OPINION: Will a “new” John Rowland vote for fellow felon Joe Ganim?

OPINION: Will a “new” John Rowland vote for fellow felon Joe Ganim?

A brief history of Connecticut:

First it was Indian country, then a British colony, then it became one of the 13 original United States. Then, after a couple centuries of steady habits, along came John Rowland.

Once a rising star among state Republicans, he was elected governor three times but had to quit in 2004 to face federal charges of conspiracy and fraud for accepting vacations and home renovations from state contractors. Mr. Rowland did 10 months in the slammer. Then he got out of the pen, got religion, and — under the wing of well-known pastor Will Marotti — got a job as a radio host. He was contrite, confessing to “arrogance,” and open about his offenses. This was the first New Rowland.

But before very long he was in trouble for working on the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley while pretending to work for her husband Brian Foley’s chain of nursing homes. (Unethically, but not illegally, he was also doing political commentary on the campaign he was secretly working for.) Found guilty on seven counts, Mr. Rowland went back to the pokey on a 30-month bid. And now he’s out again. We’ll see how this second New Rowland turns out.

But now that he’s out and entitled to vote again (different states handle this different ways, but in Connecticut, once you serve your time you can get your franchise back), he may have the opportunity this year to cast his gubernatorial vote for another convicted felon, Joe Ganim. Once a rising star of the Democrats, Mr. Ganim served as Bridgeport’s mayor for five terms before he was convicted on 16 felonies in a scheme that brought him cash, entertainment and home furnishings in exchange for city contracts. Once out of stir, he resumed his post as mayor of Connecticut’s largest city and is seeking his party’s nomination for governor. The conviction makes him ineligible for state funding.

Spurned by the Democratic convention, Mr. Ganim went out and gathered more than twice the 15,458 signatures he needed to get on the primary ballot against party-endorsed businessman Ned Lamont — whose Greenwich home, Mr. Ganim says, has eight bathrooms. Mr. Ganim, who spent seven years behind bars, casts himself as a feisty underdog, and his campaign as the kind of “second chance” that people who have made mistakes need.

So much for the image Connecticut may once have had of being at least a little bit “cleaner,” politically, than some of our neighbors — like Massachusetts, where the legendary James Curly, a Democrat, was elected to high office twice while under indictment, and served part of his first term as mayor of Boston while residing at the federal hoosegow in Danbury (his single term as governor was characterized as “a disaster mitigated only by moments of farce”); or Rhode Island, where Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s more-than-20-year career as mayor of Providence was interrupted twice by felony convictions. After four years behind bars at Club Fed, he tried again for mayor in 2014, unsuccessfully. Like Mr. Rowland, Mr. Cianci filled some of the gaps in his resume as a political commentator on radio.

Will “Bathroomgate ” work for Mr. Ganim? No idea. But at least it may prepare him to face that other mess, the one in Hartford.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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