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