2ND SUFFOLK SPECIAL ELECTION : SOME NOISE AT LAST, AND DRAMA

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^ hush hush meets its opponent — until Avellaneda met her, this well informed Chelsea voter hadn’t known there was an election

—- —- —-

PREFACE : On January 6th, Gene O’Flaherty, said to be Mayor Marty Walsh’s best legislator friend, at last accepted the offer to become Boston’s Corporations Counsel. He resigned this seat in the legislature, giving up a powerful committee chairmanship and thus setting up the Charlestown versus Chelsea fight here chronicled. — MF

A week ago, Roy Avellaneda, five-term Chelsea City Councillor and one of the three men seeking to take the State Representative seat that had been Gene O’Flaherty’s, told me, after a discouraging day of voter shrugs, that he would wake up the voters of his city. That he would overcome the Charlestown side of things and win the seat. I was skeptical and told him so. “Come tomorrow night to Crest Avenue and you’ll see,” he said.

Of course I was there. So were about 35 “Roy” supporters. We heard Avellaneda’s election day warrior, Michael Albano, sound the warning : “Either we win this seat his time or there’ll never be another Chelsea State Rep. Never,” Albano yowled. “They’re already planning to cut up Chelsea three ways,’ Albano roared, his sandstone voice piqued. The room trembled with vigor and joy. “Roy ! Roy ! Roy !”

I have seen this sort of thing before. Campaign people always cheer and roar, or they wouldn’t be in a campaign, they’d be at home watching TV reruns. So I remained skeptical. I’d seen what was going on across the Mystic River, in Charlestown, which outvotes the Chelsea portion of “the 2nd” by about six to five. I’d seen the campaign of Dan Ryan, 16 years an aide to powerful Congressman Mike Capuano. Ryan, who with his perfectly parted black hair and chiseled face looks like Tyrone Power, seemed to have every political Townie on his team. Ryan had run for office once before — District One City Council, in a Special Election, no less — nad had won 94 percent of the Ward 2 vote, barely losing the race to Sal LaMattina from much larger East Boston. If Ryan wins 94 percent of the Charlestown vote this time, the seat is his.

Avellaneda can count just as well as Ryan. He wasn’t angry that I seemed skeptical of his wake up calls. He just smiled that chin to eye smile that makes him look like a high school prom king. “We delivered Chelsea for Elizabeth Warren,” he reminded me. “We’ll do it again.”

He has spent the past week doing exactly that. Though it’s not clear to me that he will arouse enough Chelsea for Avellaneda votes to win — Ryan has plenty of Chelsea votes himself — he has definitely upped the noise. The race had been as quiet as a well behaved high school study hall. Now it was brimming with huzzahs, as Avellaneda challenged his two C Town rivals — for there are, indeed, two Townie candidates running — to declare themselves on issues vital to his Latino vote base : did Ryan and Chris Remmes support the DREAM Act ? Did they favor driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ? In-state tuition for undocumenteds ? The Massachusetts Trust Act ?

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^ an issues candidacy ? Chris Remmes welcomes it. (at Durty Harry with supporters three nights ago)

For Chris Remmes, a new-Boston issues guy, this was manna from heaven, a chance for him to prove his progressive platform; and he did so on all the points that Avellaneda listed. Dan Ryan then stated his support, too, for every one of Roy’s points and with common sense arguments.

One might be tempted to tag this play a loss for Avellaneda; but it was a gain, because merely by forcing Remmes and Ryan to respond to him, he accrued much voter attention. Albano had told me, at that first campaign rally, that he wanted to see 2,000 votes cast in Chelsea; and Roy had, by his gambit, given them reason to vote on March 4th.

And then Roy turned up the heat again. At his father’s shop — Tito’s Bakery, a Chelsea institution — he held a Latino Chelsea rally; Felix D. Arroyo — who is running for Suffolk County Register of Probate — was there, and Gabriel Gomez, who ran against Ed Markey last year for US Senate, tweeted his support. Next day, Dan Ryan announced that Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins endorsed him, as did three labor unions; but Ryan’s announcement, given so quickly, helped Avellaneda’s cause too by showing, to a still mostly disconnected people, that there was an election coming and that competition in it was intensifying.

Until that first Avellaneda ally the race had been far too quiet for it to be an accident. Nobody in Charlestown wants to lose this race — the Town hasn’t had a State Representative of its own since 1974 — and if that meant campaigning hush-hush, hush hush it would be. The fewer Chelsea votes the better, especially with two Town candidates running hard. And now — I am speaking of last Friday — the hush hush was going away. By now, it’s almost gone. Avellaneda has mounted yet another issues challenge — cleaning up the Mystic River waterway for use as commuter transport and shipping, and he has forced the casino issue as well, advocating for the Mohegan Sun Revere casino plan even as Chris Remmes opposes all casinos.

The casino issue is a dangerous one for Dan Ryan. Many of his solidest Town supporters intensely oppose the Steve Wynn, Everett casino that is almost certain to win gaming Commission approval. Mayor DeMaria of Everett has given Charlestown no choice. “If you don’t go for this plan, that land will be a stadium, with more people and more traffic and no mitigation,” DeMaria told 400 Townies at a recent casino plan meeting. For Ryan to support the Mohegan Sun casino plays into Avellaneda’s hands; for him to say nothing makes him seem to duck.

Yet the Dan Ryan I have come to know doesn’t duck any issue at all. He will probably first see what happens in tomorrow’s Revere casino vote and then make his statement. and then return to the phone banking, meet and greets, and senior citizens election day networking of the message that, after all the issues have been fought to a conclusion, is probably worth a 2500 vote Ward 2 turnout and thus cannot fail him : “after 40 years, this time it is Charlestown’s turn.”

Voting day is March 4th, eight days away.

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^ forty years waiting — and if C Town has anything to say about it, now is the time. Candidate Dan Ryan with C town’s last state Rep, Jim Collins

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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