Not that it’s any great surprise.
Ernie Newton is officially returning to the political scene and will challenge incumbent state Sen. Ed Gomes (D-23) for the seat Gomes has held since Newton began serving his five-year federal prison sentence. The seat was once held by Newton and the veteran Park City politician wants it back.
Newton didn’t exactly hide the fact that he was itching to return to the political fray. He has told numerous friends and observers since his release from prison in 2010 that, “I’m going to do something.” The question at that time was what was Ernie going to do?
Originally there were thoughts that Newton might run for mayor, an idea that has been bandied about before. There just was not enough time for the East Ender to put together an organization and launch an assault on incumbent Bill Finch, so the idea of running for City Hall Annex faded away.
That didn’t stop Newton, however. He quickly jumped on the Mary-Jane Foster bandwagon in her attempt to unseat Finch and soon became one of her most vocal and ardent supporters. And when Foster made her concession speech at the Bijou Theater after losing to Finch in the primary, there was Ernie, front and center, sharing the spotlight with his candidate.
Ernie Newton is a political animal. It’s what he knows. It’s what he’s done his entire life. His bid for elective office should surprise no one. Former Providence Mayor, and Fairfield University grad, Buddy Cianci, went to jail for attempted murder, got released and was once again elected mayor of Providence. Of course he went to jail again and served time in the same jail with Newton and former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, but that’s a story for another day.
From this vantage point, there is no reason whatsoever that Newton shouldn’t run for office. We’ve already heard from some of the holier than thou types who believe that once released from prison, former convicts should be banished to the outskirts of society, forever reminded of their past transgressions and never being able to be on equal par with those denizens of society who have never broken the law. Or, more accurately, have never been found guilty of anything. Excuse me, but that’s pure balderdash.
Ernie Newton took some payoffs. He got caught. He got arrested. He was found guilty. He went to jail. He went kicking and screaming, arguing that he was ‘the Moses of his people,” but he went anyway. He did his time and paid his debt to society. Now is his chance to be a productive member of society once again. Who are we to deny him that opportunity? Aren’t we better off with Ernie out there fighting for some good causes?
And so Ernie is back. He has opted to challenge Gomes, a controversial move in and of itself. Gomes is popular in the district, which ranges from Whiskey Hill in the North End through the East End and into Stratford, so he will be tough to beat. Gomes has been a sick man in recent months, and has undergone triple bypass surgery. The veteran legislator is well on the road to recovery and fully expected to answer the bell when this year’s legislative session opens. Still, Newton may suffer the wrath of voters who feel it is unfair to challenge a man who has been in poor health.
The race itself is going to be interesting. Both candidates have pockets of strength: Gomes in the North End and Newton in the East End. Gomes, a former steelworker, will bring tremendous union support that Newton’s flair may have difficulty overcoming. (A bit of full disclosure here: Gomes and my father, John, were both union officials, and my father tapped Gomes to replace him as civil rights director for the United Steelworkers of America’s New England District.)
In any event, Ernie Newton is back and lots of Bridgeport residents will be casting their ballots for him this year. His campaign officially kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 28, at noon in front of the now-closed post office at 1234 Stratford Ave.
He’s back and all I can say is “Welcome back, Ernie!”