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Linda Dorcena Forry for state senate

Melvin B. Miller

How times change. Until recently, the first senatorial district was considered to be the exclusive property of politicians from South Boston. William Bulger established that reputation during his reign from 1970 to 1996. In 1978, Bulger was elected president of the Senate, a post which he held until his retirement. With such power on Beacon Hill, Bulger was able to establish the First District as the base of Gaelic politics in the state.

Jack Hart, who was senator from the first district from 2002-2013, has left for greener pastures. Perhaps Boston’s demographic shift that has eroded the stability of that power base inspired his professional decision. Now, Linda Dorcena Forry, a state representative of Haitian descent, has stepped forward to claim the first district for a broader ethnic constituency. In addition to South Boston and Dorchester, the redrawn district now also includes parts of Mattapan and Hyde Park.

Two others from the old Southie base have also entered the race — Nick Collins, a 30-year-old state representative and Maureen Dahill — who makes much of identifying herself as a fourth generation Southie resident. So the issue for the voters is whether they prefer to reach out for the new demographics or sink back into the old ways.

A politician usually provides special attention to his base. With Forry as the senator from the First District, this will be the first time in several generations that the interests of blacks, Asians and Latinos assume the status of political priorities. And that is appropriate, since only about 19 percent of the residents of the First District live in Southie.

A graduate of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and a member of the House of Representatives since 2005, Forry is the most experienced and the most qualified of those seeking to represent the district in the 40-member state Senate. Astute residents will vote for Linda Forry on Tuesday, April 30.

Vote on Tuesday, April 30

Special elections do not provide an extensive period of time for the candidates to mount a major campaign. As a consequence, the results can often be surprising.

In January 2010, there was an election to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died in office. Much to everyone’s surprise, Republican state Sen. Scott Brown defeated the state Attorney General, Martha Coakley. Since Massachusetts is a vibrantly blue state and there has been no Republican senator since Edward W. Brooke in 1972, voters assumed a slam dunk victory for Coakley.

Fortunately for Democrats, Kennedy’s term expired on Jan. 3, 2013, so Brown had to run for re-election in the November 2012 presidential race. Brown was then defeated by the political novice Elizabeth Warren, an ardent Democrat. However, it is not clear that liberal voters have really learned about the danger of paying too little attention to any election.

On Tuesday, April 30, there will be a primary election for Democratic and Republican candidates to vie for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry when he resigned to become the U.S. Secretary of State. Congressman Ed Markey of Malden and Steve Lynch of Boston are competing to be the Democratic candidate. Experience in the Coakley vs. Brown race indicates that the Democratic nominee should be the one with the greatest ability to keep Democrats from defecting to the Republicans.

Markey was first elected to Congress in 1976 and is the longest-serving member of the Massachusetts delegation. He is a political progressive and has a national reputation as a guardian of the environment. With 37 years in office, Markey has more than three times Lynch’s seniority.

Rep. Markey provides greater assurance of an ultimate Democratic victory.