To be fair, there is no telling how well or poorly Wilkerson would have done with her sticker campaign during this year’s general election. Her recent arrest and the ensuing backlash, both in the State House and among the city’s black clergy, rendered that question moot.
More important, this wasn’t the first time that Wilkerson had been in trouble. And while the black community is quick to forgive, it’s also slow to forget.
In fact, Wilkerson said as much in 2006 when she announced her decision to seek another term.
“Mine has not always been an easy passage,” she said in a prepared statement. “I suspect there are times when you winced a time or two at an article or story regarding some aspect of my very public life … To all of you, I say that I am sorry for any action of mine that has led you to question my judgment, or the respect I have for the residents of the Second Suffolk District. …
“I cannot and will not promise that I will never make a mistake again,” she continued. “What I do promise you is that I will continue to serve you with all the energy and resolve that the Almighty has given me.”
That mea culpa came on the heels of a slew of charges involving campaign finance violations.
Two months later, Wilkerson dealt out another mea culpa.
“I suspect many of you,” she said, “even my most diehard supporters, must have shaken your heads … ”
Those campaign finance problems followed nearly a decade of similar allegations of mismanagement of political funds and personal finances.
The most serious problem occurred in 1997, when she was sentenced to serve six months’ house detention and required to pay a $2,000 fine after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor charges for failing to pay federal income taxes.
At yet another mea culpa press conference, Wilkerson came clean on her failure to file her tax forms.
“Every time I’ve spoken about this,” she said at the time, “I’ve said I’m not making excuses for what I did. I don’t want anyone to make any excuses for me. There is no legal excuse. …”
But then Wilkerson started making excuses.
In explaining her financial circumstances, Wilkerson told reporters that the bulk of the $52,000 she originally owed in back federal taxes came from 1991 and 1992, when she was faced with unexpected expenses.
She said she spent about $15,000 a year on personal security measures, including the installation of an alarm system in her apartment after receiving a death threat on New Year’s Eve in 1990.
On top of all of that, she explained, she had to take care of her niece and nephew.
“I exhausted every financial resource I had,” she said. “I’m not telling you this as an excuse. There was never a day that went by when I didn’t think about how I would come up with the money. …”
Of course, that’s an exaggeration.
She did find time to attach seven amendments to a state Senate bill that created business opportunities for minority and women business owners in the $800 million new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center project.
At the time, Wilkerson said she thought the idea of having minority business owners working with those from South Boston was a good thing.
“These are both working-class neighborhoods,” she said. “We have a lot in common. This project will help bring us together.”
That didn’t necessarily happen.
Nor did building on the noble intentions of creating the Second Suffolk.
Nevertheless, the days of Wilkerson the Politician are over. That was made clear on Monday, when the beleaguered former state senator appeared at her former office in the State House.
Senate President Therese Murray quickly acted to put an end to such visits.
“We understood from her attorney that she would give advance notice to finish going through her files and would do so on weekends so as not to be disruptive,” Murray said in a promptly issued statement. “No one was aware she was coming to the State House today. In response, the [Second] Suffolk District office and its staff will be moved to a satellite office. Room 312-C will be locked by the end of the day.”