From Manhattan ritz to drag glitz, Ganim fundraises
BRIDGEPORT — Denied public campaign cash, Mayor Joe Ganim’s fundraising efforts for his 2018 gubernatorial bid have run the gamut from a ritzy, members-only cigar club above midtown Manhattan to, Friday night, the self-proclaimed “hottest gay bar in Connecticut.”
Public perceptions of Ganim are similarly varied.
His critics want voters to see the ambitious politician whose expensive, Manhattan-style tastes toppled his first administration and landed him in jail for corruption in 2003.
Meanwhile, Ganim is running as a humbled man of the people who Bridgeport residents gave a second chance in 2015, and who can be trusted to run Connecticut.
Friday’s fundraiser at Trevi Lounge, billed as a “star studded” drag show, came just days before Democrats decide in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary between Ganim or the endorsed candidate, millionaire businessman Ned Lamont.
The Trevi party was also being held with the mayor’s campaign running on fumes, money-wise. As previously reported, he has just $173,000 on hand for last-minute advertising and a get-out-the-vote operation, according to a campaign finance report filed with the state.
That would not be as problematic if Ganim had millions in state-provided campaign grants awaiting him Wednesday, should he beat the self-funded Lamont. But his prior conviction for running a pay-to-play operation out of City Hall — he served seven years of a nine-year prison sentence — disqualified him from participating in Connecticut’s clean elections program.
Whichever GOP candidate Republicans choose Tuesday will either be publicly funded or a wealthy self-funder.
Doubtless, the Trevi event — “Drag Race to Governor” — promised to be the most entertaining of the fundraisers Ganim has had over the last year-plus. An invitation to the show featured an old photo of Ganim alongside a handful of glamorous drag queens.
Host Dolores Degage is, under the theatrical clothes and makeup, Kenneth Hopkins, executive director of the Bridgeport-based New England Ballet Company. Hopkins said Friday that Ganim has shown support for the LGBT community, attending this summer’s rainbow flag-raising and the city’s fifth annual Pride March.
“We felt honored to be asked to do the fundraiser,” Hopkins said.
Despite Ganim’s support among some local LGBT leaders, the mayor has had to work harder than Lamont — who made headlines in 2006 when he ran for U.S. Senate on an anti-Iraq War platform — to woo progressives.
Lamont, for example, has been cross-endorsed by the progressive Working Families Party.
And Ganim has been criticized for in 2015 initially praising then-presidential-elect Donald Trump as “a good man.” Ganim got to know Trump when the Manhattan developer considered a casino for Bridgeport in the 1990s. Leading up to the primary, Ganim has transformed into a vocal critic of Trump, and called the president “immoral.”
Speaking of Trump, on the other extreme of Ganim fundraisers was the May 22 event at the Grand Havana Room, atop a Manhattan skyscraper at 666 Grand Avenue owned by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family.
A New York Post article published in April, 2017, described the club as “one of Manhattan’s most privileged aeries for 20 years. Its denizens are mostly Hollywood and Wall Street movers and shakers who pay $7,500 to join plus $325 more per month.”
In other words, it is the kind of place that Lamont, who Ganim has criticized as being out of touch, could afford.
But when Ganim was first mayor of Bridgeport, he enjoyed the New York City night life — expensive dinners and clothes shopping, paid for with proceeds from his kickback scheme.
According to the Ganim campaign’s July financial report, prominent Bridgeport businessman David D’Addario paid $3,500 for the food at the Grand Havana party, and the campaign brought over $700 worth of cigars and spent $3,000 on chartered buses.
The night was a profitable one for Ganim, netting $28,700 in campaign contributions.
Trevi Lounge was likely to be far less, given that the club charged $5 a person.