Ernie Newton officially returns to the Park City political stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, when he will declare his candidacy for the 23rd District state Senate seat, a position currently held by Sen. Ed Gomes, who has been in office since Newton departed for a federal penitentiary back in 2005.
Newton had represented the 23rd prior to Gomes, having won the seat following the death of Sen. Alvin Penn in 2003. However, Newton forfeited his office after being convicted on federal racketeering charges.
His mere presence in the election is already causing a stir. Gomes has been ailing lately but is apparently on the mend. There are those who question the ethics of running a campaign against an incumbent who is ill, and there are others who say this is politics and it’s a racket for tough people.
Besides those questions there are many Bridgeport residents who are wondering aloud whether Newton should even have the right to run a primary against Gomes. They point to Newton’s criminal record and argue that since he violated the public trust once, he should not have the opportunity to violate the public trust again.
Frankly, we at the Fairfield County Independent are not for or against a Newton candidacy. However, we do believe that as registered Park City voters, our readers should have the chance to validate Newton by voting for him or to repudiate him by voting for his opponent.
Newton was caught taking payoffs; he was arrested; he was given a fair trial and he was found guilty. And for his crime Newton went to jail for five years. That’s a harsh penalty. But it’s also a penalty that Newton paid in full. In short, he paid the price for what he did and it is time for all of us to move forward.
Hopefully, Newton has learned his lesson. He says he has and therefore should have a chance to prove himself. The former state senator certainly can be a productive citizen: He was before his trouble with the feds. Newton was the youngest City Council president in Bridgeport history and was elected to the Legislature in Hartford both as a representative and as a senator.
He was also perennially touted as a mayoral contender.
It’s not unprecedented for politicians to be elected to office after going to the clink. James Michael Curley of Boston and Buddy Cianci of Providence are two that readily come to mind. Socialist Eugene V. Debs even ran for the presidency while he was incarcerated. Newton’s run is not even close to being unprecedented.
This is America. The guilty pay for their crimes and are invited to be upstanding members of society when they have completed their sentence.
Newton served his time and paid his debt to society, and there is no reason why he should be denied that same invitation to make a positive impact on our city. There is no reason why he should not rejoin the political fray.
That is no reason to vote for him. That decision is entirely up to you.