By Richard Weizel
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - A former three-term mayor of Connecticut's largest city, who spent seven years in prison on a corruption conviction, will get a chance at winning his old job back in Tuesday's election after a running a campaign in which he vowed to crack down on crime.
Joseph Ganim, 56, who was released from prison five years ago, beat Bridgeport's two-term incumbent mayor, Democrat Bill Finch, in a party primary in September by 405 votes. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 10 to 1 in the city.
Ganim has made a recent surge in shootings in Bridgeport a key element of his campaign and he pledged to do more to fight crime if elected.
"I do expect to win," Ganim said. "I think people are tired of hearing my opponents talk about the past and are more interested that I want to lead the city forward with economic development, and fighting crime."
Ganim was convicted in 2003 of 16 federal corruption counts including racketeering, extortion, fraud and accepting bribes from real estate developers.
Finch initially attempted to stay in the race despite his primary defeat, saying he would run as a third-party candidate. But the secretary of state blocked him from that maneuver, saying he had missed a filing deadline to run on another party's ticket.
Instead, Finch, who has been highly critical of Ganim, is supporting independent Mary-Jane Foster, vice president of the University of Bridgeport.
Foster, as well as Republican candidate Enrique Torres and Charles Coviello, the New Movement party's nominee, all have focused their campaign messages on Ganim's corruption conviction.
"History should not look favorably upon Mr. Ganim, who was motivated by greed and a quest for power," Foster said at a recent rally. "His actions changed the course of our city and we are still trying to recover all these years later."
At the time of his arrest, Ganim was a rising political star in the Democratic Party, and was considered a potential candidate for governor or Congress.
Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, who supported Finch in the primary, said he was not supporting anyone in Bridgeport's mayoral election.
"It's a difficult situation that's played itself out in Bridgeport, and an unfortunate one," Malloy said.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)