^ Team Carvalho. Evandro is second from left in back row.

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Of the four candidates seeking votes on April 1st, a mere 16 days from now, Evandro Carvalho may be the most traditional. He is of Cape Verdean lineage and, in a field with three candidates who are not Cape Verdean, hopes that his lineage will push him to the top. This is ethnic politics as it used to be.

It’s a feasible, even sensible, plan, because the 5th Suffolk District includes almost all of Boston’s Cape Verdean voters. They vote. In last year’s Mayor Primary, John F. Barros — Cape Verdean and a resident of the District –captured 2,071 votes within the 5th Suffolk’s precincts. He finished first of the then twelve Mayor hopefuls, almost 600 votes ahead of number two, Charlotte Golar-Richie, and 1300 ahead of Felix G. Arroyo, who finished third.

I interviewed Carvalho by telephone and then next day visited him at his Bowdoin Street headquarters. There, hard at work with laptops, voter lists, and canvassing packets were his field staff and his parents. Carvalho was on his way to door-knock, with his campaign aide alongside, and so I couldn’t supplement the phone interview — in which Carvalho told me of his work as an Assistant Suffolk county District Attorney — working for District Attorney Dan Conley — posted to the Roxbury District Court. There he prosecuted gun crimes — certainly one of the 5th District’s major concerns. As his hand out card adds, “there he saw first hand the cycles of poverty and violence that put our young men and women in the system” —  he means the criminal justice system. It’s what all the 5th District’s candidates talk about, and it is real. The 5th’s Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood is one of Boston’s most violent.

Carvalho could make a fair case for electing him based on his prosecutorial experience alone, but he spends more time talking to me about education. “I am for universal pre-kindergarten,” he affirms, but is not “sure what to do about the charter cap. We have to keep funding the Boston Public Schools, and we need more of vocational career schools.” Schools funding is an issue that galvanized last year’s Mayor election and will certainly commit a large chunk of the 5th District Representative’s work on Beacon Hill.

He also supports raising the minimum wage to $ 11.00 an hour and wants to see a jobs and development initiative in the District — he’s glad to welcome such an initiative to Dudley Square, which lies just outside the 5th Suffolk, if as some reports have it, the initiative actually happens. But just as important are “more construction jobs within our community, and we just have to make it easier for people within the community to get access to loans, perhaps in partnership with the City.” The loans he has in mind are business loans, a major need throughout the 5th Suffolk, most of whose commercial streets feature only Mom and Pop store fronts of no great prosperity.

This is an issue which he certainly will be able to discuss — probably already has — with John Barros, who now serves as Mayor Walsh’s Chief of Business Development. Carvalho never comes out and says so, but one of his strongest appeals is to the Cape Verdean solidarity that centers on Barros, a local hero.

Carvalho doesn’t know yet which House Committees he’d like to serve on. He’s completely focused on getting elected. Can he ? The votes are there to make it happen, if they vote on April 1st. One advantage Carvalho definitely has : his votes are going to be his even if, as expected, expelled Representative Carlos Henriquez runs again in September once he’s out of jail. Henriquez commands a following that feels he got a raw deal. But Henriquez is not Cape Verdean. The votes that Carvalho gets will be his no matter what. He seems likely not to be just a temporary office holder.

This might just seal the deal for Carvalho, who as a prosecutor is the opposite of the man he seeks to replace

. —- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




On Tuesday I had the opportunity to interview Jen Johnson, one of the four candidates seeking to hold the State Representative seat from which Carlos Henriquez was ousted by vote of the House.

Johnson and I met at an eatery in Uphams Corner, which for me is the central crossroads of a district that grab-bags several neighborhoods of Boston that don’t get much attention from the powers that be or from the media — including stretches of Blue Hill Avenue, the north side of Dudley Street, the Stanwood Street area along Columbia Road, and Bowdoin-Geneva. Johnson sees the district in pretty much those terms and vows that she will be a voice for a district that needs just about everything.

One thing, the district already has : diversity. This, Johnson likes. “The diversity, I find wonderful,” she says. “we have to find a way to maintain it.” First priority ? “Public safety,” she says. “So many people living in poverty. 40 percent of the district’s families.”

And how to change that, as a State Representative ? “I look to bring my   training programs and entrepreneurship,” Johnson says. “More training programs; it supports jobs. We n  a liveable wage. So many people in the 5th hold three and four jobs right now just to make ends meet. And no, no separate wage for teenagers. Many teenagers in my district are already hears of families.”

Johnson supports the minimum wage increase legislation — to $ 11.00 an hour by 2016 — that now awaits House action. She also wants it to apply to tipped workers — waiters and waitresses and such — whose minimum wage is now $ 2.63 an hour (and who often have to bring a Labor Board complaint to get paid even that.) She also supports senator Elizabeth warren’s legislation to bar employers from accessing job applicants’ credit histories and using it as an employment criterion. “we need to do something similar here on the State level,” she says.

CORI reform and sentencing reform are also high on her list of things to voice at the State House. “Too many kids in my district have a couple of years in a gang and then end up in jail and now have a CORI,’ she says. “Yes, sociopaths need to be off the street, but most kids who pass in and out of a gang aren’t that. Prison should be the last resort.”

Johnson is no stranger to prisoner issues. “rom 2002 to 2005 I helped co-ordinate a Pen New England program for prisoners. It was eye opening to see how many of these (foster home) young men ended up in prison. One young man i knew was in 55 foster homes between ages 9 and 15.”

On public school funding, Johnson supports a policy that’s been pushed for at least three decades but has never been fully implemented : school pupil spending equity. “We spend 16,000 per pupil here in Boston, but in places like Wellesley and Needham it’s 23,000. So of course their schools do better. we should be treating all children the same.”

But school funding in Massachusetts has a long, long history of total local control. So how would Johnson reach her pupil spending equity goal ? “Take the money we save by sentencing reform and use it for schools,” she says. I point out to her that the State budget can’t be flexed that simply. She admits that it’;s a difficult problem but insists that a way must be found. “Teachers tell me all the time about the money they have to pay out of their own pocket for necessary supplies like books,” says Johnson. “We just HAVE to figure out a way to get prison money over to the school system !”

Johnson grew up in Saint Tammany Parish, Louisiana, on the north bank of lake Pontchartrain. She came to Massachusetts 25 years ago and almost immediately became an activist. She worked for Mass PIRG, then Share Group. More recently she’s done sales for venerable medical book publisher John Wiley and Sons but is campaigning full time now.

Johnson supported Felix G. Arroyo in last year’s mayor election and has the support, this time, of ward 15’s Judy Meredith, a key and longtime social justice and labor issues activist who also supported Arroyo. Johnson also has a full time campaign manager and a full campaign schedule.

If elected, Johnson would like to be assigned to the Committee on business and economic Development, also Judiciary and the committee that oversees Public health and welfare. Climate change also engages her time. After all, her District, albeit hilly, is part of Boston, a city in which much of the Downtown core will be under water if predictions come true. “There is going to be tremendous dislocation,” Johnson says. “How are we going to be prepared when 25 to 30 percent of Boston will be under water ; will we make Boston like Venice ?”

Johnson is making the rounds of community meetings and plans to take part in the First Parish candidates’ Forum to be held on Sunday, March 23d. The Primary takes place just nine days later.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ “Henriquez intends to run in September” : State Rep Russell Holmes tells his ward 14 caucus

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There we all were, yesterday, at the Ward 14 Democratic caucus, at the Joseph Lee School on Talbot Avenue, two 5th Suffolk Special Election candidates among us, Jen Johnson and Barry Lawton, because one large precinct of ward 14 is in the District. Having listened to bushels of candidates plunk for votes; we were all about to call it a day, have cookies and a drink and socialize; when, completely unannounced, the caucus chair, State Representative Russell Holmes, decided to change the subject completely.

“We in the House had other options than to expel Carlos Henriquez,” he said — not that anyone in the room had asked him about that event, which took place almost a month prior; “I felt that censure was the right option.

And then came the ambush.

“When he ran in 2012 after the indictment, he had opponents in the primary. One got 40 votes, the other got 60. In the final, his opponent got 2000 votes, Carlos got 9000.” He continued : “I spoke to Carlos last week, he can’t run now, but he intends to run in September.”

So much for the candidates standing there, guests, in Holmes’s caucus. And for the voters of the 5th Suffolk who are now being aked to choose a successor to the disgraced Henriquez.

Why Holmes, who represents the 6th Suffolk District, bordering the 5th Suffolk on its west, chose to belittle both the Special Election and the candidates running it, I will not guess. He didn’t give any motive. Is it in any way his affair whom the voters of a District not his choose to be their State house voice ? Granted that Holmes has a right to an opinion and to express it; still, there are ways to do that and ways not to do it. If either Jen Johnson or Barry Lawton, present at the caucus, win the District’s vote on April 29th, Holmes will have some fences to mend. He’ll have fences to mend as well if the seat is won by Evandro Carvalho or Karen Charles-Peterson, the other two candidates. It won’t be easy to mend those fences if Holmes remains committed to seeing them defeated by Henriquez in the September Primary.

But the human soul works in ways beyond any man’s control; by what he said, Holmes has now given voters of the 5th District a fighting reason to come out in big numbers to choose their own voice, not Holmes’s; and to send Henriquez a message too, that his time has passed, September or no September.

My reporting of the 5th Suffolk District’s special election will continue, and it will expand. Several District events portend; I will attend many and hope there to converse with Charles-Petersen and Carvalho.


^ citizen reformer : Jen Johnson at the Ward 14 caucus


^ eloquence and State House “cred” : Barry Lawton addressing the ward 14 caucus

For now, I’ll just add two observations, from conversing with candidates Johnson and Lawton yesterday: Lawton is an eloquent speaker with an impressive State House, staff resume. He knows the turf and would be able to give his extremely diverse, mostly low-income voters some serious clout. Jen Johnson is a soft-spoken, citizen reformer — “environmental activist,” she described herself speaking to the caucus-goers — with an engaging personality and much idealism of a kind usuallly found in upper-income suburbs, not low-income urban districts. As easily as Lawton would meld with the House’s leadership, Johnson seems likely to join the House’s Progressive caucus. I like both her and Lawton a lot. (Disclosure : I know Johnson, having met her last year at a house-party for then Mayor candidate Felix G. Arroyo.)

As for the Henriquez matter : Holmes having brought it up, my own state Rep, John Keenan of Salem, told me, when I asked him, that the house felt that it had to make a sitting member’s domestic violence conviction — leading to a jail sentence — an expulsion offense; that the credibility of the body, with women voters, was at stake. We take domestioc violence crimes very, very seriously, he said.

The vote was 146 to 5. Not exactly a close call.

Was the vote a race thing, as some Henriquez supporters have asserted ? You can’t prove that by the House vote. Not one Hispanic House member voted “No.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


^ “impaired judgment” ? the 5th Suffolk’s Carlos Henriquez addressing the Massachusetts house during debate on expelling him

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Not very often do you see a Legislature vote to expel a member. It hasn’t happened in Massachusetts since the late 1970s, when State Senator Joseph DiCarlo was booted for taking bribes. I well remember that day. DiCarlo was a boisterous, dominant presence, the Senate’s majority leader. His crime was a felony, a high crime by any legislature’s definition. Expelling him was a big deal, a giant of politics crashing and burning.

In contrast, yesterdays 146 to 5 vote — to accept the House Ethics Committee’s unanimous resolution to expel the 5th Suffolk District’s Carlos Henriquez — seemed like small potatoes. Yes, his conviction on two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery on a woman was serious. He should have resigned. Had he any concern for the well-being of his 40,000 constituents, many of them needing a full-time legislative voice, he WOULD have resigned. Of this affair he has made many statements. He is innocent, he says — again and again. Not once has he grasped that that isn’t the point ; that the point is his 40,000 constituents. Not once, in his “I am innocent” statement on the floor of the house yesterday did he address a bigger picture. Indeed, he had the temerity to say that domestic violence is a serious crime and cannot be tolerated !

Having delivered this message, he then walked out of the House, an insult to every member and, I suppose, intended as such.

Debate on the Ethics Resolution — H. 3894 — lasted more than an hour. Speaker DeLeo, on whose complaint the Ethics Committee was acting — seemed ready to let his members speak as long as they liked. Several did. Most supported the committee recommendation, some sadly, a few angrily. Over the top was Malden’s Chris Fallon, who shouted his disapproval of domestic violence, very much the candidate — as he is — seeking a state Senate seat, the one vacated by newly elected Congresswowman Katherine Clark.


^ cogently arguing for censure, not expulsion : Russell Holmes of the 6th Suffolk District

Representative Russell Holmes, of the 6th Suffolk District bordering Henriquez’s 5th, offered an amendment to the Ethics Committee’s resolution. He asked that the House censure Henriquez, not expel him. Holmes’s amendment made two strong points : that with parole, Henriquez will be out of jail by mid April, well before a special election to replace him occurs; and that his crime did not explicitly violate the House Rules and thus could not warrant expulsion.


^ “this is a sad day for us all, i don;t enjoy this task at all” : Ethics Committee Acting  Chairman David Nangle of Lowell

The Ethics Committee’s finding, that Henriquez had violated Rule 16A, which addresses a member’s impaired judgment, did seem strained. Arguing the point, Reps. Garrett Bradley and David Nangle (acting Ethics Chairman) asserted that, being convicted of a crime of domestic violence, Henriquez’s ability to judge domestic violence legislation was impaired. Really ? if anything, his judgment on such legislation has probably become more acute. As for Henriquez being free of jail by mid-April, Bradley and Nangle argued that that was not the point; that Henriquez is quite free to seek re-election to his seat and to be allowed to take his seat if elected.

They’re right on this. It has happened in other legislatures, including Congress.

Yet even if the Ethics Committee’s Rule 16A argument stretched things, there was a general sense in the House that Henriquez no longer had any credibility to address domestic violence matters and that, by his continued insistence on innocence and not resigning, Henriquez had impaired his own judgment on the matter. Representative Ted Speliotis of Danvers voiced the feelings of many when he noted that, by walking out before the end of debate, Henriquez had insulted the “institution.”

No one, not even Russell Holmes, argued with the Ethics Committee’s finding that domestic violence is a serious matter and cannot be taken lightly by the House. Accepting this argument, the House now deems expulsion no longer limited to felonies; that a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence is full grounds for expelling a member. As Representative Bradley said, “we’ve never faced this situation before, this is a case of first impression.”

But to return to Russell Holmes’s amendment : it was defeated with only 10 members voting “Yes.” Among the Yeas were Representatives Gloria Fox, Byron Rushing, Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Holmes himself, Benjamin Swan, John Rogers, and Angelo Scaccia.

Holmes himself said that Henriquez should have resigned. Little wonder that the actual expulsion vote was even more one sided. Voting not to expel were only Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Gloria Fox, Benjamin Swan and, after some hesitation, Holmes too.

A special election for the 5th Suffolk District has been called.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ 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.


^ 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 !”


^ 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