OIB, based on input from readers, has submitted five questions each to the State Senate campaigns of incumbent Ed Gomes, party-endorsed Ernie Newton and State Rep. Andres Ayala. The three are locked in a competitive Aug. 14 Democratic primary that is the most watched legislative race in the state. We hope to receive responses early next week for your review. Have you already made up your mind about this race? If so, for whom will you vote or support in case you cannot vote in the race? (But why should that stop you from voting?)
Running on a platform of Redemption and Opportunity, Newton is the lightning rod in this race. The self-proclaimed Moses of his peeps tells voters, many in need of second chances, there’s no redemption without opportunity and he’s someone who can create that opportunity if he’s returned to the State Senate seat now occupied by Gomes. You can question the depth of Newton’s support, but there’s no questioning the passion that exists within his support. His Barnum Avenue headquarters is buzzing with campaign workers and volunteers. Newton has a strong base of support in his East End home neighborhood. He promises come primary day he will prove his support extends well beyond the East End.
Gomes operatives believe the incumbent has been a steady hand in the Senate. He’s reliable, honest and always shows up to legislative meetings, they say, even when not in the best health. Gomes, at 76, appears fit after a series of health issues last fall sidelined him in the hospital and then convalescence for a few months. He returned for the start of the legislative session in February and was a constant presence. There’s no lying in Gomes. If he likes you he tells you. If he doesn’t like you he tells you. If his supporters have a criticism it’s he’s not the kind of guy to wave pompoms about his voting record. Gomes, as an incumbent, has not had a tough race. He has one now and campaign hands must wave those pompoms on his behalf to educate voters about his record.
Ayala, although a member of the State House for six years and prior to that the City Council president during the John Fabrizi mayoral years, is the fresh face of the race. Newton and Gomes have represented the district for the past nine years. Ayala brings to the table a State House legislative base, albeit in the lowest-performing turnout area of the city, as well as a number of political operatives from Mayor Bill Finch’s political campaign. One of them is former State Rep. Americo Santiago who knows his way around this district. He was a leading Bridgeport campaign staffer for Dannel Malloy’s gubernatorial run in 2010 and then joined Finch’s 2011 reelection after flirting with his Democratic opponent Mary-Jane Foster.
Santiago was circumspect on the phone the other day chatting about the race. He does not dismiss the chances of Newton and Gomes, but if the campaign work continues to progress for Ayala he believes Bridgeport will have the first Latino to serve the State Senate seat. By Bridgeport standards so far most campaign operatives say the race has been generally cordial. That could change in the final four weeks or so.
The district covers about 70 percent of Bridgeport from portions of the North End straight down to the South End and the entire eastern sections of the city. It also includes a piece of western Stratford. New pockets of voters, those who moved into the district or have been redistricted into it, could decide this race. They live on the Upper East Side and vote at Hooker and Beardsley School precincts. Democrats Anthony Musto and prior to that Bill Finch represented them in the State Senate prior to recent redistricting. In addition, Bridgeport now has several dozen new voters living downtown in a variety of new apartment and condo units. They’re young, active professionals–teachers, nurses, bankers, accountants, artists–who vote at City Hall. How will they vote?
What about those Stratford voters? And yes, of course, OIB has chronicled the flood of absentee ballot application into the Town Clerk’s Office. Just a few dozen votes could decide this race.