BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ Voters in Bridgeport and Stratford will decide how a Democratic endorsement of convicted felon and former state legislator Ernest Newton will play out in his bid to regain his state Senate seat.

Newton served 17 years in the General Assembly before giving up the 23rd Senate District seat and pleading guilty in 2005 to accepting a $5,000 bribe. He admitted to using campaign contributions for personal expenses and failing to report the improper income on his federal tax return. He served a five-year prison sentence.

Newton won the endorsement Monday of district Democrats, beating back incumbent state Sen. Edwin Gomes and state Rep. Andres Ayala. But both his opponents got enough support to force a three-way race in the Aug. 14 primary. The Senate district includes Bridgeport and Stratford.

When asked Tuesday whether a convicted felon should run again for office, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said it was not the first time it has happened.

“It’s not the only profession it happens in,” the Democratic governor said. “I think the public has a balancing act. They have to decide whether … the person has paid a sufficient price, whether they’ve expressed sufficient remorse, whether they have the skill set necessary to do the job. That’s what the public gets to decide. That’s why we have elections and I urge all the voters to vote.”

Under Connecticut law, a convicted felon can have his or her voting rights and ability to serve in public office restored after submitting written proof of the completion of any prison or parole time.

Malloy said he was not ready to endorse anyone in the race.

“I’ve long been an advocate of a second-chance society. As a prosecutor, as a governor, as a mayor, I’ve advocated for second chances,” he told reporters. “But ultimately, in the political arena, that’s a decision for the public to make.”
Bridgeport Mayor William Finch, a Democrat and former legislator, did not welcome the news of Newton’s endorsement.

“As a former state Senate colleague, Ernie and I worked together for many years,” he said. “While I wish him well in all his endeavors, when Ernie and I recently spoke, I told him that I do not think that this is the best decision, for him or the city.”

Newton apologized Monday night to his supporters for his mistakes and said he had paid a heavy price for what he had done.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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