Newton takes step toward Bridgeport City Council return
Updated 6:14 am, Wednesday, September 13, 2017
BRIDGEPORT — Ex-state Sen. Ernest Newton could be headed back to his political roots — the City Council.
East Side Democrats on Tuesday forgave the 2005 corruption conviction that ended Newton’s legislative career and the fact he is in the midst of appealing a 2015 conviction for campaign finance fraud.
Newton came in second in a four-way primary for a pair of City Council seats in his neighborhood, edging out newcomer Wanda Simmons. Incumbent James Holloway, a councilman for 22 years, came in last. Incumbent Eneida Martinez won the most votes.
There are 20 seats on the City Council, two in each of the 10 districts. In nine of those districts, candidates collected enough signatures to force primaries against opponents nominated by Democratic leaders at this summer’s party convention.
According to the Registrars of Voters’ preliminary numbers, Newton’s win over Simmons in the 139th District — by 216 to 209 votes — was within the 20-vote margin that triggers an automatic recount in the coming days.
Still, Newton, having failed to return to the Legislature in 2012 — the race that landed him in his current legal troubles — and in 2014, was feeling good about having performed so well, and without the Democratic Town Committee’s backing. He was a council member years ago, as well as that body’s president.
“If anybody knows the East End, I know it,” Newton said.
Though Tuesday’s winners still have to face Republican, third party and petition candidates in November’s general election, Bridgeport is, traditionally, a reliably Democratic town.
Recount in the 133rd
Newton’s was probably the best-known name on the ballot Tuesday, because of his past and present legal troubles. But another veteran legislator, ex state Rep. Bob Keeley, was also on the cusp of a victory.
Keeley, like Newton, came in second in a four-way council race for two seats in the North End’s 133rd District. Except Keeley tied with incumbent Jeanette Herron at 170 votes a piece. There will be a recount and possibly a special election.
The top vote getter in that race was Michael DeFilippo, bartender at Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa’s restaurant. The 133rd race was one to watch because of veteran Councilman Thomas McCarthy’s decision to call it quits and not see re-election. McCarthy is council president and the man Keeley had originally hoped to defeat.
The rest of the races were a mixed bag for the town committee, Testa and Mayor Joe Ganim. Ex-Mayor John Fabrizi, who was observing the results at Testa’s restaurant, said that typically, mayors want the incumbents to win because they have a relationship.
“When there’s an upset — and obviously there’s many in today’s races — what does the future bring?” Fabrizi said.
In Black Rock, for example, 130th District residents still furious over the tax increases Ganim and the council passed in 2016 took it out on Councilman Scott Burns, a Budget Committee chairman, and running mate Rowan Kane.
Though Burns has at times challenged the Ganim administration, voters in that waterfront neighborhood selected Christina Smith and Pete Spain, the latter of whom wants an independent board established to help reduce taxes. There will be a recount between Spain and Burns.
Newcomers in the 132nd
A pair of new, young faces — Marcus Brown and Kyle Langan — won the primary against incumbent Evette Brantley and nominee Rolanda Smith in the 132nd District. Brown, during a recent mayoral forum, expressed disdain for the city’s Democratic machine, promising to be independent and not bought off with employment in City Hall.
Council members Jack Banta and Denese Taylor-Moye prevailed in the 130th District, which covers the South End.
In the 135th District, nominee Rosalina Christy received the most votes and Councilman Richard Salter, one of a half-dozen incumbents who had not been re-nominated, came in second. His fellow incumbent, Rev. Mary McBride-Lee, who had also been rejected at the town committee’s convention, came in third and close enough to Salter so that there will be a recount.
In the 136th and 137th primaries, the nominated candidates — Councilman Alfredo Castillo and Maria Zambrano-Viggiano, and Councilman Aidee Nieves and ex-council member Maria Valle — prevailed.
The 138th District had a unique situation where the town committee nominees dropped out, leaving four petition candidates — two of them the incumbents — battling Tuesday. Councilwoman Nessah Smith and Karen Jackson received the most votes, though a recount was also possible there.