Charges Fly in CT Senate Contest


From left, state Rep. Andres Ayala, former state Sen. Ernest Newton; and state Sen. Ed Gomes face off in the 23rd Senate District Democratic primary on Aug. 14.
By Rod Carveth
As reported Monday, the three-way battle for Democratic nomination in the 23rd State Senate District is shaping up to be a hard-fought, high-profile contest.  As the race enters its last five weeks, the Ernie Newton and Ed Gomes campaigns are defending charges questioning their candidates’ ability to represent the district.
Newton, the former state senator who did four years in prison, is facing charges that, should he be elected, fellow legislators will be reluctant to work with him.  Gomes, the incumbent, is fending off claims that he may be too old and too sick to serve effectively.
Newton claimed the district needs a senator who can “re-capture the excitement that Bridgeport needs to get people to believe in the city once again.”
“No one can talk about my record of fighting for the city,” Newton added.  In addition, “my opponents don’t understand the legislature because they don’t have my experience in the legislature.”  (State Rep. Andres Ayala, the third candidate in the race is in his second term in the house.) Newton foresees no problems in being able to work with fellow legislators should he be elected.  Besides, Newton observed, “I’m the party endorsed candidate.”
Gomes was direct about Newton potentially having a tough time working with others in Hartford.  “Ernie told the Senate he was not guilty, then pled guilty two weeks later.  So what do you think?  You have to be trusted.”  Gomes said he certainly believes in redemption, but that Newton has not yet done enough to earn the trust of his potential legislative colleagues.
Americo Santiago, Ayala’s campaign manager, claimed Newton’s 2005 bribery conviction on bribery while a state senator would hinder his effectiveness in Hartford.  Santiago observed that while “Ernie is a nice person and a caring person,” he will find it “very difficult for others to work with him with open arms.”
When asked about his campaign manager’s statement, Ayala replied, “I have no comment one way or the other.”  Instead, Ayala said the campaign is “about my experience in getting things done.”
Sacred Heart University political scientist Gary Rose noted that Gomes may be right that Newton will be “tainted” in trying to work with other legislators.  Rose observed that Gomes has a reputation of being “steady, rock-solid and free of scandal.”  But, when it comes to the primary, voters may remember that when he was in office, Newton was good at constituent services.  Rose said the people of Bridgeport will “compare Gomes vs. Newton, and Newton is likely to come out on the plus side of that ledger.”
Ayala had “no indictment of Senator Gomes whatsoever,” but questioned why the senator was not more effective in getting Bridgeport’s fair share of state funding.  Ayala claims he will be more effective in the Senate because he “will work with all the relationships I’ve developed.  After all, it’s all about relationships at the Capitol.”
Gomes fired back at those who “believe I’m not up for the job.”  Gomes stated, “There’s not 10% of the people up in Hartford who have a better voting record or attendance record.  Every day I have been there when the Senate is in session, including the last two weeks.  I’m up there more than Ayala.”  As to whether he is too old for the job, Gomes strongly denied the charge.  “I’m younger than several people in Hartford.  Besides, Edith Prague is 86. She’s just retiring, but has been a dynamo.”  Sen. Gomes is confident he will be back in Hartford, fighting to “produce good jobs for the state of Connecticut.”