For Newton, It’s Back To The Future And A “Grassroots” Campaign For State Senate

If you believe everything comes in threes that was certainly the case Thursday night when City Councilman Ernie Newton conducted his first fundraiser to regain his former legislative seat, hosted by former State Senator Dennis Bradley who was defeated two years ago by Herron Gaston in a Democratic primary.

Newton raised nearly $15,000 at Bradley’s Bridgeport law office and was rewarded by Bradley’s father, see video above, with a $1,000 personal donation for loyalty to his son during difficult times.

Bradley’s soaring star in city politics with mayoral ambitions was eclipsed by a federal indictment in 2021 charging him with falsifying records to obtain public campaign grants under Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded races. On the verge of trial nearly two years ago, video evidence the government wanted to introduce was blocked by a federal judge over its timing inclusion. The government appealed the ruling placing the trial on hold.

Newton with council partner Eneida Martinez.

Meanwhile the city’s political establishment gravitated to Gaston, a young city faith leader who was then a key appointee of Mayor Joe Ganim. Gaston, now an executive at the University of Bridgeport, defeated Bradley in a close Democratic primary. Newton was among a cadre of pols who backed Bradley who hopes to make his own political comeback pending outcome of his case.

In this city of second chances, including Ganim, Newton wants to “finish the job I started” when the senate seat he occupied 20 years ago was derailed by federal charges. He attempted a comeback in 2012 coming close to regaining his seat, losing a primary to Andres Ayala. Newton went back to his political roots on the City Council winning a seat representing the East End. As a young councilman in 1981 he was elected president of the body the first Black serving in the leadership role. Newton won the senate seat more than 20 years ago following the death of Alvin Penn.

“I am home grown and the people know me,” he says. “I was in a leadership position in Hartford and know what the job entails. This will be a grassroots campaign.”

Newton fundraising event at Bradley law firm.

City Councilwoman Jeanette Herron who is serving as Newton’s campaign treasurer was among the attendees at Newton’s fundraiser as well as East End District Leader Ralph Ford and Newton’s council partner Eneida Martinez who is challenging State Rep. Andre Baker in a primary creating an intriguing collage of political players.

City Clerk Lydia Martinez, a close ally of Bradley, Board of Education member Albert Benejan and New Movement Party leader Tony Barr also attended the fundraiser.

Connecticut’s 23rd Senate District covers roughly two thirds of Bridgeport and western Stratford. As a multi-town region, delegates will be approved by the respective Democratic town committees, the largest bloc in Bridgeport, fashioned by Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa with input from district leaders. The endorsement will take place in May in advance of an August primary.

Assuming Gaston is endorsed Newton would need 15 percent support at the convention to wage a primary. In lieu of that he could petition his way onto the ballot by securing certified signatures of five percent of registered Democrats in the district.

Newton is raising money the old-fashioned way relying on larger personal donations while Gaston participates in the state’s voluntary public financing program that will avail about $100,000 should he qualify for a public grant requiring lower dollar amounts.







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