AP NEWS

Hartford mayor who left amid corruption case seeks comeback

April 4, 2019
FILE - In this June 18, 2010 file photo, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, left, sits in Hartford Superior Court on the second day of jury deliberations in his corruption trial in Hartford, Conn. Perez, who resigned after being convicted on corruption charges said he is mounting a comeback bid. A formal announcement of his run for mayor is planned for Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Michael McAndrews/Hartford Courant via AP, Pool, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez is mounting a political comeback bid and is looking to become the second big-city Connecticut mayor to reclaim his seat after being forced out by a public corruption scandal.

If successful Perez, a Democrat, would follow in the footsteps of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who served time in prison for corruption before winning election to the same office in 2015.

Perez, who became the capital city’s first Hispanic mayor in 2001, told WVIT-TV on Wednesday that he’s sorry for his mistakes in office but he wants to remind Hartford residents of his accomplishments. A formal announcement of his campaign was planned for later Thursday.

“The city is a city of hope and opportunity and it’s given me a lot of opportunities and most of the time the door was open,” he said. “This time the door is a little more difficult.”

In cases of other big-city mayors who have successfully returned to office after being prosecuted, including Buddy Cianci in Providence and Marion Barry in Washington, each has been highly charismatic and skilled at retail politics, said Jonathan Wharton, an assistant professor of political science at Southern Connecticut State University. Some benefited also from a tendency among Latino and black voters in big cities to be more generous with second chances, he said.

“Do they not have other choices? Are they allowing people to have second chances?” Wharton said. “I think it speak more to voters than the ethics of the candidates.”

Perez resigned from office in 2010, the same year he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for taking a bribe from a contractor in the form of $40,000 worth of home improvements and attempting to extort $100,000 from a developer, both while he was mayor. But the state Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2016, saying two cases were improperly combined into one trial. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to receiving a bribe and attempted larceny by extortion while in office and he received a suspended prison term.

Last month, a judge revoked Perez’s pension because of the corruption convictions, citing the severity of Perez’s crimes and his “disdain for the public good.”

Perez, a Puerto Rico native, was a gang member in Hartford in the 1970s before forming a neighborhood civic group and working as a community organizer.

He joins several other candidates planning to challenge Mayor Luke Bronin, a Democrat, who is seeking reelection in 2020.

“We’ve come a long way in the last few years, and I’ll be working hard every day to make sure we can keep Hartford moving forward,” Bronin said. “Hartford’s heading in the right direction for the first time in a long time, and this isn’t a time to slow down or go back.”

Ganim, the mayor of Connecticut’s largest city, served nearly seven years in prison after he was convicted of corruption for steering city contracts in exchange for private gifts during his first tenure as Bridgeport mayor, which ran from 1991 to until his resignation in 2003. He was released from prison in 2010 and stripped of his law license but was elected mayor again in 2015 after apologizing and asking residents for a second chance.

Last year, he ran for governor, losing in a Democratic primary contest to now-Gov. Ned Lamont.