During visit to region, Ganim makes pitch to EB workers

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, right, greets first shift Electric Boat employee Tom Cotugno, 58, of Gales Ferry, a nuclear trades training instructor, at the south gate of the facility in Groton as employees depart at the end of their shift, Tuesday, July 10, 2018.  (Tim Martin/The Day)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, right, greets first shift Electric Boat employee Tom Cotugno, 58, of Gales Ferry, a nuclear trades training instructor, at the south gate of the facility in Groton as employees depart at the end of their shift, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Tim Martin/The Day)

Groton — Joe Ganim, the Democratic candidate for governor who has sandwiched two stints as Bridgeport mayor around a prison sentence, visited eastern Connecticut on Tuesday, making a stop at Electric Boat to greet workers during a shift change.

Ganim, dressed in a checkered button-down shirt and dark blue jeans, stood outside the gate as a steady flow of employees went in and came out, exchanging quick pleasantries with them and handing out campaign fliers.

"How are you? Joe Ganim, mayor of Bridgeport, running for governor."

"Can I give you one? Joe Ganim, running for governor. Nice to see you."

Some declined to take his handout, others told him they lived in Rhode Island. Generally, employees thanked him, took a quick look at the flier and went on their way.

Asked why he wanted to visit EB, one of seven stops he made across eastern Connecticut, including meeting with voters in Norwich and New London, Ganim said, "A lot of voters."

"If there's been successes over the last few years, this is one of them," he continued. "We have a lot of challenges in our economy but this is one of the bright spots. We need to be aware of it, be supportive."

And the state has been supportive of the submarine builder, where there's been an uptick in production for several years now due to lucrative government contracts. In May, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not seeking a third term, announced that the state would be giving EB $83 million. In exchange for the state's support, the company committed to adding jobs and spending hundreds of millions on capital improvements in Groton.

Ganim said he would be supportive of these kinds of long-term investments, "where there's job impact that translates into people being able to buy a home, pay for their education," and which have a positive impact on local suppliers.

Ganim's competitor, and the state Democratic Party's pick for governor, Ned Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who has made his money in cable television, was in Groton a day earlier.  U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, endorsed him during a visit to the office of the Boilermakers Local 614. Leadership of Local 614 has indicated it intends to endorse Lamont, as does its affiliate, the Metal Trades Council, one of the largest unions at EB.

That doesn't discourage Ganim.

"As much as I think endorsements are great, I think I'm much more of a grass-roots candidate," he said. "A lot of times, what I've seen is the leadership will make a statement, but the membership will vote."

Ganim made a surprising political comeback in 2015 when he was again elected mayor of Bridgeport. He previously had been elected mayor of Connecticut's largest city five times, serving from 1991 to 2003, when he resigned after being convicted on federal felony corruption charges for which he served seven years in prison. He garnered enough signatures to qualify for the Aug. 14 gubernatorial primary. He and Lamont will debate for the first time on Thursday in New Haven.

His message as he traveled Tuesday around eastern Connecticut was that his goal is "to get Connecticut back on track and build a new Connecticut economy that works for everyone, not just a few."

As Ganim was standing at EB, Tom Cotugno, 58, of Gales Ferry, a nuclear trade training instructor, rode by on his Harley-Davidson Streetglide and stopped to talk to him. Cotugno had taken one of the fliers on his way out of work and wanted to ask Ganim some questions. He said he's lived in Connecticut all of his life but is getting ready to retire and thinking of moving out of Connecticut because taxes are too high.

"What can you do to make me stay?" he asked Ganim.

Ganim's heard this question before.

He mentioned getting the state budget back on track, changing the "dynamic" of how the state impacts businesses, and growing the economy, which, he said, he's started to do in Bridgeport, growing the grand list by more than $1 million since taking office in 2016.

As Cotugno prepared to ride off, Ganim quipped, "Let me know if you want to sell the bike."

j.bergman@theday.com

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