By Richard Weizel
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - A former mayor of Connecticut's largest city who spent seven years in prison on a corruption conviction received a boost in his quest to win back the office when state election officials on Tuesday said his chief rival missed a key paperwork deadline.
Joseph Ganim, who served as mayor of Bridgeport from 1991 to 2003, narrowly won the Democratic primary in this year's mayoral race on Sept. 16 over two-term incumbent Joseph Finch, who later vowed to stay on the November ballot as a third-party candidate.
But Finch, considered Ganim's biggest obstacle to regaining the job, failed to properly register as a third-party candidate by a Sept. 2 deadline, said Av Harris, a spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of State's office.
"We never received a letter of endorsement for Finch from the Job Creation party," Harris said. "Now, it's too late."
Harris said Finch could still file paperwork by Oct. 20 to run as a write-in candidate.
As he attempts a political comeback, Ganim remains popular in Bridgeport despite his criminal conviction. He was arrested in 2003 and charged with running a "pay to play" operation with real estate developers in the southern Connecticut city.
Ganim was convicted on 16 federal corruption counts including racketeering, extortion, bribery and fraud.
Ganim said on Tuesday he is "glad the Secretary of State's Office came to the proper conclusion."
He won the Democratic nomination this month by a slim margin of a few hundred votes. Democratic candidates have historically won Bridgeport's mayoral races, as registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 41,000 to 4,000.
Enrique Torres is the Republican nominee for mayor and Charles Coviello is the New Movement party's nominee.
In order to have met his paperwork deadline with the Job Creation Party, Finch would have had to file prior to the Democratic primary, an awkward timeline resulting from Connecticut's rules governing minor political parties.
At the time of his arrest, Ganim was a rising political star in the Democratic Party, and was being considered as a potential candidate for governor or Congress.
Finch did not return calls seeking comment.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Will Dunham)