Senate Dems Leadership Hesitates in Support for Sen. Gomes; ‘Anybody but Ernie’

A spokesman for the state Senate Democrats says leadership is firmly behind Sen. Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport) in his bid to hang onto his seat. Adam Joseph said in an email, “Both Senator Williams and Senator [Martin] Looney support Senator Gomes’s reelection and have been in close contact with him. Ed has been a terrific caucus member.” That’s clear and definitive but Joseph took a circuitous path to make that statement.

Joseph twice last week declined to comment on whether caucus leadership supports Gomes. Sunday morning, the spokesman reversed course and said leadership does in fact back him. Gomes is in the middle of a spirited primary battle to keep his 23rd district seat. He recently told The Hanging Shad he expected leadership “to get involved” and support his reelection bid.

Not backing a caucus member in a primary is unusual at best especially for someone like Gomes who is noncontroversial and is trying to fend off challenges from state Rep. Andres Ayala and former state Sen. Ernie Newton who is seeking his old seat. Why the Sunday morning turnaround? Joseph said once it was clear The Hanging Shad would write a story about the primary, they decided to comment (I made it clear from the beginning I was writing the story).

Senate Dems insiders have said their approach to the election is basically, “Anybody but Ernie” but that they support caucus members—Gomes. Then-Sen. Newton was arrested and pled guilty to corruption charges and spent five years in jail which makes it all that more strange that Senate President Williams didn’t immediately express support for Gomes.

Behind the scenes, Senate Dems feel betrayed and lied to by Newton who at the time insisted to Williams, Looney and the caucus senior staff that he did absolutely nothing wrong. Full disclosure: I was the Senate Dems’ communications director when all of this was happening. I was in contact with Newton on a daily basis. He constantly insisted he was innocent.

Gomes, meanwhile, told The Hanging Shad a couple of weeks ago that he expects to be backed by his colleagues. “They [Williams and Looney] know my performance. I’ve been a loyal colleague and I’ve been there for my city…If nothing else, I brought honesty and integrity back to the job.” The last part is a reference to Newton. For the record, Sen. Looney was not contacted for this story.

Gomes appears to be in danger of not qualifying for public financing for his campaign. Not qualifying could very well mean the end of his campaign. Ayala has already met the threshold and now has $91,000 to spend for the primary. Newton has said he is preparing to submit paperwork to the state to qualify However, he said that weeks ago and still hasn’t done so.