By Earl O’Garro, Jr.


HARTFORD, CT – On an unseasonably cold day in April of 2017, Joseph Ganim (affectionately known as ‘Joe’ among his supporters), the Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, arrived at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut where he opened up conversation before a packed room of federal inmates and staff on a number of subjects but specifically on the idea of contrition. Fast-forward one year later and Mayor GANIM is campaigning for the highest office in the state by delivering the same message: any one individual is greater than the culmination of any one bad act.


Some years ago GANIM was convicted of federal corruption charges while Mayor of Bridgeport, he served his sentence, returned to the city of Bridgeport and ran for re-election in a campaign that many within his democratic party believed was doomed before it began. In a church, within the city limits, with a congregation made up of predominately African-American members, GANIM said he was sorry, asked for the forgiveness of the community and assured Bridgeport’s residents that he would not let them down again.


One inmate who was in the audience while GANIM addressed the packed room was John Foster, an African-American man from Bridgeport, Connecticut who was finishing up more than a ten year sentence at Danbury FCI. Foster said, “as an individual who lived in the city [Bridgeport] while Joe was mayor, and as a person returning to the city where Joe is mayor again and having read about his re-election and now his run for governor, it is incredibly powerful; Joe is testament to all of us that making a mistake does not mean you are broken, but perhaps more importantly, it does not mean that you cannot correct your mistake and lead a productive life. This is what I plan to do upon release and I’ve committed myself to be the best version of myself, for the sake of my family, my community and myself. Jose’s visit assured me that I wasn’t crazy for believing in myself as much as I do regardless of how many people may not believe in me.”


As I sat sown to write this price, I was inundated with countless stories regarding how inspiring Joseph Ganim was and these stories came from Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated citizens. The tie that bound all of these stories is that each individual referred to Mayor GANIM as “Joe”. When I asked Mr. Foster if he knew Mayor Ganim personally and if that was why he referred to him by his first name he responded by saying, “I’ve met Joe some years ago at a fundraiser in Bridgeport, and he asked to be called Joe.” Joe’s connection to his constituents is palpable. Stories in the New York Times, Hartford Courant, and the Wall Street Journal described what an uphill battle it will be for Mayor Ganim to win the state’s top office due to his felony conviction. But sentiment in the “streets” and around kitchen tables around the state suggest that Mayor Ganim is the most likely candidate to win.


As I say in the library preparing to write this piece, similarly as when I sat transfixed in front of the television in November of 2016 surrounded by individuals who asserted to me, and conceivably would have wagered an appendage that Donald J. Trump would not be elected president I reminded the naysayers of that turned out to be a fateful night. In November 2018 Joseph Ganim, affectionately referred to as “Joe” will become Connecticut’s next Governor, if for no other reason than because enough of us believe that all of us deserve a second chance.

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