Former State Senator Ed Gomes, 84, the loyal, scrappy steel worker and U.S Army veteran with an engaging crocodile smile whose political impact was felt across the state of Connecticut, died early Tuesday morning from injuries sustained in a violent two-car crash Dec. 13.
Gomes, according to police, was driving a Ford Fusion approaching the intersection at Boston and Noble Avenue. Gomes attempted to turn left into the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot when his vehicle collided with an Acura traveling the far right westbound lane of Boston Avenue. The driver of the Acura, 19-year-old Clive Henry of Bridgeport, sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The impact of the collision caused significant damage to the vehicles and injuries to both operators, according to Captain Kevin Gilleran. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
Gomes passed away in Bridgeport Hospital.
Gomes, a former Democratic member of the City Council, served two tenures in the state’s upper chamber, from 2005 to 2013 and then again from 2015 to 2018 when he announced his retirement.
Gomes, of Cape Verdean ancestry, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1936. His family moved to Bridgeport in 1944. He enlisted in the Army in 1958 and was initially stationed in segregated Virginia prior to his service in South Korea.
In politics and in life Gomes was as genuine as they come, he feared very little while stepping up for friends and constituents in need. If he liked you he told you, if he didn’t like you he told you. Ed Gomes didn’t know any other way.
And if anyone dare challenge union-tough Gomes to a fistfight, he’d be ready to roll.
“If I’m in a fight with a bear,” he’d say, “help the bear, don’t help me.”
There was the night in the late 1980s after a City Council meeting, a political operative was digging under councilor Gomes’ skin for no real reason and wouldn’t let it go. Gomes said we can finish this here or outside. They went outside. Gomes grabbed the guy by the front of his shirt and heaved him atop the dumpster sitting in the City Hall parking lot. “That’s where you belong,” Gomes said, “In the garbage.” And that was that.
I am Mr. Ed? Well, Gomes was as strong as a horse and a horse that could be counted on to blowtorch the barricades of insider politics.
Until 2002 Connecticut had no direct primary system. If you were an outsider anathema to the political establishment you were a slave to the state’s delegate process. That meant without enough support at the party convention you were screwed to make the ballot.
Gomes became a plaintiff to challenge the restrictive process in federal court. Judge Peter Dorsey sided with the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and Common Cause. The case became established law for state candidates to petition their way onto the ballot. It paved the way for outsiders to tackle entrenched politicians, clearing the smoke from backroom deals.
A pol’s word meant everything to Gomes. Cross him and he had a long memory. His word in return was just as meaningful.
In 2014, Marilyn Moore took on the political organization trumpeting a reform theme that included breaking conflicts of interest on the City Council. Moore decried, it’s impossible for city employee City Council members to serve as a check on the executive branch that controls their paychecks. She promised to fix a quirk in state law that allowed it. Gomes was by the side of his former legislative aide with whom he had a long friendship. Moore defeated incumbent Anthony Musto in a Democratic primary on her way to a general election win.
Moore’s bill received some pushback even from union members. Gomes simply said “I gave my word and it’s the right thing to do.”
The bill passed the Senate but languished in the State House. Still, Moore and Gomes had delivered on their promise to pass it in the upper chamber.
His primary loss in 2012 to State Rep. Andres Ayala, with Ernie Newton placing second, left a sour taste, not against his competitors but over a controversial redistricting of his senate turf while he was convalescing from heart surgery in the hospital. Senate leadership had carved his voter base in the African American-strong Wilbur Cross precinct into the district of then-incumbent Anthony Musto to protect Musto against a strong Republican challenger in the adjoining city-suburban district. That move would backfire. In 2014 Moore leveraged the Wilbur Cross vote to upset Musto in a Democratic primary.
Gomes made a remarkable return to the State Senate in 2015. A special election was required when Ayala was appointed commissioner of the State Department of Motor Vehicles by Governor Dan Malloy.
Gomes easily reclaimed the State Senate seat he lost in 2012 in a historic win running on the Connecticut Working Families Party line, over Democratic-endorsed Ricky DeJesus, then a city councilor and petitioning candidate Ken Moales, then a member of the Board of Education.
Gomes, a no-nonsense retired steelworker who worked decades as a union steward and negotiator, told OIB in 2018 that he was ready to retire from the State Senate on his own terms. “The problem so many people have in this business is that they don’t know when to leave. I’ll be 82, a little long in the tooth, but happy for my years of public service. It’s time to go out on my own terms.”
See more on Ed’s life prepared by his legislative aide Virginia Monteiro and Bridgeport native and friend Dr. Frank Gerratana, Ed’s book 30a.
Ed Gomes bio:
Note: Gomes returned to the State Senate after winning a special election in 2015. He retired on his own terms in 2018.
Rest in Peace Ed Gomes.
Rest in power Senator Gomes. It was an honor to call you a friend and learn so much about Bridgeport from you. The world was made better by your presence.
Today we lost a legend. Integrity at all cost will always be the legacy of Senator and Councilman, Ed Gomes. I met him in 1983 when we were first elected to the City Council. By our second term Ed, knowing me for only two years, used his might and votes to give me the honor and privilege of becoming Council. President. He never left me to face the many challenges that are inherent in politics. I learned and grew under his generous nature and I respected, admired and loved him to the end. We last talked the day before the accident and had plans to have lunch last week. Someday we’ll have that lunch, and I’ll get to see his infectious smile, and listen to his many stories. I love you Ed Gomes, and I’m blessed to have known you.
Amen. We shared some good late night sessions back in the day.
Another sad day for Bridgeport. Condolences to all of his family and friends. Thank you for your many years of service. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.
Condolences on Ed’s passing to his family – he was a true gentleman and a great person – warm and gregarious, but a true fighter for the average person. I am a better person for having known him.
God rest Ed’s soul.
We will miss your smart and active presence in our community. You can be totally at peace, though family and friends share much sadness at your passing. You encouraged many to become active and not depend on a few to do all the work in a democracy. Look to those young folks you worked with to harvest the results of your advice. Time will tell.
Rest in peace, Senator Gomes. BPT lost a warrior.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Former Senator Gomes. Let start by saying our prayers are with him Family. Ed watched me register my first 50 people to vote. Our families go back a long ways. He would call my mom has mom. Ed never want to be in politics. It was the late Charlie Tisdale that asked Ed to run for the City Council when Charlie ran for Mayor in the 80s. Ed and I start Out on the City Council together from 1981-85. He supported me in my run as City Council President. When I was going thought my situation in court in Hartford ,Ed took time off from the senate and came over to the courthouse and testify on my behalf. Rip soldier!
Rip senator A true champion of Bpt.Ed always had Bpt. Interests first truly a man of great integrity
God knows best and he has other work for Ed. This is so hard for not only the family but for those who touch Ed during his life. As a kid I knew who Ed was but I didn’t have any contact with him, instead one of Ed’s younger brothers, Johnny Aranjo, was one of the kids I played with. I was on the executive board of the Bridgeport Brass union and we had just joined the Steelworkers of America and Ed was a staff worker for them and he was our representative in 1976 and that was our first meeting. Ed my mentor in understanding the union movement and in negotiations. I learn so much from Ed about unions, politics and life, if were in a group of other people I tell everybody that when I grow upthat I wanted to be just like Ed Gomes and would look at me and say, son you don’t want much in life and we all would laugh. Ed had integrity, he was a strong black man who was always a fighters for people. We had lunch earlier this year and it was fu just going over things and just listening to Ed.
May Ed’s memories be a blessing, thank you my brother.
I first met Ed Gomes in 1983 when we were both running on Charlie Tisdale’s slate. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with Ed on more campaigns and issues than I can count. Ed was a warrior, a person of great compassion and a friend. My deepest condolences go out to all of his family and to his many, many friends. Rest in peace Senator Gomes. I will miss you.
I am truly saddened at the passing of Senator Gomes. He was a strong advocate for the development of Bridgeport. He will be missed by many including me.
I was fortunate to see and talk with Ed at our local pharmacy a couple of weeks ago. He was cheerful — and smiling behind his medical mask — as we talked about some Bridgeport political history and assessed the city’s present and future prospects while waiting to pick up our prescriptions.
I think that it’s accurate to say that an awful lot of people from Bridgeport that knew Ed Gomes lost a friend today.
I sometimes didn’t agree with his legislative agenda, but I always agreed with his principles and his intentions for Bridgeport. He was fearless. A warrior. He was a role model of personal and political courage for urban activists.
I will miss Ed. I’m grateful for what he taught me of politics and activism during some memorable political adventures that I was fortunate to share with him and his cadre of urban activist-warriors. Those that were close to Ed will surely miss him dearly. This city will feel the loss of his political gravity.
I extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends, especially Bob Walsh and Marilyn Moore.
Going out on your shield… RIP, Ed.
Ed was a great human being. He will be missed by many! Rest in peace.
A real gentleman and a real man–his kind of strength is growing rare in our world. He never stopped fighting; may he rest in peace.