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All politics is local: gov. candidates take back seat in caucuses

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
All politics is local: gov. candidates take back seat in caucuses
Ward 9 Democratic Committee member Aaron Jones makes his pitch to fellow Democrats in his bid to be elected a delegate to the state convention. Delegates to the convention vote for the party’s nominee for governor and other constitutional offices.

As can be expected in a year with multiple candidates running for open seats for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer, the recent Democratic caucus meetings were packed with political activists seeking signatures and support for candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and attorney general.

But at Dorchester’s Ward 15 caucus, in spite of an appearance by gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem, it was local races that took precedence.

Of course, with vacant House seats of former state representatives Marty Walsh and Carlos Henriquez, Ward 15 activists have more immediate concerns than the June Massachusetts Democratic Convention.

“There’s a lot of discussion about how our district will be represented,” said Ward 15 Committee member Joel Wool. “There’s more focus on how we move our community forward.”

Henriquez, who is currently serving six months in prison for an assault conviction, was expelled from the House last week, leaving his district without representation.

Ward 15 committee members sent House Speaker Robert DeLeo a letter last month asking him to schedule a special election for the 5th Suffolk District.

“We can’t not have representation in the district until January,” said committee member Davida Andelman. “There’s too much going on.”

Andelman cited the budget process and important votes on issues including a minimum wage increase.

“We need to have representation,” she said. “This is a very active caucus.”

House Speaker DeLeo set a special election for the 5th Suffolk seat for April 29, with a primary date of April 1.

The winning candidate for that seat will have to compete in the November election to hold onto the seat. Nomination papers will be due at the city’s Election Department by April 29.

Although he was sentenced to six months jail time, Henriquez himself might very well be released, with good behavior, as soon as April 15, giving him two weeks to collect signatures for the November election, should he decide to run.

Even with the special election, it will likely be impossible for the district to have representation during the budget process, which usually ends in June.

Several candidates are rumored to be considering a run for the 5th Suffolk seat.

One is Karen Charles, a chief of staff at the state’s Department of Telecom and Cable. Charles, who sits on the Ward 15 committee, says she is strongly considering a run.

“I’ve lived in the 5th Suffolk District pretty much all my life,” she told the Banner. “The representation we’ve had has been great at times and not so great at times. I would like to bring a level of respect back to the district.”

And Jennifer Johnson, a sales professional and also a member of the Ward 15 committee, says she’s weighing a run.

“I’m exploring the matter,” she said. “I’m talking to my friends.”

Another candidate sources say is considering a run, Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Evandro Carvalho, could not be reached for comment by the Banner’s press deadline.

In the race for the 13th Suffolk District House seat vacated by Mayor Walsh, five Democrats are competing for votes: labor attorney Liam Curran, school activist Gene Gorman, attorney P.J. McCann, government worker Dan Hunt and John O’Toole, who most recently ran for the District 3 City Council seat currently held by Frank Baker.

MBTA Police Officer Tony Dang is running a write-in campaign for the seat.

The Ward 15 committee did not reach consensus on an endorsement in the 13th Suffolk District race.

This year’s two special elections come on the heels of two special elections last year — the race to fill the 1st Suffolk Senate seat vacated by Jack Hart and another to fill the 12th Suffolk House seat vacated by Linda Dorcena Forry.

With House races on the immediate horizon, Ward 15 committee members had little to say about candidates for governor and the other constitutional offices.

Delegates elected at Democratic ward committee meetings this month will go to the party’s annual convention in June to vote on the party’s nominees for statewide office. Each candidate must secure 15 percent of the delegates’ votes to secure a spot on the ballot in the September primary.

While in past years, gubernatorial candidates like Deval Patrick were able to mobilize scores of Democratic activists to run for delegate seats on their local committees, most of the delegates elected in caucuses across the city Saturday were undecided.

“I think people want to align themselves with the best candidates who will have the best chance at beating the Republican nominee,” said Ward 9 committee member and delegate Aaron Jones. “I haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate the candidates. As we move closer to the convention, hopefully their differences will stand out.”

At Ward 9, most candidates said they were uncommitted in the races for constitutional offices. At Ward 15, candidates for the committee’s eight delegate slots did not say who they would support during the convention.

“Nobody asked anyone who was running who they were supporting,” said committee member Judy Meredith.