Hewett in 39th

Ernest Hewett has proved a popular representative for New London's 39th House District. The Democrat is affable, a frequent visitor to numerous social and civic events where residents know they can bend his ear to tell him heir concerns. He has won five elections easily and is a favorite to win a sixth.

But if re-elected, he needs to step up his game.

This is the first time Rep. Hewett, 58, is up for re-election since an embarrassing incident during the 2013 legislative session. During a routine hearing, a 17-year-old girl explained how her work in a natural science program, including working with snakes, had helped her overcome her shyness.

Rep. Hewett retorted, "If you're bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk."

Many saw a sexual innuendo. The lawmaker's odd explanations - "I meant to say I have an acre of land in the Everglades." - didn't help. We take him at his word that in trying to be witty he delivered an awkward comment, which was inappropriate, but not intentionally so.

House leadership stripped him of his position as deputy speaker. That loss of influence was not good for New London. If re-elected, Rep. Hewett needs to continue rebuilding his stature in the House. With powerful and effective Democratic state Sen. Andrea Stillman not seeking re-election, there will be more pressure on Rep. Hewett to lead the fight for New London's fair share of municipal aid.

This newspaper was also disappointed with Rep. Hewett's refusal to accept our invitation to debate Republican challenger Andrew Lockwood, 54. With the exception of state Sen. Andrew Maynard in the 18th District, who continues to struggle with the aftermaths of a serious head injury, Rep. Hewett was the only incumbent to decline to debate.

His stated excuse was that because the Republican Town Committee did not nominate Mr. Lockwood, he did merit a debate (Lockwood petitioned his way into an uncontested primary and so onto the ballot). More likely, the incumbent's refusal had to do with the fact Mr. Lockwood, in announcing his candidacy, put a lot of emphasis on the snake comment.

For all his faults, Rep. Hewett remains the better choice among the two candidates to represent New London as it faces a critical juncture in securing state aid for the school system's conversion to an all-magnet-schools district, support for downtown redevelopment efforts and a continued partnership in building the National Coast Guard Museum.

Mr. Lockwood is passionate in his politics, but as a fiscal conservative, he would be an ill-fit to push for the state help his city is dependent on.

In the 39th District, The Day endorses Ernest Hewett.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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