Last September, as Ed Gomes was undergoing heart surgery, the state senator’s legislative leadership allies in Hartford who apparently thought the incumbent had a safe reelection outlook tried to make sure Anthony Musto, the other Democratic state senator representing Bridgeport in a swing suburban district had an easier path to reelection. They did so by swiping reliable Gomes votes in the Wilbur Cross voting precinct and carving them into Musto’s district as a result of the state-required redistricting plan. Instead of throwing a lifejacket to Gomes, now swimming in a messy pool for primary votes, they threw him an anchor. Now they’re trying to save him in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Ed Gomes has represented Connecticut’s 23rd Senate District since 2005 when he won the seat in a special election following the resignation of Ernie Newton who was forced out because of corruption charges. Gomes has not had a difficult race since that time. He now has one from two challengers, Newton and State Rep. Andres Ayala.
Gomes has been a reliable vote for legislative leaders in Hartford. His supporters embrace him as steady Eddie, a dedicated, honest, reliable public servant responsive to constituents. There’s no lying in Ed Gomes. If he likes you he tells you; if he doesn’t like you he tells you. He will always back up his friends. As Gomes likes to say “if there’s a fight between me and the bear you better help the bear.”
Gomes at 76 years of age looks fit and recovered from heart surgery. Gomes does not like negative campaigning, but it’s difficult not to draw a contrast between his career in the labor movement and public service with Newton. As for Ayala, the Gomes camp approach is simple: Ayala is a good state representative, Gomes is a great state senator. Bottom line: Gomes is reliable, keep him there.
Two allies have stepped up for Gomes, former State Rep. Chris Caruso who lost a Democratic primary for mayor to Bill Finch by the slimmest of margins in 2007 and Mary-Jane Foster who ran a respectable primary against Finch last year despite being outspent two to one. Caruso, the Big Wave, is popular in the North End legislative district he represented for 20 years before accepting an appointment from Governor Dannel Malloy in the State Labor Department. Caruso and Foster attracted votes from folks suspicious of the city’s political establishment. Gomes, himself, does not have a good relationship with Mayor Bill Finch who’s supporting Ayala largely by default because Gomes and Newton both supported Foster.
Gomes does not suck up to the local political establishment and it’s a primary reason he was not endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee. In fact Gomes finished third behind Ayala and Newton who won the endorsement back in May. The Gomes operation believes this independent streak, coupled with Gomes’ voting record helping constituents in Bridgeport and Stratford, will pull him through the primary. That and key support from a force of labor unions that are critical in Democratic primaries that are all about identifying friends and dragging them to the polls.
The Gomes camp knows it will start primary day next Tuesday behind Newton and Ayala by virtue of their aggressive absentee ballot operations. So this places a premium on Gomes to win the machine totals. Gomes does not have to win every precinct, merely win a number of them and finish second in the rest. Sometimes finishing second can be a good thing in a three-way race.
If Gomes comes up a bit short next Tuesday one thing will be clear, the Wilbur Cross gaffe will be seen as a double cross.