BRIDGEPORT — Charismatic. Articulate. Charming. Pretty.
Those are the words fans of state Sen. Dennis Bradley, and even some critics, used this week to describe a 37-year-old politician who, over the course of a decade, went from Bridgeport stranger to widely regarded candidate. . for mayor in 2023.
It is too early to tell if the events of this week mark the beginning of the end of his political career. But Bradley's arrest Tuesday for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain $179,850 in state campaign grants is not considered a good development for a man who clearly thought he was just getting started.
He, along with his campaign treasurer, Board of Education member Jessica Martinez, are accused of hosting an event at Dolphin's Cove in 2018 in which he announced his run for state senate but later lied about his connection to the campaign, according to the prosecution.
This is a carousel. Use the Next and Previous buttons to navigate
The party pushed Bradley's personal costs above the limit allowed by law and would have disqualified him from a public campaign grant he later received, the indictment claims. The two are also accused of trying to cover up the fact that Bradley received political contributions at the event.
Bradley, who did not return requests for comment, in ainterview december 2015he placed no limitations on how far he could go in politics.
- Text messages are critical evidence against Sen. Dennis Bradley in campaign fraud case
- Charges against Bridgeport state senator and school board member charged with wire fraud
"I am willing to go ... wherever the people choose me to go, and wherever I can show that I am (capable) of serving the people well," he said.
of Bradleyofficial legislative websiterefers to him in bold type as "El Senador del Pueblo".
“I thought he was a great candidate for future mayor, a Hispanic mayor,” said supporter Raul Laffitte. "I hope this matter has not ended his political future."
East End Democratic leader Ralph Ford also expected Bradley to become the city's first black CEO by 2023.
“More than anyone I know, he has brought the black and Latino communities together in Bridgeport, and if that happens, we could elect a mayor of color,” said Ford, who is African-American.
Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim had little to say about Bradley's arrest, issuing a brief statement Wednesday saying that "our offices have heard this alarming news item from the media about the charges against Senator Bradley and Treasurer Martinez" and that "no knowledge yet." of the details related to these allegations”.
Ganim, who led Bridgeport from 1991 until he was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2003, was reelected in 2015 and then in 2019. He has yet to indicate whether he will seek another term in 2023.
Bradley inspired this loyalty in political workhorses like Laffitte, Ford and others, despite being an outsider. She moved to the city from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in the late 2000s, worked on U.S. Representative Jim Himes' 2008 and 2010 campaigns and became a social worker in Himes' office, focusing on immigration and outreach. Hispanic.
Himes, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
City Clerk Lydia Martinez, another influential veteran of Democratic-dominated Bridgeport politics who is close to Bradley, said she met him when he worked for the congressman.
"I used to bring all the problems in the community for him to help," he recalled Tuesday.
It was in this same capacity that Bradley met Shante Hanks, another Himes employee and a Bridgeport activist. Hanks declined to comment on Bradley's arrest, but did share some thoughts on his time as colleagues.
“A bright and ambitious young man,” Hanks recalled. "Very gentle. Very charming."
According to Bradley's political man-of-town persona, Hanks recalled him biking to work “because I really wanted to capture the essence of the Bridgeport community. ...he felt that he could get more involved if he rode a bicycle.
He also said that Bradley was passionate about helping immigrants and "I would like to think that we may have influenced him to want to do such positive things with his law firm and his degree."
Bradley is a partner at BDK Law Group specializing in immigration, family, criminal, and personal injury cases.
Before his election to the 23rd state Senate district in 2018, the race that got him in hot water with federal officials, Bradley ran unsuccessfully for the Connecticut House of Representatives in 2014 and made his first unsuccessful attempt to run for the Senate in 2016.
Between those last two races, Bradley aspired a bit less, winning a seat on the school board in 2015 and becoming its president.
When he campaigned for the Board of Education, Bradley received third-party support from Working Families. But his political ambition, specifically his decision a year after filing for another state legislative bid, cost him that organization's support.
"He left a bad taste in people's mouths," Lindsay Farrell, then the executive director of Working Families, said in 2018 of Bradley.
And, having finally won elected office in 2015 and the chance to show what he could accomplish, some in the community were disappointed with Bradley's performance on the school board.
“Speaking of being a perfect candidate. You are bilingual. Good looks. Articulate. A lawyer. If you have to review things, it has a lot going for it,” former municipal secretary Alma Maya said this week. "On the Board of Education, he was very disappointed with his performance."
That disappointment led her, she said, to reject subsequent proposals to support Bradley for the legislature.
Maria Pereira, who served on the school board with Bradley, recruited him into that body, but the two quickly became rivals.She opposed him for president., calling him an opportunist hoping to turn the job into a superior one. and bradleylaunched a boycott of meetingsby him and some colleagues in a failed attempt to force Pereira's resignation.
It was a complaint Pereira filed with the state Election Oversight Commission about Bradley's 2018 Senate campaign that paved the way for his arrest Tuesday.
“It's like a shiny new car,” Pereira said this week. "Shiny paint. No scratches. No dents. Really easy on the eyes. But you raise the hood and there's no transmission."
During the 2018 Democratic Party nominating convention, Hanks, who was in attendance, said Bradley once talked about being "Bridgeport's Cory Booker," the famous New Jersey senator who is running for president in 2020 and is dating the Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson. .
In fact, last spring, when Bradley launched his successful bid for a second two-year term, he came up with an unusual name for his local campaign committee: USA for Bradley 2020.
“He had a certain pizzazz, you know?” Ford said.
Asked if Bradley was dreaming of a much higher office since the campaign name seems more appropriate for a national presidential race, Ford conceded: "It might be on his mind." 'Okay, let me see how that sounds...'”
Various other Bridgeport politicians and activists and state leaders this weekexpressed concern about the allegations against Bradley and his frustration at the potential damage to the image of the city and states given that neither the governments of Bridgeport nor those of Connecticut are strangers to political corruption.
While still in office, Bradley Tuesday was stripped of his titles and committee duties on Capitol Hill in Hartford. And Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday, during an event in downtown Hartford, told reporters: "I hope the allegations are not true," but if they are proven in court, then "goodbye" Bradley.
But political leaders at home, such as Ford and Martinez, have expressed anger not over Bradley but over the allegations against him.
“When people want to go after you … they will find anything to go after you with,” Martinez said. "We'll see what happens."
"Frankly, I think this is nothing more than a witch hunt trying to dirty your name," Ford said.
Lafitte said he is "surprised, disappointed and angry" and is also trying to remain optimistic.
“He was not convicted. Personally, I don't believe that," Lafitte said. "I just hope he gets back to being the leader that I think he is."
Editors Ken Dixon and Daniel Tepfer contributed to this report.