easy: campaign staff, another story.
All the partygoers I rely on to spread the retail message signed up for Boyle, and many of them were cool with Joe.
hey can you help?
Sorry, I promised Boyle.
OK, it’s time for new recruits: some fresh fish on the public payroll, some volunteers for my game, and some 20-somethings looking to build genuine people.
Anyway, if Paul wins for Paul and Joe, my take is. If Paul loses, it’s a stinging blemish for Joe, with eager partygoers rubbing grapefruit on his face.
The key is also the high turnout, especially with Democrats out of touch with their party members. Party loyalists always win races with low turnout.
I attach Paul to everything Joe has, including his ballot name: “Paul Joseph Ganim”.
Sometimes chance prevails.
Democratic town chairman Mario Testa has put forward a candidate in the 126th state legislature, which includes wealthy African-American district Wilbur Cross, against his political foe, state Rep. Chris Caruso, putting Caruso and Paul Ganim on the same ballot line. Caruso is popular in his area.
On polling day, Boyle and the party’s regulars had three to four polling places in each constituency to support our candidate choices of one or two to jawbone voters.
Early constituency results, especially in neighborhoods with greater political discipline, have worked against Boyles like Black Rock, Central and Winthrop. Few constituencies favor Paul Ghanim.
The result was tense. Boyle has an edge in Wilbur Cross, one jurisdiction awaiting reports. The Cross result was a big win for Paul Ganim, who narrowly won both machine and absentee balloting. Caruso’s presence on the ballot increased turnout.
More than 8,000 Democrats voted in the probate primary judge, with two candidates representing the mayoral primary.
Paul Ganim beat Boyle’s main challenge in 2002 and 2006. Since then, Paul Ganim’s citywide seat has never been threatened. He flew under the radar, exactly what he wanted.
And now, only two weeks away from history.