Author Archives: Christopher Keating

Ernie Newton Seeking Redemption And His Old House Seat In Bridgeport

by Categorized: 2014 Election Date:

BRIDGEPORT — When former state Sen. Ernie Newton campaigned door-to-door recently here in his hometown, not a single person asked about the federal prison term he served on felony charges in a political corruption scandal.

No one asked about an additional seven criminal charges that are still pending against him in a separate case of campaign finance fraud.

And no one asked about his bold statement, in the pouring rain before pleading guilty in 2005 to three felonies, that he was “the Moses of my people.’’

Instead, Newton was greeted on the campaign trail as a conquering hero with hugs and waves from people he has known all his life.

Newton’s past and current brushes with the law, they said, would not stop them from voting for Newton again as he battles to regain his old state House of Representatives seat in the Aug. 12 Democratic primary. Newton served for 17 years in the state legislature before heading to prison, and he recently won the Democratic party’s endorsement in his hometown for his old seat.

He is now facing challenger Andre Baker, a former eight-year city council member who was the highest vote-getter for the city’s school board. Baker was forced to gather signatures to get a spot on the ballot, but he is backed by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, who once served with Newton in the House and is now clashing with his former colleague. Baker has raised nearly twice as much money as Newton, but they both agree that the door-to-door campaigning will make the difference in the impoverished, high-crime district.

The outspoken Newton freely admits that he has had problems with the law, but he rejects critics who decry his ethics and criminal violations.

“They sound self-righteous. We call them, in the Bible, Pharisees and Sadducees,’’ Newton said in an interview. “I don’t care what the Pharisees in Hartford say.’’

After spending nearly five years in prison and a halfway house for accepting $5,000 in cash bribes and other crimes, Newton says he is not apologizing to his constituents or anyone.

“No, I did that,’’ Newton said. “It’s over. I’m not doing that no more because I’ve been forgiven.’’ Continue reading

Hillary Clinton Draws Large Crowd To Madison Book Signing

by Categorized: Richard Blumenthal Date:

MADISON — Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state who is said to be considering a run for president, drew hundreds of people who waited hours to meet her at a book signing Saturday.

“I shook your husband’s hand when he ran,” one woman told Clinton at the R.J. Julia Booksellers. “We will vote for you. Me, my husband, and my mother will vote for you.”

Clinton, without committing to a run for president in 2016, politely said, “Thank you.”

Clinton’s main focus was on her book “Hard Choices,” and she spent two hours greeting people and signing copies.

“It’s got a lot of inside accounts, and a lot of it is becoming newly relevant,” Clinton said, adding that she had been intimately involved with a number of now-evolving foreign policy matters, including the clashes between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“I negotiated a cease fire in Gaza, and now it’s broken,” she said.

Those who bought a ticket in advance received a copy of “Hard Choices” and waited in line for up to six hours before Clinton started signing. But many said they did not mind the wait.

“We need a woman in the White House to get this country moving again,” said one Clinton fan, Susan Uguccioni of Glastonbury, who added that she had been waiting for four hours. “We’re more than ready [to meet Clinton].” Continue reading

Busway Construction Causes Shutdown Near State Capitol For Weekend

by Categorized: 2014 Election, General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Hartford, Tom Foley Date:

The construction of the new busway will cause an exit to be closed this weekend near the state Capitol.

The eastbound off-ramp on Interstate 84 will be shut down at exit 48A for the entire weekend, according to state officials.

The closure is scheduled to begin at about 10 p.m. Friday, and motorists will be directed to take a detour to the adjacent Capitol Avenue exit, which is heavily traveled on weekdays among those headed to the state Capitol and the adjacent Legislative Office Building.

The exit’s off-ramp is scheduled to be all clear by 5 a.m. Monday as commuters start heading back to the Capitol and nearby offices.

Backed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the busway has been heavily criticized by some lawmakers and Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield. The most recent criticism came during the Republican gubernatorial debate at The Hartford Courant, where McKinney referred to the project as the “busway to nowhere that nobody is going to use.” Continue reading

Tom Foley on Gun Control After Debate

by Categorized: 2014 Election Date:

By Matthew Q. Clarida

After the Republican gubernatorial debate Thursday at The Hartford Courant headquarters, reporters asked Greenwich business executive Tom Foley to clarify his position on gun control and the bill that was signed following the deaths of 28 people in Newtown in December 2012.

Foley was asked: “Can you say simply, do you favor the restriction on large-capacity magazines and [on the] semi-automatic rifles that were affected?”

Foley responded, “Listen, what I have said is, if I had been governor at the time, the bill would have been very different. It would have focused on crime in our cities and it would have focused on the mental health issues that I think were behind the Newtown massacre, but I wasn’t governor so I don’t have to articulate and outline a bill, because I don’t have the staff to do that…”

A second veteran reporter asked, “But what do you think about the firearm provisions of the bill?”

Foley responded, “Well listen, there are a lot of people in the state of Connecticut who believe they have a fundamental right under the Constitution to own firearms and to be able to do so freely, and I think that this bill unnecessarily restricted some of the rights of lawful gun owners. So I don’t support that part of the bill, and I think that there are a lot of things that should have been included in the bill but weren’t. So I’ve been very clear on this.” Continue reading

Gov. Christie Raising Money in Greenwich Monday Night For State GOP

by Categorized: 2014 Election Date:

BY MATTHEW Q. CLARIDA

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming to Connecticut on Monday night to raise money for state Republicans, and both the state Democratic Party and gun-control advocates are not happy about it.

At issue is Christie’s recent veto of a gun control bill in New Jersey which would have limited magazines to 10 or fewer bullets. Christie explained that, in his opinion, simply limiting the capacity of a magazine does not solve the root problem of gun violence. In the bill’s place, he proposed improving the state’s mental health services and strengthening involuntary commitment procedures.

Shortly before announcing the veto, Christie was unavailable to meet with family members of children who were killed in the 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The parents had driven to New Jersey hoping to catch Christie, but were told the governor was not free for a meeting. One parent called the experience “a slap in the face.”

Devon Puglia, a spokesperson for the Democratic State Central Committee, criticized the veto, the ignored calls for a meeting, and Christie’s fundraising plans together.

“It’s remarkable that Chris Christie has the audacity to insult the parents of Sandy Hook victims, but then come to Connecticut to hobnob, glad-hand, and raise money. It’s an insult to family-members of Newtown victims – and it’s a slap in the face to this state,” Puglia wrote in a statement recently.

State Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola responded to Puglia’s charges: “It seems that the Democrats will do anything to distract attention away from the last place Malloy economy, including politicizing the Newtown tragedy.

“It’s truly pathetic and hypocritically [that] they failed to mention that the leader of their party, President Obama, spent this last week hob-nobbing at fundraisers in Texas but was unable to find the time to visit the human tragedy unfolding on the U.S. border,” Labriola added. Continue reading

Foley: McKinney Distorted Radio Clip

by Categorized: 2014 Election Date:

By Matthew Q. Clarida

A recent television commercial by Republican gubernatorial hopeful John McKinney contained audio from WNPR that was significantly edited, according to an original version of the clip provided by the radio station.

In the commercial, Tom Foley, McKinney’s rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is heard saying, “I’m not going to cut spending.”

But according to WNPR, Foley actually said the following: “I’m not saying I’m going to cut spending; I’m saying I’m going to hold spending flat.”

The station posted the clip from its morning show ”Where We Live,” which when played showed that two of Foley’s words (“saying” and “I’m”) had been edited out of the clip in the McKinney ad.

McKinney’s spokeswoman, Jodi Latina, told Capitol Watch on Thursday night that the editing “doesn’t change the meaning.’’

Later, McKinney said, “After dodging questions and distorting my voting record, Tom Foley clearly lost today’s debate and in a Malloy-like tactic is trying to change the narrative. Our television ad offers an edited version of a statement he has made repeatedly throughout this campaign: Tom Foley won’t cut spending, he will “flat-fund” spending. He repeated this very statement in today’s debate. There was absolutely nothing misleading about our ad or its presentation of Tom Foley’s position.” Continue reading

Blumenthal Weighs In On International Crises

by Categorized: Richard Blumenthal Date:

By Matthew Q. Clarida

On a major news day across the world, Capitol Watch got in touch with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was about to board a plane for Texas, where he plans to tour border detention facilities.

Hours after Israeli forces launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip aimed at stopping rockets fired by Hamas, here’s what Blumenthal told Capitol Watch about his reaction to the invasion.

“The Israelis have no choice but to defend themselves against rocket assault by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, and my hope is that there will be an end soon to the bloodshed on both sides,” Blumenthal said. “Israel was ready to accept a cease fire and Hamas rejected it, which certainly was disappointing, and Israel has been a firm, resolute, profoundly significant ally of the US in one of the most dangerous regions of the world, and it is undertaking a very limited action to stop the assault by Hamas.” Continue reading

42 House, 8 State Senate Races Uncontested In November

by Categorized: 2014 Election Date:

Despite the availability of public financing to pay for the campaign, 50 state legislative races this year will go uncontested in the fall elections.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill made the announcement Thursday that the number of uncontested races has jumped by 56 percent from only two years ago. Overall, 42 House of Representatives and 8 state Senate races will not be contested by a major political party.

In 2012, there were 32 uncontested races in the 187-member legislature.

Minor party and write-in candidates may still contest the races as the totals include only the lack of a Republican or Democratic candidate.

The lack of candidates traditionally comes in races that are dominated by a particular party. For example, no Democrat is running in the 151st House district in Republican-dominated Greenwich and in the 36th Senate seat that covers Greenwich, North Stamford, and New Canaan.

Conversely, no Republican is running in the 4th and 5th districts in Democratic-dominated Hartford.

“It is a bit surprising to see so many General Assembly seats not contested by a Republican or Democratic candidate this election season,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the state’s top chief elections official. “There has been a steady decline in the number of uncontested races since 2004. That has coincided with the availability of public campaign funds through the Citizens’ Election Program. The number of uncontested races in 2014 is still lower than its height 10 years ago, however one would expect more candidates stepping up to run this year, given all of the turnover” in the legislature. Continue reading

Capitol Clerk/Bouncer At Topless Club Sentenced For Selling Cocaine

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

A former clerk for the legislature’s Commerce Committee – who was also a bouncer at an East Hartford topless club – was sentenced Wednesday for selling cocaine to undercover agents last year at the strip club.

Jonathan McDonald, 28, of Waterbury, also worked as a disc jockey at Kahoots in East Hartford when he was arrested on drug charges. He will serve 13 months in prison under his sentence after pleading guilty to possession of narcotics with intent to sell.

McDonald, who was also sentenced to three years probation, had earlier worked on the political campaign of Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey Berger of Waterbury.

The Hartford Courant’s David Moran reports as follows:

McDonald and another employee of the club, Renaldo Byrd, were arrested after selling the drugs to the undercover officers in April of last year. The terms of McDonald’s probation state that he must undergo drug counseling and screening and cannot possess narcotics or firearms.

According to court documents, McDonald bragged to undercover East Hartford police officers who were investigating complaints against the club that he worked for the Commerce Committee on the first floor of the state Capitol and told the undercover officers that he could supply them with cocaine, marijuana, prescription painkillers and an AR-15 assault rifle. Continue reading

Republicans Question Accuracy Of Malloy TV Commercial

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Gov. Dannel Malloy Date:

Republicans are questioning the accuracy of the first campaign commercial that is currently being aired on stations across the state by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign.

The 60-second commercial credits Malloy with creating jobs, raising the minimum wage, and using “spending cuts and new revenue” to reduce the state’s budget deficit. The commercial does not mention that the state’s personal income, sales, corporate profits, estate, alcohol, cigar and cigarette taxes were raised in 2011 to help close the budget gap.

“The revision of history has begun,” said Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield. “This ad should win the award for “best fictional documentary in a political campaign” at a film festival.”

McKinney, who is running in the August 12 Republican primary against Greenwich business executive Tom Foley, said, “A non-fictional analysis of the Malloy record would have to account for the $2.8 billion projected deficit he has handed us, the largest tax increase ever hoisted on the people of Connecticut and the $115 million give-away to a billionaire-run hedge fund. It’s sad that Governor Dannel Malloy thinks so little of the people of Connecticut that he would insult their intelligence in this way.”

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, responded, “The fiction so far in this campaign is the series of absurd, impossible-to-keep promises John McKinney’s been making. Truth is, Connecticut’s making progress, much to John McKinney’s and the GOP’s chagrin.” Continue reading