Former State Senator Ernie Newton likes to say all saints have a past, all sinners a future. Newton is rebuilding his life after several years of confinement following a conviction on corruption charges. Political allies of Mayor Bill Finch reached out to Newton, who’s popular in his old State Senate district according to OIB polling, for an endorsement. One of Newton’s best friends, East End District Leader Ralph Ford, is supporting Finch who as an incumbent has so much more concrete to offer Newton in the way of a deal than a challenger. Newton has decided to support Mary-Jane Foster for mayor, saying her jobs-creating pedigree for inspiring the ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard closes the deal for helping his peeps. But now, Newton says, he’s feeling the sting for not supporting Finch.
Political operatives of Finch are selectively knocking on doors of white homeowners in the North End, attaching Newton’s name to Foster in what he says is a game of race baiting. “Why aren’t they doing that in the East End?” a predominantly black neighborhood, Newton wonders. Such is life in Bridgeport politics. Had Newton endorsed Finch, the mayor would be saying we love you, we want you, we need you. Now that Newton’s with Foster, Finch operatives are trashing him where it’s convenient, the same way Finch is castigating so many folks now with Foster who had supported him in 2007 such as Charlie Coviello. Finch spent days in 2007 thundering the endorsement he received from Coviello. Now, all of a sudden, Coviello in Finch’s campaign rhetoric is this, that and the other thing.
When it comes to Newton, says the former state senator, Finch is playing a game of roulette. If African American voters start sniffing a game of race baiting it could backfire. The Greater Bridgeport Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, an influential clergy group, has been active in city politics for decades. They understand the road to paving streets, rebuilding sidewalks, creating jobs, assimilating all races and ethnic groups governmentally, requires political participation. Some of the ministers are Finch supporters.
Newton says he intends to call upon the ministers to make it clear Finch operatives are playing a race-baiting game that does the city no good, particularly in light of voters disenfranchised over ballot shortages last year, dissolution of an elected Board of Education and Foster denied a ballot spot (overturned by a Superior Court judge).
To understand the influence of the ministers, they were a key in determining John Fabrizi’s fate more than four years ago when he walked into a courtroom to seek leniency on behalf of a sexual offender. Many of the ministers said they could no longer support him. Most of them supported Finch for mayor.