Stallworth “staying out of” Ganim, Moore primary fight
BRIDGEPORT — State Rep. Charlie Stallworth went from being one of Mayor Joe Ganim’s closest allies to a harsh critic challenging him for re-election.
But now that he has left the mayor’s race, Stallworth is declining to offer any support, active or passive, to legislative colleague state Sen. Marilyn Moore’s own bid to unseat Ganim in the Sept. 10 Democratic Party primary.
“I’m staying out of it,” Stallworth, pastor of the East End Baptist Church, said in a brief interview Wednesday. “I’m at peace.”
Having pledged never to back Ganim for another four-year term, he and Moore had talked privately a few times this year about which would be the better candidate to take on the incumbent. Either would make history if elected as Bridgeport’s first black chief executive.
Stallworth cited having friends on “both sides” running in under-ticket primary races as one reason for not wanting to get involved.
Stallworth added, “I don’t have anything negative to say about Marilyn.”
“I would like for each one to give it their best shot and to really be focused,” Stallworth said. “I would like to see each candidate go as hard as possible in the primary and I’m not really seeing that from either side.”
East Side activist and Democratic Town Committee member Tony Barr, who, after Stallworth ended his campaign in late July became a vocal advocate for Moore on the East Side and East End, was furious over the former candidate’s response. Barr called Stallworth “a disgrace.”
“He’s in the (Democratic) machine’s pocket,” Barr said Wednesday, alleging Stallworth has gone from criticizing the mayor to self-preservation mode should Team Ganim beat Moore.
“He’s staying out to focus on what? What is he focusing on? Where he can land?” Barr said.
The rationale behind Stallworth’s attempt to become mayor was a source of speculation once he first publicly floated the idea to Hearst Connecticut Media in late December.
Stallworth’s entrance in the 2019 race seemed to symbolize a discontent with Ganim, particularly among the black community, for a challenger to potentially tap into.
Ganim, who ran the city from 1991 until he was convicted of corruption in 2003, on New Year’s Day 2015 delivered his first public apology for his crimes at Stallworth’s church. That moment was seen as the launch of Ganim’s successful comeback later that year when he defeated Mayor Bill Finch in the Democrats’ primary and easily won that November’s general election.
Stallworth was among the several campaign supporters whom Ganim gave City Hall jobs. But the two had a falling out and Stallworth resigned from the municipal payroll in March 2017.
Last December, Stallworth told Hearst that Ganim’s comeback was supposed to begin a more inclusive era for the regular, non-politically-connected residents — particularly those living in lower-income areas like the East End — whom the fallen, ex-convict mayor appealed to with talk of personal mistakes, second chances and redemption.
“I believe the community was invited in to make the campaign happen, but not invited in to decide what would be best for Bridgeport — to help create the vision and plan for the city,” Stallworth said at the time, adding voters “have been used in a way that would better some, not everybody.”
And Stallworth continued to issue strong criticisms of Ganim between launching his mayoral campaign in late March and shutting it down in late July because of anemic fundraising. All along, Stallworth denied Moore backers’ suspicious he was part of some plan to split the black vote to aid Ganim and repeatedly stated he would never support the incumbent’s re-election.
Moore could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Her campaign manager, Gemeem Davis, did not want to talk specifically about Stallworth.
“This campaign is really about everybody and we want everyone to join,” Davis said. “We really are a campaign looking to cast a wide net.”