Activist state

State Senator Dennis Bradley faces party-endorsed Rev. Herron Gaston’s top challenge

BRIDGEPORT — Despite losing his party’s support after his arrest for federal campaign finance charges last year, State Senator Dennis Bradley is pressing ahead with his bid for re-election to the General Assembly.

The two-term Democratic lawmaker faces a primary challenge on Tuesday from the Reverend Herron Gaston, a Yale-educated activist and first-time candidate who currently serves as deputy chief administrative officer to Mayor Joe Ganim.

Facing an uphill battle, Bradley, who lost the nomination for the Democratic Party nomination, has sought to cast himself as a political outsider fighting for Bridgeport’s most vulnerable residents against an entrenched and distant establishment in Hartford.

“I made it a point not to be beholden to the political establishment,” Bradley said, calling himself a radically independent. “Why does Bridgeport end up in this disrepair and this kind of dysfunction? It has a lot to do with the people who have been on the stand. »

Gaston, however, said he thought it was time for Bridgeport and Stratford to have new representation. He called on Bradley to drop out of the race for the state’s 23rd Senate district following his indictment.

“My opponent is very concerned about being a parade horse, rather than being a workaholic and showing up for the people,” Gaston said, suggesting Bradley is too engrossed in his pending trial to answer the questions. needs of his constituents.

Federal prosecutors allege that Bradley and his former campaign treasurer filed fraudulent paperwork with a state election commission to secure public campaign funding during his first Senate bid in 2018. Bradley, who risk up to 20 years in prisondenied any wrongdoing.

“If you read the allegations made against me by the government and analyze those allegations, you will see that the allegations do not relate to Dennis Bradley committing improprieties in connection with my position as a senator,” Bradley said. . “It’s a matter of process.”

In June, a judge dismissed the jury amid accusations from the defense that the existence of video was withheld from them during the year-long discovery phase of the case.

Bradley, who was removed from his committee duties after his arrest, argued that he continued to be an effective lawmaker despite his indictment. He said he always attends committee hearings and participates in debates.

As evidence of his effectiveness, he noted that he helped craft the relatively new Police Accountability Bill, fought for funding for renewable energy projects, and supported encouraging legislation. the creation of well-paying unionized jobs.

During a new two-year term, Bradley said he plans to fight for millions of dollars in additional funding for the local school system and after-school programs to keep students engaged in outside the classroom.

“Public schools, to me, are the only government program that has ever gotten a person born poor, black, white, brown, straight, gay, or anywhere in between, off the hook,” a- he declared.

Like Bradley, Gaston has made increasing funding for education a centerpiece of his campaign. He also wants to increase support for addiction and mental health programs, strengthen the relationship between police and residents with community policing initiatives, and provide relief to those battling inflation.

“People in Bridgeport and Stratford are suffering,” he said. “The cost of daily living expenses has reached an all-time high, no matter what you look like or where you’re from. It’s crushing families right now.

Originally from Florida, Gaston moved to Connecticut over a decade ago to attend Yale Divinity School. In addition to his work in the city, he is senior pastor at Summerfield United Methodist Church. He also holds a law degree from Quinnipiac University.

To contrast, Bradley pointed to Gaston’s lack of experience as an elected official and pointed to his ties to the Ganim administration, which he described as ineffective.

In response, Gaston said he was proud of his work for the city. He argued that the experience he gained responding to residents’ concerns prepared him to develop solutions to problems that only the state government can solve.

“I’m an independent thinker,” he said. “But I’m also a team player, a team player and someone who helps build bridges, as opposed to building fences and working in silos.”

Bradley, meanwhile, said his African-American and Latino heritage puts him in a unique position to represent the Senate district, which is largely made up of African-American and Latino residents. The district comprises half of Bridgeport and part of the South End of Stratford.

“I think you won’t find another candidate so well suited to understand the needs and desires of these two very diverse and different communities,” said Bradley, who also speaks Spanish. “I understand where we agree and I understand where there is disagreement. I can be a bridge between these disagreements so that we can function in harmony.

[email protected]