A clearly agitated Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis placed her hand across her forehead. Later, she even ran her hands across her face in exasperation. She reminded veteran political operative Ralph Ford that he was under oath and must testify truthfully. Just a few minutes into his testimony Ford had delivered inconsistent statements about what he knew and didn’t regarding his role as chair of the May 23rd endorsement for State Senate in which the candidate he supported Dennis Bradley won the endorsement and the incumbent Ed Gomes who had sufficient support to qualify for the ballot did not as a result of a paperwork glitch because Ford eventually admitted he did not know the rules.
Ford, a seasoned politician who knows how to turn a phrase, testified Thursday afternoon that as the chair of the Democratic nominating convention for State Senate that he had not read up on the party rules that a candidate who receives 15 percent of the support qualifying for the ballot must fill out a certification form signed by either the chair or the secretary of the convention.
Gomes’ candidacy was invalidated by the Office of the Connecticut Secretary of the State because he had not submitted a consent form within two weeks of the endorsement session that took place at Testo’s Restaurant. Gomes’ lawyers contend “On the night of the convention it was not reasonably possible for Gomes to have obtained the executed Certificate of Eligibility Form.” Gomes is asking Bellis to place his name on the ballot for the August 9 Democratic primary.
Ford was called to the stand by Christopher Mattei, a lawyer with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, who spent years prosecuting public corruption cases, including former Governor John Rowland, as Chief of the Financial Fraud & Public Corruption unit with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. Gomes is also represented by Bill Bloss from the Koskoff firm.
Mattei questioned Ford aggressively about what he knew and when he knew it. Ford had not delivered all the documents he was required in response to a court-ordered subpoena.
The endorsement for Connecticut’s 23rd State Senate District took place May 23rd at Testo’s Restaurant. In a close contest Bradley won the endorsement over Gomes with Bradley supporter Ford chairing the convention. Gomes received plenty of delegate support to qualify for an August primary. According to the state election calendar, see here, the Gomes campaign had two weeks to submit the “15% candidate certificates filed by 14th day after close of convention.” That means paperwork on behalf of Gomes should have been submitted by 4 p.m. June 6.
A central question Bellis will address in this case, who has the responsibility to file the paperwork? The candidate? Convention officials?
The Democratic State Central Committee sets the calendar and chooses temporary convention chairs for endorsements in multi-town districts. Former State Senator Ernie Newton, a Gomes supporter, was named temporary chair by virtue of his standing as a member of the Democratic State Central Committee. Ford was then named convention chair by delegates irrespective of his support for Bradley.
Under questioning by Mattei, Ford said he understood that an endorsed candidate had to fill out a consent form but was unaware that a candidate who had received 15 percent of the support to qualify for the ballot also had to fill out a form. Ford admitted he had provided the paperwork to Bradley.
Mattei hammered home the point, after establishing that Ford was a Bradley supporter, that he had provided the paperwork to Bradley but not to Gomes.
Former Bridgeport Deputy City Attorney Art Laske is representing the Bradley campaign.
At one point Bellis suggested to Ford that he secure his own lawyer.
Bellis continued the case for further testimony on Tuesday.