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The Newton Reality Check–What The Media Doesn’t Report

May 24th, 2012 · 24 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics

Newton felon photo

This image is circulating on Facebook. Newton supporters say "Felons are people, too." Others say, "but we don't have to vote for them."

If Ernie Newton manages to win election to the State Senate seat he once occupied he’d be the first–at least among the first–in state history to do so while on supervised release, a form of probation in the federal system following the fulfillment of his prison sentence on corruption charges. He has about one year of probation remaining and as long as he plays by the rules he’ll have no problem getting on without reporting to a probation officer. Newton stunned the political establishment Monday night winning the Democratic endorsement for Connecticut’s 23rd Senatorial District and with it a storm of incomprehensible regional publicity. It’s time for a reality check.

News outlets across the state have chronicled with amazement Newton’s endorsement, castigating the city’s political establishment for supporting a man who entered a guilty plea seven years ago on bribery and tax charges. What they miss is both incumbent Ed Gomes and State Rep. Andres Ayala had the same opportunity to schmooze the 53 delegates to the state convention that ultimately endorsed Newton (albeit by the thinnest of margins). The Moses of his peeps did a better job working the delegates. Gomes started late and Ayala didn’t have the relationships Newton had cultivated in 30 years in city politics.

Mayor Bill Finch and his operatives spent days trying to block Newton’s endorsement in favor of their candidate Ayala. They thought Monday night it was a done deal: no endorsement, an open primary. Something happened on the way to the party convention.

Ed Gomes is a good and decent man, but he either assumed the party delegates would be with him or he could win them over once he decided to make calls for support. The fact is, Gomes did not reach out to delegates before it was too late. Now after seven years in the State Senate, at 76 years of age, he must defend his turf against two organizational opponents who will be well financed.

Mayor Bill Finch, who commuted regularly with Newton to Hartford when both were in the Connecticut legislature, is meowing his operatives couldn’t block Newton’s endorsement. Well, if it were so important to block Newton’s endorsement, why didn’t the mayor conspire with Democratic Town Committee Chairman Mario Testa in the selection of delegates? Did the mayor even look at the delegate list before it was finalized?

Some political operatives say the mayor was more concerned about delivering the lion’s share of delegate support for Congressman Chris Murphy’s U.S. Senate run rather than analyzing what was going on in the local State Senate race. Newton’s name, in fact, will appear right after Murphy on the top line Aug. 14. So Finch operatives supporting both Murphy and Ayala will have to educate voters about line selection for fear of Newton benefiting from a top-line push.

Many pols who don’t pay attention to business look for scapegoats. Oh this is a black eye for the city and this and that, they claim. Ah, such victims. The reality is for all the hullabaloo over Newton’s endorsement, he does not have a lock on this primary. He must work his ass off to win it. This race right now is a jump ball with about 28,000 registered Dems in Bridgeport and another 2,200 in Stratford who will decide it on Aug. 14. Game on.

(Footnote: The state of Connecticut restores voting privileges for folks on probation who’ve satisfied their court-ordered fines and restitution. That law was signed by Governor John Rowland in 1998 at the urging of State Rep. Ernie Newton.)

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24 Comments so far ↓

  • Chosen 1

    Still waiting for someone, anyone to mention how delegates did not have to take an IQ test before voting.

  • Chosen 1

    Is it so normal in Bridgeport for a politician to divert contributions into their/loved ones’ pockets that there is no rage over Newton raising money for this campaign?
    Speaks volumes, Newton actually did time for this offense. Not a brain surgeon at best.

  • donj

    Everyone deserves a second chance but he betrayed the public trust. In a way Newton comes off as being very cocky and arrogant. I saw him do a video and this is how he came off to me. I personally do not have anything against the guy but I hope come August the voters on that half of Bridgeport make the right decision and vote for Gomes or Ayala. I’m sure there are going to be these black ministers who tell the uneducated bunch of churchgoers who to vote for. What ever happened between church and state? Talk about politics then you should pay tax; that’s how I see it. One thing I will defend Ernie with and that is he has every single right to run.

  • yahooy

    It’s simple. The East Side doesn’t deserve to be further abused by Ernie Newton. Maybe none of the candidates are right. Maybe Gomes will hunker down and get the grants necessary to give the people there a decent shot at a good life. He hasn’t done it so far. Not sure he can do it at all. Ayala is worthless. He’s a Mario Testa plant with whom the East Siders can expect the same attention to the people. U CAZZ’!!! Then there comes Newton. Why? This is the same guy who stole from them while glad-handing outside the churches. I wonder if he is being financially supported by the same people he accepted bribes from leading to his incarceration. Don’t forget, this is the same guy who embarrassed each and every one of us when he entered the Senate floor loaded, then proceeded to have a seizure. Too bad there wasn’t film on that. It would make for good campaign rhetoric. It would also be cool if Gomes ran a billboard with Newton’s mug shot on one side and Gomes’ smiling face on the other with the phrase ‘YOU PICK’ in the middle.

  • The Fixer

    How did this happen? Let’s get back to the delegates. The Musto convention was the same night. Who decided which delegates went to Trumbull and which to Bridgeport? The Musto convention was a done deal; no challenge there. Why didn’t Finch and Mario send their trusted delegates to Bridgeport to ensure Ayala won? Was this a screw-up or did some delegates not want to participate in that vote? Lots of questions.

  • Phil Smith

    Fixer,
    Delegates have to vote in the district they live in.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    The nomination of Ernie Newton is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bridgeport politics. Bridgeport is being held hostage by a small group of people who are intent on bilking Bridgeport for all they can.
    You have a budget process run by Tom Sherwood where Millions of dollars are hidden and basically unaccounted for. When you ask the council when was the last time they saw the final Cafr, they can’t tell you. I know JML has talked about this before but how can you tell what business the city has done and how they have spent our money without this final report?
    We have a new Supt of Schools who we now learn has a consulting company that was just awarded a large contract in his home state of Illinois. He also wants to lay off 48 educators and para professionals so he will have a money cushion.
    The DTC just got through nominating the same group of assholes to run for another term.
    The honest people living in Bridgeport don’t stand a chance. Where the hell is the FBI?
    BTW I can’t wait to see how many absentee ballots are filed by Martinez and Santiago.

  • EverHopeful

    Lennie,
    Aren’t East Side ignorance and apathy the reasons for Ernie’s previous wins and this nomination?

    For previous City elections, I recall looking at the total number of votes cast per District. If memory serves, the North End Brooklawn might have had a total of 7,000+/-.

    For the East Side districts in the same race, if memory serves,the total votes were in the 700-800 range.

    Here’s the lesson … They put up idiot candidates like Ernie, supported by self-serving district leaders like Ralph Ford … Hardly anybody votes … And we get felons running for Senate!

    They deserve what happens to them. Hard to believe they make the other Bridgeport districts look so much better by comparison.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      The 23rd Senatorial occupied by Gomes has a much lower voter turnout than the other Senate district serving Bridgeport in Black Rock, Brooklawn and North End. Last year’s mayoral primary was about a 22 percent turnout. If the trend continues in primaries Aug. 14 will see a turnout of under 20 percent. With three candidates, however, and with Newton’s lightning rod personality maybe the turnout will be higher, both for and against him.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        I’ve had my battles on the blog with Moses but I’m inclined to believe he is a changed man. (Well, mostly changed: He still has an inimitable fashion sense the floor of the legislature has been lacking for more than seven years.) Doing a stretch in a minimum-security hoosegow is no picnic, in spite of what many believe is a country-club lifestyle. (Last I checked, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has not installed golf courses at any of its facilities.) Ernie Newton does have a lightning-rod personality. He also has durable charisma. He also possesses excellent political instincts although I doubt he outsmarted Bill Finch’s minions. Gomes is an old man who came up a day late and at least a dollar short. Andres Ayala, Finch’s preferred candidate, lost out due to lack of support from the mayor’s staff. (Adam “Pecker” Wood must’ve been enjoying lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in downtown Bridgeport.) If it really was a priority for DTC Chairman Mario “the calamari king” Testa, Newton wouldn’t have received the endorsement.

        Virtually all objections I’ve read are based on supposition.

  • Phil Smith

    Here is the real-world consequence of this fiasco. If you are a businessman or developer who has to choose between Bridgeport and another place to locate, what is your reaction when you hear Bridgeport wants to return a corrupt politician who sold his office to the scene of the crime? You go somewhere–ANYWHERE–else.

    The City of Bridgeport’s image is bad enough. It doesn’t need another self-inflicted wound.

  • bridgeportnow

    Doing time and running for office again? Shays has invited our ex governor, who served time in prison, to get involved in politics again and maybe run for office.
    www .nytimes.com/2012/05/23/opinion/mr-shays-rebels.html

  • Jim Callahan

    An excellent opinion and instruction piece, Lennie.

    I would only add my guess–it is a guess–Ed Gomes knew he didn’t have the votes but he was going to make everybody stand up and be counted.

    That’s a man’s way.

  • Rob Sullivan

    Ernie Newton’s nomination despite being opposed by Mayor Finch is reminiscent of his shock when the courts rejected his appointed school board and the state legislature then refused to try and overturn the decision. Politics 101 is still important, even if you are used to landslide victories and bullying underlings. You still have to work the room.

  • bridgeportnow

    Finch was not opposed to Newton running, Newton said when he called into our TV show this past Tuesday.

    • Jimfox

      Hey Rob, but not until Wednesday morning when Finch put his finger out the kitchen window to see which way the wind was blowing.
      Everyone needs a second chance in life.
      Redemption and opportunity, that’s what Ernie needs.

      Ernie, thanks for being on WDJZ–The Jim & Tom Radio Show this past Wednesday.

  • The Cisco Kid

    This is indicative of the problems we have in Bridgeport. If Ernie were to win a primary because he worked harder than his competition, we would have to suck it up and take it but the fact the Democratic Delegation has endorsed the man is discreditable at best. The fact this decision has been made by those who are meant to be leaders of their party and those in the know can only be chalked up to incompetence. The man committed crimes of corruption and bribery. These are offenses that should be considered the mortal sins of politics. You wouldn’t put an arsonist in the position of fire chief, or a kidnapper in the classroom as a teacher. For a party trying to shed the negative implications of previous administrations this sure is a step in the wrong direction.
    As a sidebar, Keila Torres wrote, “We talked for six minutes. Newton averaged about two curse words for every minute. The f-word was his favorite.” Correct me if I’m wrong or old-fashioned but we should not be speaking that way to women in a civilized society, especially when you consider yourself a leader and you’re addressing a young professional Latina Woman.
    I’m sure it will come to no surprise to those who know me but I will be casting my vote for Casmir Mizera come November.

  • donj

    I’m really interested to see how many people are registered to vote at each precinct. I know at Black Rock school 2,291 people came out to vote in the 2008 presidential election. I would love to know the number of voters at each precinct. Is voter turnout really that low?

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    “This is not about black or white,” Newton said at his sentencing hearing. “It’s about right or wrong, and I was wrong. Justice has no color. … This is not about race, but it’s about right and wrong. And I’m sorry.”

    Sounds like a mea culpa. That’s good enough for me. I hope Moses wins the primary and the election. Most of the objections to his endorsement are from people who don’t live here in Bridgeport. Fuck ‘em. I predicted a long time ago when Ernie Newton gets out of the joint he’s going to run for his old seat and win. I’m halfway correct so far.

  • Mojo

    *** Like it or hate it, it’s now CT political history that can be dissected in the future by college students majoring in governmental political science and its wacky ways, no? And the exciting part is there’s more to come as the circus city prepares for its upcoming primary under the big top! Stay tuned, OIB readers, it’s so low you can’t get under it and so high you can’t get over it either! *** HERE WE GO! ***

  • WittyUserName

    Only way Ernie loses is if either Gomes or Ayala step aside and endorse the other. Otherwise, they’ll split the anti-Ernie vote, guaranteeing he’ll win.

  • Bob

    Phineas T. Barnum must be rolling over in his grave. No one seems to care you can’t have the fox running the henhouse. Plain and simple … redemption doesn’t mean having a second seating at the table. And the “mea culpa” was 5 years late and a few stolen dollars short.

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