So, the other day I’m munching on some sweet eats at Amici Miei, a new Italian cafe and wine bar on Main Street downtown, when a friend asked the following: I hear Joe Ganim’s getting out of prison soon, will he really run for mayor and can he win?
The short answer on whether he will run in 2011 is I don’t know. (Will he move back into the city?) Can he win depends on a number of factors.
Joe, who has spent nearly six years in the joint, is approaching the end of his incarceration following his conviction on federal corruption charges in early 2003. (Yes, I was one of the guys who played ball with Joe until we had a falling out over his appetite for the finer things roughly 10 years ago.) The federal Bureau of Prisons isn’t always forthcoming about when inmates will be released but Joe could be out of the can in western Pennsylvania within a year or so.
Ganim’s mayoralty was arguably the finest in the city the past 50 years: 10 straight years of balanced budgets without a tax increase, a cleaner, safer city, new home for Housatonic Community College, a new state police barracks located downtown, a ballpark, and 10,000 seat arena.
Despite Joe’s fall there’s still some nostalgia for Joe, and even one of his biggest critics veteran City Councilman Bob Troll Walsh says Ganim was the most effective mayor (spanning three mayors) during his time on the city’s legislative body.
Politics is so much about the right place and right time with the right message. (Had Barack not opposed the war in Iraq would he have defeated Hillary Clinton who supported it? Nope.)
Public officials have made comebacks following castigation from office, including former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci (after his first conviction. Yes, he had two separate convictions).
If Joe had fessed up, taken his medicine and accepted the government’s plea offer, he certainly would have been repositioned for a comeback. It’s tougher eight years removed from office, the distance between departure and election, should he try in 2011 without some contrition. Joe is still playing the I-am-an-innocent-man card.
But know this about Joe — I served as Ganim’s closest political adviser before our falling out — his competitive spirit knows no end. If an opening is there to run he’ll take it. Vindication is a strong motivator. And if his father George, who has a few bucks, decides to help finance a Joe run Joe could take his case to the peeps.
All of this, of course, depends on the state of Mayor Bill Finch’s mayoralty heading into an election cycle. The mayor needs the economy to turn around, hold the line on taxes and initiate an economic development project he can call his own.
If Finch does not gain traction there’s John Fabrizi waiting in the wings hoping to get his old job back. And anti-party State Rep. Chris Caruso, who fell short in two tries for the mayoralty, will be right there playing the corruption card. Wouldn’t that be fun, a Finch, Fabs, Ganim, Caruso free-for-all Democratic primary. Not likely, but you never know. Or maybe Joe says screw it, I’ll run as an independent.
I can hear Joe now: compare my 11 years against the past 8 years and you tell me your preference.
If you’re saying hey, Ganim cannot run because he’s a felon, well, not so. In the state of Connecticut you can run for public office if you’re an elector, and a felon loses voting privileges only during the period of incarceration. Voting privilege is restored upon release provided all court- ordered fines and restitution are paid.
And if the Joe possibility isn’t enough for you maybe former State Sen. Ernie Newton, who’ll also be out of the joint soon, says don’t count me out and jumps in as well.
Pass the razor blades.
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