This morning, voters across Bridgeport – and the country – woke up feeling dismayed and disheartened. Yesterday, Joe Ganim won the special Democratic primary re-election for Mayor. Eerily, yesterday Donald Trump also won the New Hampshire Republican primary, all but guaranteeing him the path to the Republican Party nomination for President. As we said two weeks ago, the authoritarian tactics of Trump mirror those of Ganim, who both abuse and corrupt democracy in order to consolidate and maintain power.  

There is a terrifying thing happening in Bridgeport, election after election, as well as in our country and across the world. Criminal strongmen and women, who are caught “red-handed,” are being rewarded for their crimes rather than being punished. And the people who speak up, speak out and tell the truth are the ones being vilified. There seems to be a growing hunger for fascism. And the everyday voter is left feeling scared and confused. 

We’ve been right since 2017 when we first began researching the “problem with the absentee ballots.” Our attempts to protect Bridgeport’s democracy – through our 2019 lawsuit, our corresponding SEEC complaint, and the appointment of independent election monitors – exposed the abusive system and criminal behavior of Bridgeport’s Democratic Party under the leadership of Mario Testa, Joe Ganim, Wanda Geter-Pataky, Alfredo Castillo, and others. And the SEEC’s recommendation of criminal charges, John Gomes’s lawsuit, the leaked ballot stuffing video, the CT Mirror investigation and The New York Times story have all confirmed it. 

Yet, on the first day that the absentee ballot applications were made available by Judge Clark at the Town Clerk, political operatives signed out over 4,600 applications. That tells you all you need to know about this special primary election. Operatives associated with Bridgeport’s Democratic Party were undeterred by the exposure of their own destructive and criminal behavior. Soon after, the stories of operatives banging on the doors in senior buildings after hours and taking voters’ ballots started circulating. Even our Secretary of State was forced to issue a public statement urging Bridgeport voters to cast their votes in person.

Yet, in yesterday’s election, the walk-in vote went in Ganim’s favor by a mere 223 votes. Just like in 2016, when America woke up to find out Donald Trump had been elected President, so many Bridgeporters woke up this morning with a pit in their stomachs, asking “How did this happen?” The fact that the walk-in vote went in Ganim’s favor mirrors what Americans had to confront during the months after Trump’s election: People are not seeing the threat right in front of them. 

Bridgeport’s Democratic Party politicos – the majority of whom were celebrating last night – behave much like an abused child that knows their lives are not normal but craves the love, attention, and protection of their abusive parent. Like a lot of Republicans, most of them know that the corruption, election fraud, patronage, and outright violence and intimidation is not just wrong, but really, really bad for the city and country we all love. And yet, they continue to not just uphold it, but uphold the people directly responsible for it. The trauma of that cognitive dissonance lives inside their hearts and minds.         

So what does this all mean for those of us on the right side of history? For those of us with a clear view of our inherent value and potential, our independent voices have been crying out to our brothers and sisters who keep choosing abuse over freedom to say, “it is safe here, there’s real love here.” Yesterday’s results mean we have more work to do. 

John Gomes should continue his campaign to the February 27th general election. For the sake of democracy, it is important that ALL voters – Democrats, Republicans, Independents and unaffiliated voters – are able to cast a vote for Mayor, armed with the knowledge of everything that’s happened since November. And we will continue to do our work to pass progressive policies that can make Bridgeport the just, equitable, democratic city we know is possible – and to change the political culture that justifies and rewards criminality, stealing elections, abusing taxpayer dollars, and more.

Today’s primary election results should be a wakeup call to state and national Democrats who are wringing their hands about the state of the 2024 Presidential election. Bridgeport’s democracy continues to be a canary in the coal mine, offering clues and warning shots about how fragile American democracy really is – and how incredibly dangerous it is when leaders ignore abuses in the name of their own political careers.