By Richard Weizel
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - The mayor of Bridgeport said on Tuesday he will not seek re-election in November after missing a key paperwork deadline, raising the chances that his ex-convict rival will take back the post in Connecticut's largest city.
Bill Finch said he decided to drop out of the race after the Secretary of State last week ruled that he cannot be on the ballot because he failed to meet a Sept. 2 deadline for a minor party endorsement.
His main rival, Joe Ganim, who ran the city in the 1990s before serving a seven-year prison sentence for corruption, narrowly won the Democratic primary over Finch two weeks ago in his bid to retake office.
Finch said he will endorse petitioning candidate Mary-Jane Foster, vice president of the University of Bridgeport, who came in third in the primary and was considered a possible spoiler who may have cost Finch the primary.
"Mary-Jane and I do agree on all the big things," Finch told supporters during his announcement.
Ganim said he was happy Finch dropped out, but disappointed he endorsed Foster.
"It's very disrespectful to the people who voted in the Democratic primary for him to make the odd decision to support someone else," Ganim said.
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 city. He was convicted on 16 federal corruption counts including racketeering, extortion, bribery and fraud.
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.
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.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Eric Walsh)