Gomes, who lost to Ganim in last week’s Democratic primary, said his campaign will go to court Tuesday to ask a Superior Court judge for an immediate injunction to block the certification of the primary results. In addition, he will ask the judge to order a new primary election.
The reason, Gomes and his supporters said, is a video that can be seen on Facebook on his campaign page and has been viewed multiple times on YouTube. The video shows a woman walking back and forth outside the Bridgeport government center and dropping papers into an absentee ballot box. Gomes says that the time stamps show that seven drops were made in the span of two hours on Sept. 5, including six by the same woman and one by a man. He said he could not say how many ballots had been placed in the box.
“On primary night, our campaign was victorious at the polls by 470 votes, based on incoming results,” Christine Bartlett-Josie, the campaign manager, said. “However, as absentee ballots were being tabulated, our lead dramatically eroded, ultimately resulting in a 2-to-1 loss margin with an ultimate election difference of 251 votes. Such a drastic shift in the results raised red flags.”
She said that the laws are clear.
“You never touch somebody’s ballot,” she said. “It is the statute.”
Bartlett-Josie said the campaign has filed 22 complaints with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, which oversees elections. Joshua Foley, a SEEC spokesman, said that complaints are kept confidential under state law until the commission votes to start an investigation. The commission’s next meeting is Wednesday morning.
Bridgeport police have confirmed that they are investigating.
Questions have been raised about how the Gomes campaign obtained the video that was taken by surveillance cameras outside the government building.
“What I can tell you is that information was given because Bridgeport is tired to see the continuation of the violation of our civil rights,” Gomes said. “No matter how or how often people vote, they say it doesn’t matter. That’s really all I have to say about that. I will not discuss the source or where it came from.”
Regarding the release of the video, he added, “Once I saw the content and the civil rights violation that was being pressed upon the residents, the voters of Bridgeport, I could not hold onto it.”
But Gomes said flatly, however, that the video was given to the police for “days” before the campaign obtained it.
The actions, Gomes said, have large implications about democracy and elections.
“This is bigger than the John Gomes for mayor campaign,” Gomes told reporters. “This is about the oppression of the people of Bridgeport. … Right now, there’s a black cloud over Bridgeport. There is no trust.”
Ganim spoke strongly on the issue.
“I want to state unequivocally that I do not condone, in any way, actions taken by anyone
including any campaign, city, or elected official, which undermines the integrity of either the
electoral process or city property,” Ganim said Monday. “The Bridgeport Police Department is actively investigating all these matters, and my administration will continue to update the public as we are able to obtain more information.”
Ganim served several terms as mayor before being convicted in a bribery scheme. He spent seven years in a federal prison after being convicted of 16 felonies, including bribery, extortion, racketeering, and conspiracy, stemming from kickback schemes when he was mayor.
After leaving prison, he staged a comeback and defeated then-Mayor Bill Finch in a primary in September 2015. He has served as mayor ever since.
House Republican leader Vincent Candelora said the state legislature needs to take action during a special session that is already scheduled for Sept. 26 on other issues.
“Over the last few years, Connecticut residents or Republican lawmakers who expressed concern or posed simple questions about the integrity of our state’s absentee balloting system have been immediately discredited as a matter of policy by Democrats who control all levers of state government,” Candelora said. “Now, what’s alleged to have happened in Bridgeport ahead of the mayoral primary can’t be ignored. It’s right in the Democrat Party’s lap, and it poses a direct threat to the public’s fragile confidence in our state’s voting process.”
Candelora added, “Bridgeport residents, and voters statewide, deserve a swift, transparent response to this crisis with strong backing from Democrats at the Capitol who promote themselves as defenders of democracy—including taking action in the upcoming special session to suspend use of absentee ballot drop boxes until the investigation is complete.”
The press conference at Gomes’s campaign headquarters was interrupted by a woman standing in the back named Leslie Caraballo, who had received the endorsement of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee for a seat on the school board. She announced to the crowd that she withdrew her candidacy Monday due to her concerns about absentee ballot fraud.
“That video right there shows everything,” Caraballo told the crowd. “I will not be a part of it. I can’t be a part of it.”
Senate Republican leader Kevin Kelly of Stratford said that the video is clear and convincing.
“This shocking video must not be ignored by Connecticut Democrats,” Kelly said. “Republicans warned of this abuse for years, only to be dismissed. But today we have proof, and as Warner Wolf would say, ‘Let’s go to the videotape.’ ”
Christopher Keating can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org