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 SPECIAL ELECTION : EVANDRO CARVALHO

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^ 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

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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