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

BOSTON POLS : CAUCUS — WARD 20 ; AMBITION — 5TH SUFFOLK

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^basic democracy : Democratic state chairman Tom McGee of Lynn instructs West Roxbury’s ward 20 caucus

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There may be secret money in the Big Picture, but at the small level where actual people live, vote, and run for office, the money doesn’t taint. Whether it’s caucusing in West Roxbury or manoeuvering a run for State Representative in Dorchester, you find politics basic, the real deal, activism for its own sake. So it was, this morning at Boston Ward 20’s Democratic Party caucus, attended by almost 200 people. So it has been the past two days, since the House expelled Carlos Henriquez, leaving the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat vacant awaiting seekers.

But first, the caucus. I chose Ward 20’s because it is Boston’s biggest voting ward; many were sure to attend to elect 29 delegates to the Democratic convention. The caucus met in the community room at West Roxbury’s Police Station. Attendees and candidate volunteers filled every nook — the hallway too. The State Party chairman was there, Tom McGee of Lynn; so were two competing slates of delegates, a Don Berwick group led by Helen Bello — who hosted the huge Berwick house party that I wrote about recently — and a Juliette Kayyem list led by an old friend, Paul Nevins, an employment lawyer. A group of independent names was nominated too, well known people sure to draw votes on name alone; and attendees voted as much for names they knew as for any slate; there wasn’t at all the structure that I had expected of this meeting. It seemed as much a meet and greet as an election.

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^ Ward 20 state Representative Ed Coppinger discusses matters with Here and Sphere follower Michelle Von Vogler

There was voting, but mostly there was conversation as faces familiar or new worked the room. State Senator Mike Rush was there, as was West Roxbury State Representative Ed Coppinger. Governor candidate Martha Coakley worked the room for about 20 minutes, then left. District Attorney Dan Conley shook hands. So did Congressman Steve Lynch. Old friends Carole White (Kevin White’s sister in law) and Marilyn LaRosa were elected; I noticed Helen Greaney in the room and Greg Haugh also — two other Haugh’s sought election as delegates — and Ann Murphy, still glamorous as ever, now working as an aide to Mike Rush. A couple of Boston Teachers Union activists signed in — but I did not see Ward 20’s biggest BTU name, Ed Doherty — and people from both the Connolly and Walsh mayor campaigns.

Circulating as well were four who ran last year for City Council : local resident Marty Keogh, Jack Kelly, and winners Steve Murphy and Michelle Wu. It was a “good hit,” as pols say of an event well worth being seen at.

UPDATE ON DELEGATES ELECTED : Thanks to Rob for posting to me the entire list, mostly of the usual Ward 20 activists (including two Haugh’s and a BTU active, City Council candidate Marty Keogh, a Marty Walsh cabinet member — Alejandra St. Guillen — and at least one State Employee) and two Don Berwick delegates. Take a look :

Female Delegates:
Alyssa Ordway – 75 votes
Carole White – 74
Ann Cushing – 71
Cathy Fumara – 68
Helen Haugh – 68
Diana Orthman – 68
Marilyn LaRosa – 65
Patricia Malone – 65
Anita Salmu – 65
Margaret Sullivan – 63
Josiane Martinez – 60
Alejandra St. Guillen – 59
Sue Anderson – 58
Heather Bello – 26
Hema Kailasam – 21
Jennifer McGoldrick (Alternate)
Pamela Keogh (Alternate)

Male Delegates:
Robert Orthman – 69 votes
David Isberg – 66
Steve Smith – 66
Marty Keogh – 65
Bill Smith – 64
Kevin Walsh – 64
Bill MacGregor – 63
George Donahue – 62
Joe Haugh – 60
John Fumara – 59
Leo Connell – 58
Tom Hanktankis – 58
Patrick Murray – 58
Larry Connolly – 56
Bob Tumposky – 56

(UPDATED 02/09/14 at 10.45 AM)

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And now to the 5th Suffolk District, in Dorchester, where the expulsion of Carlos Henriquez has left a gaping hole…

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will he be the first Uphams Corner state Rep since Jim Hart 40 years ago ? John Barros may become a candidate in the 5th Suffolk special election… But so might the woman pictured below, Karen Charles of the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood :

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The 5th Suffolk State Representative seat in the Massachusetts House won’t be vacant for long. Already the hungry are circling, impatient, guessing and out-guessing. The big news is that John Barros, who ran for mayor last year and impressed many, is seriously considering a run. Barros lives in the heart of the District, owns a successful restaurant in it,. and would be an elite voice for 40,000 people very much in need of one. Barros is not, however, the only notable who is thinking publicly about running. There’s also Karen Charles, who works at WGBH (full disclosure : WGBH’s Peter Kadzis was my editor at the Boston Phoenix and remains a friend professionally and personally), and who, with her husband Kevin Peterson, an NAACP activist, make a formidable team of articulate reformers and who are said to be close to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who once represented the 5th Suffolk, still lives in it, and who was, like Barros, a candidate in last year’s Mayor campaign.

In that Mayor campaign, Barros won 2,072 votes in the 5th District’s 20 precincts; Golar-Richie won 1,465. Barros thus starts with a 600 vote advantage. That isn’t the entire story, though, Felix Arroyo won 570 votes in the District; and Carlos Henriquez, of Hispanic origin like Arroyo, is said to intend running again to reclaim his seat. Even if he does not run, the 570 Arroyo votes seem up for grabs, not to mention the 313 won by Charles Yancey and the 495 won by John Connolly. (Marty Walsh’s 640 votes might split between Barros and a Golar-Richie-backed candidate, as both she and Barros helped Walsh win the Final).

That said, Barros certainly would enter the race as the favorite no matter who else decides to run — including Henriquez himself. The two men are said to be close friends as well as political allies, and some speculate that if Henriquez runs — and he probably will — Barros will not. We shall see. Whatever the case may happen, this is a District that badly needs an A-list voice. It has always had a working-class majority even in the days, not too long ago, when much of it was Roxbury Red Raider country. The “5th” includes the entire Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, one of Boston’s most impacted by gang violence; a stretch of Blue Hill Avenue that Red Raiders knew as “Cherry Valley,” once almost entirely blighted but, of late, enjoying the beginnings of a resurgence (as anyone familiar with local hot-spot Merengue Restaurant knows); Upham’s Corner and half of Jones Hill (where I had my first adult job, working as go-fer to state Rep. Jim Hart); and, of Roxbury, the north side of Dudley Side from Hibernian Hall eastward, all the way past the Governor Shirley mansion to and including “the Prairie” ball field (where Red Raider teams played Park League baseball and football). None of the district is high-income; not much of it is middle-income. Everyone benefits from having an eloquent and respected voice in the legislature, but the people of the 5th Suffolk would benefit more than most.

There will be a special election to fill the vacancy. It will be called soon — the date of it as yet unknown but probably early May. It will be a short campaign, a local effort, politics at its most basic and not much different from that Ward 20 caucus that I attended this morning. More voters to reach, yes, but not much more structure. It also looks now to be the most attention-getting time that the 40,000 people of the “5th” have gained in many, many years if ever. Let the democracy of it begin.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere