Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Democrats’ Rowland Problem


One would have thought that former Governor John Rowland would have been safe from criticism after he had wandered into the profession of journalism following his stint in prison for having deprived the citizens of Connecticut of honest services.

As everyone knows, journalism, in the form of gossip, is the second oldest profession in the world, following close on the heels of prostitution which, as we recently have learned, is legal in Cartagena Columbia. Prostitution in Connecticut still is illegal, though an enlightened legislature has long since legalized “gaming” (AKA gambling)in order to tax it and fill the state’s depleted treasury with money gathered by the world’s third oldest profession, politics. Journalism is the natural evolution – some would say the perfection –of gossip. Could it be possible that that the crudely drawn depictions in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in France are first attempts at political cartooning made by the prehistoric ancestors of some politician-baiting modern relative?

Though Mr. Rowland had been for some time a member of the world’s third oldest profession, the shadow of the prison lies heavily upon him, even though Mr. Rowland, unlike Ernie Newton – the former state senator from Bridgeport who spent three years in the hoosegow for having evaded taxes and accepted bribes while in office – is not running for political office this year.

A released, rehabilitated and refurbished Mr. Newton, some commentators and reporters surmised prior to the Bridgeport nominating convention, had an even chance of being reelected to his old seat in the General Assembly, newly redesigned following redistricting and kept warm in the intervening years by state Senator Edwin Gomes. At 75 years young, Mr. Gomes, like many urban Democrats, is a magnet for union votes. Unfortunately, he has been rendered frail by recent triple bypass surgery, which opened the door to Mr. Newton, far more vigorous after his prison stay and determined to lift Bridgeport from the ashes.

Stumping in the city last January, Mr. Newton, an amateur evangelist, pithily summed up the Sermon on the Mount: “I've always lived by the philosophy that every sinner has a future and all saints have a past. I haven't been too happy with what I've seen in Bridgeport since I came home. This city needs a leader and I intend to be that person."

Entering the State Senate in 2003, Mr. Newton was appointed by then Senator Kevin Sullivan as Deputy President Pro Tempore, the third-highest leadership position in that august body of eloquent Ciceros. A booster rocket was attached to Mr. Sullivan’s own distinguished political career when he was appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy as the state’s Commissioner of Revenue Services, Connecticut’s chief tax collector. Mr. Newton’s post imprisonment ascendency is good news for Bridgeport and struggling politicians everywhere: Though the high may fall low, they easily bounce back because their nether regions are made of rubber.

As it turns out, the surmises were not farfetched. On May 21st, Mr. Newton was chosen as the Democratic nominee for the 23rd State Senate District, an area covering about 75 percent of Bridgeport and a portion of Stratford.

From Testo’s Restaurant, moments after he was selected to represent the good people of Bridgeport in the State Senate, having snatched victory from the jaws of two non-felonious Democrats both of whom sought to deny Mr. Newton the nomination, Mr. Newton provided some moral uplift to the people of Bridgeport: “The message I am bringing to the people is that it’s time that our community redeem the great promise we have. We have too many, both young and old, that have lost the passion to fight, that have lost the belief that these communities can rise and be great. I am here as an example that our redemption is upon us. It is at our doorstep…. We need the opportunity to work. We need the opportunity to be safe. And we need the opportunity to believe again…whether it’s property taxes, continued improving relations with our police force, jobs for people in our community, cleaner streets and neighborhoods.”

It is said that Mayor Bill Finch frantically had attempted to support the nomination of State Representative Andres Ayala, young, intelligent and not a graduate from Prison U. Possibly, the mayor wanted to spare Bridgeport the contumely he feared might be in the offing from the host of Democrats and political commentators who cannot bear to mention Mr. Rowland’s name without adding the dishonorific “felon.”

When asked if she would discourage voters from returning Newton to the General Assembly, State Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, rarely a profile in courage, replied, “I think that's up to that district to make that decision, not me."

Among politicians, Mrs. DiNardo is in the majority. Mr. Fitch is far outnumbered by those who worry that Mr. Fitch needn’t have worried.
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