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Forry looks to continue public service as 1st Suffolk district senator

Peter Van Delft
Forry looks to continue public service as 1st Suffolk district senator
State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry.

State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry is the epitome of the “New Boston.”

The first generation Haitian American woman learned progressive politics in the early 1990s when she worked as a legislative aide for rising political star and then State Rep. Charlotte Golar-Richie, elected in 1994.  

While working constituent services, Forry learned about the multitude of issues confronting the residents of the 5th Suffolk District, everything from the need for affordable housing, health care and jobs to economic development and quality education.

Forry’s political education continued when Mayor Thomas Menino tapped Richie to run Boston’s housing department and Forry agreed to come along.   

The next thing anyone knew, Forry, a Democrat, had launched her own campaign for the state rep seat of the 12th Suffolk District. She was elected in 2005.

Having served the residents of the 12th Suffolk District — which includes the Town of Milton, and Boston’s Mattapan, Hyde Park and Dorchester — for the last eight years, Forry, 39, is now seeking the vacant state senate seat in the 1st Suffolk District that was left when Jack Hart of South Boston stepped down to take a job in the private sector earlier this year.

Also vying for the seat encompassing South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park are South Boston’s 4th Suffolk District Rep. Nick Collins, 30, and Maureen Dahill, 43, who is known for her local blog “Lost In Southie.”

The Special Election for the district seat is on April 30. On the Republican side is challenger Joseph Ureneck, a Dorchester businessman.

To some observers, Forry is an ideal candidate.

“She doesn’t look at people according to race or neighborhood, she looks at people regardless of race or religion and just sees people and the need,” said media and political strategist Joyce Ferriabough. “She’s part of a generation of folks who are really trying to engage in public service. I see her in the same way that I view [City Councilor At-Large] Ayanna Pressley and [District 2 City Council candidate] Suzanne Lee. They work past color barriers to serve people and it’s really refreshing to see that focus on public service rather than on political machinations.”

Bill Walczak, co-founder of the Codman Square Health Center and neighborhood activist, said he too is a Forry supporter. “She is very devoted to improving the lives of those in the community, she’s supportive of community programs and, when I ran the health center, she was a big supporter of them as well as community development.”

The community support is not surprising for Forry, who attended St. Kevin Grammar School, Monsignor Ryan Memorial High School and Boston College.

“I’ve also known her for probably 15 or 20 years — a long time — and I’ve found her to be a very honest and capable person with enthusiasm for the people she represents,” Walczak added. “She’s aligned with a lot of what I believe in with respect to government.”

The following are Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry’s views on a variety of issues:  

Housing:

I believe that housing is a critical component of strengthening our communities. As a State Representative for the past eight years, I’ve worked with families facing foreclosure and helped them to keep their homes, which is important because strong families make for strong communities.

I’ve worked on legislation and initiatives to prevent foreclosures and protect affordable housing for residents.

Healthcare:

I’m proud to say that in Massachusetts, about 94 percent of residents have health care. I supported the healthcare cost containment bill because it was imperative that we figure out how to bring down spiraling costs, and I sponsored an amendment that allows small businesses to save money by reducing their fair share assessments by not counting employees who already have qualifying insurance from another source. This is big, because it’s all about protecting our small businesses.

I’m also very proud of the establishment of the Food Policy Council, which I introduced and sponsored with Rep. Steve Kulik, because it supports local agriculture with food production, distribution and sale, and looks at ways that we can get healthier foods into our schools and communities.

Education:

Education is paramount — it’s everything. I’m a State Representative because my parents stressed education. Some of our schools do very well, but we need to improve the education system in the City of Boston. We need to tackle every component and not just elementary, middle and high schools but higher education as well.

In 2010, the Legislature worked on education reform and allowed the City of Boston to capture $250 million in federal funds for Race to The Top incentives for its 12 failing schools. I filed an amendment that allowed them to immediately access those funds.

Ultimately, though, we have to recognize that the burden can’t just fall on teachers. The community has to step up along with our elected officials and administration.

I support Gov. [Deval] Patrick’s initiative around community colleges to offer training that prepares people to go into the workforce.  We also need to cherish schools like the University of Massachusetts Boston, because they’ve done incredible work under Chancellor Keith Motley with the development of some of their state-of-the-art facilities.

Business And Economic Development :

It has been an honor to be House Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business for Speaker [Robert] DeLeo. Small businesses are the economic backbone of our state. When the recession came, they kept people employed. It was the big businesses that were laying people off. They’re also deeply connected to neighborhoods and communities. That’s why it was important for me to tackle the issue of healthcare costs that were choking small businesses and work to expand their access to capital and credit. We’re working on the final pieces of the “one-stop shop” for Massachusetts entrepreneurs and small business owners who are seeking out business counseling services or technical assistance but don’t have the time to come to us.  

Equal Marriage/Civil Rights:

When I came into office in the 2005 special election, I had the opportunity to support equal marriage, or civil rights, because that’s really what it is. I was happy to be able to take a vote to ensure the preservation of civil rights for all people regardless of their gender, race, age or sexual orientation and I will continue to do so in the state Senate.

Dorchester Seat vs. South Boston Seat:

First of all, the 1st Suffolk Senate seat does not belong to any one certain community. It is the seat of all of the people in the communities of Dorchester, South Boston, Mattapan and Hyde Park. I am going to represent all of the people of the district and I look forward to knocking on doors from South Boston, to Dorchester, to Mattapan and Hyde Park.

I’m a person who reaches across cultural, ethnic, religious and economic lines to build coalitions and partnerships. I want to strengthen public education and economic opportunity for everyone, not just some of the people. I want to work on issues like domestic violence and drug abuse in all of our neighborhoods, not just some of them.

I have 17 years in the public sector and I have relationships across the district. I’ve worked with Senator Jack Hart to bring resources to Mattapan and he’s worked with me to bring resources to South Boston. I look forward to traveling across the district and asking for the vote.