#13TH SUFFOLK : DORCHESTER LOOKS FOR THE NEXT MARTY WALSH

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^ first into the race, and looking like the man to beat : Dan Hunt, at the Dorchester Board of Trade’s B2B event last night

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Having seen their State Representative elected Mayor, 24,286 voters (numbers from City of Boston Election department website) of the 13th Suffolk State Representative District are looking for the next Marty Walsh. Or at least the 11,358 voters who cast a ballot in the November Mayor election are looking. On March 4th they’ll find out just who that man will be.

They will be choosing among Liam P. Curran, Tony Dang, Gene Gorman, Dan Hunt, Paul L. “PJ” McCann Jr, and John K. O’Toole.

It isn’t quite that simple, and none of the six candidates says it, but the thought is there on everyone’s mind. Most of the six worked actively in Marty Walsh’s mayor campaign; most of their supporters worked in it too. And if there really can’t be another Marty Walsh, these activists definitely want their new Representative to command attention as Walsh did.

Most of these 11,358 voters would like the new Representative to be, like Walsh, a people person; always there to help; to knock on doors and meet voters one to one; to hang out locally in a favorite cafe or other eatery; and, almost certainly, to be a Union member or, if not that, very attentive to Union Labor matters. They would like the new Representative’s priorities to mirror Walsh’s : curbing urban violence, helping schools to close the achievement gap, advocating “transparency” in governance.

I say “most of these voters” because the race is somewhat complicated by the presence in this District of Quincy’s Ward 3, Precinct 3 (the North Quincy T station area) and because in the November election 2,727 of the District’s Boston voters chose John Connolly. In a close race –and I think the result will be close — these odd-men out voters, who are not looking for the next Marty Walsh, could make the difference. If they vote at all.

But now it’s time to asses the six. Which of them fits the bill best ?

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^ very like Marty Walsh : Liam Curran

Most like Marty Walsh : Liam P. Curran. He has a union Labor background, grew up in Walsh’s Little House neighborhood and St. Margaret Parish, and even looks a lot like how Walsh appeared at the time of his first campaign 17 years ago.

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^ his campaign is picking up and so is his speaking : John K. Toole at last night’s Dorchester Board of Trade event

Best speaker : three of the six rate highly. Liam P. Curran spoke eloquently and in detail at his campaign kick-off last night. But John K. O’Toole also spoke passionately and in detail, about local aid funding, at the Dorchester Board of Trade B2B night. and Gene Gorman, at his kickoff two weeks ago, spoke eloquently about being “Dorchester by choice’; and knowledgeably about housing and school transformation issues.

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^ John Connolly-type appeal in a Marty Walsh District : “PJ” McCann at his campaign kick off

Biggest visible support : John K. O’Toole had over 250 supporters — he says 283 — at his campaign kick off last week. “P J” McCann drew well over 200 supporters, as well, to his kick off on Tuesday night.

Most political clout : (1 ) Dan Hunt. He’s chairman of the ward 16 Democratic committee, was a State House aide, worked a significant role in the Walsh Mayor campaign, and has the support of City Clerk (and former Dorchester City Councillor) Maureen Feeney as well as many other activists well known to the political community. He’s also the son of Jim Hunt, who has for over 40 years been a political and neighborhood activist in Dorchester’s Pope’s Hill section. (2) Liam P. Curran, as a lawyer, worked in Boston City government as an Assistant Corporation Counsel, and ‘s brother in law is Chief of staff to Boston city Council President Bill Linehan. (3) “PJ” McCann’s Dad is a veteran BRA executive.

Union Labor support : ( 1 ) Liam P. Curran is a Local 223 laborers Union member. ( 2 ) John K. O’Toole is a member of the Plumbers Union and has the support of Harry Brett, its long time business agent. (3) Tony Dang, an MBTA Police officer, is probably a memeber of one of the several MBTA Unions.

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^ enthusiasm of the Marty Walsh kind : Liam Curran mobbed by supporters at his campaign kick-off at. the Blarney stone last night

Most enthusiasm : of course all six candidates command enthusiastic support, or they couldn’t be running. But I was struck by the intensity of Liam Curran’s support at his kick off last night. He drew only about 130 people, but they cheered his speech loudly and constantly, spirited like the go-get-’em, sports-fan crowds that I saw at Marty Walsh’s events. And sure enough, Mayor Walsh’s brother was there, very visible and very much a fan.

Geography : Advantage to “PJ” McCann the only candidate with an address in the Ward 13 part of the District, its spiritual core and the home base for each of the District’s last five representatives. Four of the candidates live in Ward 16 and will likely split its admittedly large vote. Gene Gorman lives in the larger of the District’s two Ward 17 Precincts, the Melville park neighborhood close by Codman Square.

The race grows intense now. Door-knocking has been going on all month, through snow and extreme cold. Nobody is at all tired. If anything, the young people who are doing most of the grunt work are warming to the tasks ahead : house signs, house parties, stand outs, phone calls, meet and greets, more door knocking — after all, they did all this for Marty Walsh, and they have the can-do, will-do feel of confident winners.

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^ probably behind in numbers, but an eloquent “new Bostonian” : Gene Gorman at the harp & Bard two weeks ago

So who do I think it will be ? I’ve done no polls, knocked on no doors, but from what I have seen — and reported to you in this column — I rate the six in this order as of today :

1. Dan Hunt — he has clout and longevity; also, he started by far the earliest, and that matters
2. PJ McCann — he has Ward 13 next to his name and a great resume
3. John K. O’Toole — has run before and is well known, but he hasn’t Ward 16 to himself and also waited a long time to decide to run
4. Liam P. Curran — he is maybe too much like Marty Walsh to build his own identity; still, he has the spirit behind him, a well-connected brother in law, and it will surely be known that Walsh’s brother supports him (and Walsh’s Mom, as reported by Dorchester News journo Gin Dumcius). Curran can rise, maybe a lot.
5. Gene Gorman — he isn’t native to Dorchester and lives in a corner of the District
6. Tony Dang — is running a sticker campaign, almost an impossibility

There’s a lot beginning to happen in this race that everybody politically attuned is watching. In two weeks I will update this report.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : The presence of one Quincy voting precinct in the District boggles the mind. It’s also a very low turnout area. Of 1186 voters in the precinct, only 159 voted in Quincy’s Mayor election last year. Will even that few show up in this special election ? It’s absurd.

CORRECTION : An earlier version of ,my story identified Tony Dang as a Boston Police officer. He is in fact an MBTA Police officer.

OMG ! IN DORCHESTER : CARLOS HENRIQUEZ TO JAIL ; GENE GORMAN ON THE TRAIL

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^ not a good day for the 5th Suffolk’s Carlos Henriquez

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“OMG !” is how the website known as “buzzfeed” might put the big political news coming out of Dorchester yesterday. A jury in Medford found 5th Suffolk District Stater Representaive Carlos Henriquez guilty of two counts of assault and battery. After which the trial judge, Michele Hogan, sentenced Henriquez to two and a half years in the Middlesex House of Correction, six months to be served.

Henriquez was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, a photo seen by everyone who read today’s Globe or Herald.

I got the word via my twitter feed at about 3:00 PM. Immediately after came a report that Speaker Robert DeLeo requested Henriquez’s resignation; Governor Patrick and Mayor Walsh soon followed. Republican leaders repeated the call — eager to pile on. Would have been wiser had they said nothing.

Will Henriquez resign his office ? It looks simple, but it isn’t. The voters have a right to elect, even re-elect, a person convicted of a misdemeanor. My opinion is that Henriquez should do what his District’s voters want. If they want him to resign, resign. If they are OK with him representing him, no one else has any right to overstep things. I have not sampled opinion in his District, but Henriquez’s troubles have not gone unnoticed among the District’s activists, and he is sure to hear that many of them have had enough.

The many exchanges that I had with Henriquez during the recent Mayor campaign didn’t exactly inspire me. Before the primary, he was nowhere to be heard from; after Arroyo, Barros, and Golar-Richie endorsed Marty Walsh, however, and were joined by some others, Henriquez was suddenly an apostle for Walsh, furious in his intensity, all over twitter chanting Walsh’s praises, arguing at length with Connolly people whom he knew ; and almost all of what the suddenly converted Henriquez said was 100 percent standard Walsh talking point. Not one word from his own experience or observation of a man who, after all, was his state house colleague AND political neighbor. I did not exactly form a high impression of Henriquez’s perspicacity, or loyalty, or his ability to convince anyone of anything.

None of the above is a crime; and, truth be, it seems to me excessive to sentence to jail a man with no criminal record on a misdemeanor conviction. Probation is what we usually do, and rightly. We seek reformation, not retribution. Did Henriquez not receive the mediation that we accord most misdemeanor defendants because he is a legislator ?

That said, resignation seems likely; Speaker DeLeo will seek expulsion if Henriquez doesn’t resign. Of all the State representative openings that have occurred in Boston the past year — five so far, this would be a sixth ! — this one offers truly fascinating possibilities.

One : Charlotte Golar Richie once held this seat. Might she run for it again, regain the political currency that she lacked last year, and, with the backing of communities of color — who very much want a Mayor of color as soon as feasible — run against Walsh in 2017 ?

Two : John Barros also lives in the District and owns Cesaria, a very popular restaurant on Bowdoin Street. Might he run and win and then become a Mayor candidate in 2017 on the same grounds that I posited for Golar-Richie ?

As of 2011, the District included Ward 7 Precinct 10; Ward 8, Precincts 5 and 7; Ward 12, Precinct 6; Precincts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 of Ward 13; all of Ward 15 except precinct 6; and Ward 17, Precinct 2. It seems made for Barros.

Of course, momentous possibilities may not come to pass. Both Golar-Richie and Barros campaigned exhaustingly last year. Both have the ear of Mayor Walsh. Who could blame them for not running for yet another office to possibly no great result ? The District does not lack for ambitious new names who will surely run. But whoever does run and win, one fact of the 5th Suffolk district stands out : low voter participation. In its 18 precincts, only 6547 people voted in the Mayor election — about 31 to 33 % of the total registration. Compare that to turnouts of 50 to 80 % in precincts where Walsh or Connolly held a base. Whoever the new 5th Suffolk representative is, he or she should make it a priority to engage the 2/3 of voters who didn’t respond to last year’s intense mayor campaign.

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^ better news, right next door, in the 13th Suffolk ; candidate Gene Gorman greets his supporters in Savin Hill

Meanwhile, the Dorchester State Rep seat that Mayor Walsh resigned, next door to the 5th, has a special election on tap; there are — it seems — six candidates in the race, and I attended a reception for one of them, Gene Gorman. The Harp & Bard, scene of many Dorchester political “times,” was plenty full at 7.30 Pm as Gorman, a first time candidate, spoke to the almost 100 people assisting. “Why are we here ?” asked Gorman, “Because we’ve embraced this idea of city life for a lifetime. it’s an important decision. Dorchester by choice.”

Gorman recounted how he, a North Carolina native who now teaches at Emerson College, moved to Savin Hill, because he chose to; and how, a few years ago, he and his wife decided “we wanted a little more room and so we found a house on Melville Park — in Dorchester still.” There, he said proudly, he “served on the governing board of the Robert Frost innovation school. They wanted to close it down. We parents protested , they kept it open, and now it’s a Level One school, one of the strongest performing schools in the whole system !”

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^ solid friends in “Dot” : Gene Gorman embraced by Jim and Millie Rooney — at the Harp & Bard on Savin hill Avenue

Gorman spoke of “progress and transformation” — John Connolly’s theme; and, as Gorman is one of the “new Bostonians” who Connolly’s campaign so appealed to, I almost expected to hear that Gorman had been a supporter. But no; he had volunteered for “Marty,” wrote policy papers for him, and served on Walsh’s Housing task Force during the Transition. Gorman has now resigned that work, to concentrate on the campaign. Judging from last night’s turn out and his own command of the effort, Gorman seems a serious contender even in a field boasting several candidates with major local clout.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere