5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : “A VICTORY FOR THE COMMUNITY”

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^ a victory for the community : Evandro Carvalho with John Barros

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Last night the Special Election to choose a new State Representative for a District badly needing a strong one was won by Evandro C. Carvalho. He defeated three other candidates, drawing almost 50 % of the total vote. it was impressive win for the young, former assistant District attorney in his first ever run for elected office.

The numbers (courtesy of local activist Jed Hresko) were: Evandro Carvalho, 960 votes; Karen Charles-Peterson, 521 votes; Barry O. Lawton, 190 votes; Jennifer Johnson, 151 votes; Roy Owens, 89 votes; 46 write-ins and one blank. total ballots cast : 1,957.

The turnout wasn’t as small as my informants had surmised, nor quite as large as my guesstimate. It was barely one-quarter a large as the District’s vote total in last year’s mayor campaign. That said, Carvalho’s numbers, in this context, look even stronger than the raw total. They tell the story of this race : it was, as John Barros said at the victory celebration, “a victory for the community.”

By which he meant, first of all, Boston’s Cape Verdean community. It was he, John Barros, who in last year’s Mayor election, energized and focused Boston’s Cape Verdeans into a serious voting bloc. A community, however, already existed and has grown ever stronger in time — much of that strength drawn from the response by area mothers to the tragic feud that has seen several shooting deaths, among them three members of Isaura Mendes’s family.

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^ “we won !” : Isaura Mendes with Carvalho’s grand-dad, who voted yesterday for the first time as a citizen

On Tuesday, Isaura Mendes, who heads the Bobby Mendes Peace Legacy — named for her son — was a precinct leader, door-knocking in Ward 7 Precinct 10, which Carvalho won by 109, to 25 for Charles-Peterson and 11 for Jen Johnson. It was beautiful to see her face, trouble-lined, smiling fiercely as she announced her precinct “We won ! We won !”

Mendes wasn’t the only person happy at Carvalho headquarters. Hugs abounded, cheers, smiles, tears. It had the feel of a sports victory, a win for Team Carvalho. And beyond that.

Carvalho won the Cape Verdean precincts overwhelmingly. I took the count at the strongest of them, Ward 8 Precinct 5 — Dudley Street from St Patrick’s Chiurch toward Harrison Avenue. There, a steady stream of voters showed up and gave Carvalho 156 votes to Charles-Peterson’s 19 and Jen Johnson’s 2.

The defeated candidates conceded; two of them came to the celebration and embraced the winner. Register of Probate candidates Felix Arroyo and Marty Keogh both chipped in. District Councillor Frank Baker was there. So was State representative Dan Cullinane. And John Barros, at whose Cesaria restaurant the victory was toasted to.

For me, the Carvalho victory was a win for John Barros too — without the 2,071 votes that he gathered, from the District’ 19 precincts in last year’s Mayor campaign, and the effort needed to win them, last night’s result would surely have been different. I told him so. But Barros was having none of it. “it was a victory for the community,” he told me — and said it again in his speech.

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^ The Community at Cesaria

He was right.

For the first time, Boston’s Cape Verdean community has an elected voice — much needed.

And what of the people of the 5th District who are not Cape Verdean ? I saw few of these at Carvalho’s gathering or in his headquarters. Before this campaign began, his name was surely almost unknown to people not of Cape Verdean ancestry. That’s no longer true at all — victory cures all obscure-ness — but there is much talk that Carlo Henriquez, whose expulsion from the House occasioned this election, will seek his old seat back, and soon.

Can he win it ? If the answer lay primarily with the District’s non-Cape Verdean voters, it would be very doable. But my own feeling is that Carvalho’s win is the worst case scenario for a Henriquez comeback. Carvalho’s vote really was a community one. The community is his now, and it will not be denied or broken — and the vote turnout will only increase now that Cape Verdeans know they have something to hold on to. The future of the 5th District is his to lose.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : FOUR VISIONS AT CANDIDATES FORUM

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^ 4 visions 4 : from Left : Evandro C. Carvalho; Karen Charles-Peterson; Jennifer Johnson; Barry Lawton. (a fifth candidate, Roy Owens, did not participate in the Forum)

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Yesterday afternoon voters of the 5th District had this campaign’s only opportunity to see, on one platform answering questions, four of the five candidates who seek to represent them. About 100 of the District’s residents showed up. There was plenty of enthusiasm among them — which was a good thing, because every one of the four needs to up his or her speaking craft.

That’s OK; I don’t expect candidates for State Representative, in a special election hurriedly called after the February 5th expulsion of Carlos Henriquez following his domestic violence conviction, to be silver tongued orators or think tank masters. This was a neighborhood event, and its candidates sounded like neighbors.

Moderated diligently by Boston Neighborhood News’s Chris Lovett, all four candidates — Evandro C. Carvalho, Karen Charles-Peterson, Jennifer Johnson, and Barry Lawton — managed to give Forum attendees a pretty fair impression of who they are, why they are running, and what they are likely to work on as the District’s State House representative. Still, all had some difficulty focusing on State legislation matters rather than concerns more appropriate for a City Councillor.

This was true even of Barry Lawton, who in his opening remarks said “i am the only candidate on this stage who has written legislation” — which he likely did as a staffer to former State Representative Royal Bolling, Jr. — but then proceeded not to mention even one piece of legislation that he would sponsor if elected. Lawton did have plenty to say, however, about vacant city lots, jobs, and his long experience as an activist.

Evandro C. Carvalho did make at least one potential legislative point — to include expansion of vocational education in state school reform bills — but, curiously, given his history as a Suffolk County prosecutor of gun crimes, failed to mention the very detailed gun control legislation now before the legislature’s Public safety committee.

In fairness to Carvalho, neither did any of the other three candidates mention, much less discuss, this legislation. it was a curious omission considering the urgency, in neighborhoods of the 5th District, of curbing gun violence.

Karen Charles-Peterson at first spoke in the quiet voiced generalities that anyone who heard her chief political backer, Charlotte Golar-Richie, during lat year’s mayor election is quite familiar with. But half way through the Forum she suddenly became a different Peterson. She had sat; now she stood up. as Barry Lawton spoke loudly, with hand gestures like a preacher, so now did  Charles-Peterson. She ended strongly, announcing that “I will take all 40,000 residents of this District with me to the State House” and “I will give everyone my personal cell phone number, call me any time.” Charles-Peterson also discussed aid for the small businesses that string the length of Bowdoin and Hancock Streets, in the center of the District. that said, neither she nor any of the four, except Jennifer Johnson, uttered the place name “Uphams Corner” — despite its being the major crossroads of the District.

And now I come to Jennifer Johnson. Ostensibly she’s an unlikely candidate ; Caucasian in a District largely of color and an authentic issues voice among candidates unclear about which issues matter, and in what way, to a legislator. Johnson’s far from  being the polished, focused speaker she will need to be if she’s to make issues heard and understood; but she spoke in some detail about the formal, even bureaucratic, task that small businesses face as they seek loans; about how and why business development matters to a District among the lowest income of all; about how to frame affordable housing agreements with developers; about raising the minimum wage (strangely, this initiative, so vital to the District, was hardly mentioned by the other three candidates)and, most fascinating of all, about technology : connecting technology enterprises to the District and to schools, and the District to technology jobs.

Johnson could easily have delivered her remarks to the chamber of commerce or a Business round table. Odd it felt to hear a 5th District candidate talking enterprise and cutting edge innovation. But why not ? She called herself a  “Kennedy liberal,” a phrase as attuned to business success as to social justice. Would it be too much a reach to say that the two reinforce each other ? (It was shrewd of Johnson to talk so much about business. Business development was John Barros’s signature, and by talking it, Johnson sought to take up the banner of a man who was given 2,071 votes — first place — from the District in last year’s mayor race.)

There was plenty of applause for Johnson, and for Charles-Peterson; but the day’s noise prize was won by Carvalho, who, with John Barros unavailable, has picked up the banner of Boston’s Cape Verdean community. It dominates the 5th District, and if Carvalho spoke softly, seemed to be thinking out loud, and often rambled, he could afford to do so; his vote is energized and likely will be the largest bloc on the April 1st Primary day. Alone of the four, his vision seems to be : who i am. Or to phrase it another way, If I win, all Cape Verdeans win.

At the Forum, it worked. And though I think that the District’s Cape Verdeans could as well as any other District residents use the technology advocacy that Johnson would surely put in play, getting to that may well take much more time than the one week that remains for voters to consider who best can be their political clout — to the City or at the State House. Nor will there be another Forum to help them. Yesterday was it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : THE RACE BEGINS ON AN AMBUSH MOMENT

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^ “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.

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^ citizen reformer : Jen Johnson at the Ward 14 caucus

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^ 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

5TH SUFFOLK SPECIAL ELECTION : IT’S UPHAMS CORNER TIME

Image ^ the heart and soul of the 5th Suffolk District : Uphams Corner, where Dudley and Stoughton Streets meet Columbia Road  —- —- —-

It’s sad that the 5th Suffolk State Representative District should draw attention only because of the ouster of Carlos Henriquez. Uphams Corner, Bowdoin-Geneva, Meeting House Hill, Cherry Valley, Jones Hill, and Stanwood Street-Lawrence Avenue need a strong voice, an elite voice; none needs disgrace and expulsion. Million dollar homes do exist in the “5th,” on Jones Hill in particular; but most of the District’s neighborhoods are only now emerging — some not yet — from decades of blight, poverty, and urban violence. The 13th District, which borders the 5th to the East, is about to elect a new Representative who from Day one will have big clout on Beacon Hill. The 2nd District, Charlestown and Chelsea, seems ready to do the same.

Will voters of the 5th follow suit ? Will they even have the opportunity ? So far four candidates have made the decision. Evandro C. Carvalho, a local activist — we used to call them “citizen” — moved first. Then Jenny Johnson, who lives hard by Ronan Park on Meeting House Hill. Karen Charles-Peterson, of WGBH, has joined them. Today, even as I write, Barry Lawton has entered the list. (Lawton ran in 2010, losing to Carlos Henriquez.) Of the four, only Charles-Peterson was already known to me (and I knew her before I joined WGBH’s correspondent team). Even she is known chiefly to citizens; the general voting public, not so much.

Three of the four reside in Ward 15. John Barros, who ran for Mayor and wowed many with his articulation and knowledge, lives in the Uphams Corner heart of the District. He would have been exactly the All-Star voice the District’s all too overlooked voters need; but no sooner had his possible candidacy become general talk than Mayor Walsh claimed him to be Boston’s Chief of economic Development. As such, Barros will earn more than twice as much as a State Representative; and Barros may well need the money. Same could be said for just about every voter of the 5th District. Image ^ first in, and maybe the man : Evandro C. Carvalho

Image distinguished and active : Karen Charles-Peterson

1 Barry Lawton

^ almost won  the Democratic Primary 4 years ago : Barry Lawton is running again

Somehow the current 5th District contenders fall short of what this District needs. I may be wrong to think so; not one have I met in person as of yet. All may well merit prominence, respect, votes. But this District needs more than supposition.

Charles-Peterson, by her connection to WGBH, and married to Kevin Peterson, one of Boston’s most visible leaders on civil rights and Black community issues, might claim the “more” that the 5th needs. But for me, the heart and soul of the 5th is Uphams Corner, whence, decades ago, then state Representative Jim Hart oversaw recovery of the Strand theater — once vacant and derelict — and the creation of Jones Hill, as a neighborhood and a community. (Disclosure : I worked in Hart’s Columbia Road office as a go-fer.) Not since Hart has Uphams Corner been home to an elected State House voice. It needs be again. Uphams Corner is the crossroads of Cape Verdean Dorchester, old Irish Dorchester, Black community Dorchester. Uphams Corner is home to banks, insurance offices, funeral homes, restaurants, traffic. (My goodness yes, traffic.) To each side of Uphams Corner sit gorgeous Victorian homes — take a look at Chamblet Street some day, upper Hartford Street, or Virginia Street, Wendover Street, Cushing Avenue.) The people who own these homes toady are not poor or unmortgage-able, as all area home-owners were, back in the day. The people of Uphams Corner can fund much innovation and many centers of activity. At the Bird Street Community Center they already do.

1 Strand Theater No Uphams Corner person has yet stepped up, and, chatting with my old Jim Hart office mate Linda Webster (who now runs Pacific insurance), she could think of no local thinking of the race. I hope she’s wrong. Really, really I am hoping to see an Uphams Corner candidate step forward and claim the 5th Suffolk District with a new Boston vision of diversity, innovation, reform, and attention — of the right kind. Let the light of tomorrow shine — now !

 

UPDATE 02.19.14 8 PM : at an important community meeting, at the Strand theater jn Uphams Corner, not one of the four announced candidates in the upcoming Special election appeared. Not one.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere Image