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Blacks, Latinos see gains in Democratic primary

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 and has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Blacks, Latinos see gains in Democratic primary
Campaign volunteers Bethany Serota and Jed Hresko chat at the Lewis School in Roxbury during the Sept. 9 primary. (Banner photo)

Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins and former City Councilor Felix D. Arroyo both handily won election to Sheriff and Register of Probate, Tompkins with 61 percent of the vote in a three-way race and Arroyo with 50 percent of the vote in a four-way race.

In a low-turnout primary, Tompkins’ 31,080 votes and Arroyo’s 27,802 were impressive figures for the candidates, both of whom are running for county government for the first time. Tompkins was appointed sheriff by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2013.

The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus has two new members. Jose Tosado, a former Springfield City Council member and mayoral candidate, prevailed in a three-way race for the 9th Hampden District seat, which opened up after incumbent Rep. Sean Curran declined to run for reelection.

In the 10th Hampden District seat, which opened after 15-year incumbent Cheryl Coakley Rivera announced she would not seek re-election, Carlos Gonzalez, president of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce, won with 42 percent of the vote against Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards and social worker Ivette Hernandez.

With the addition of the 9th Hampden seat, there are now seven Latinos in the Legislature. Of the six blacks in the Legislature, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry is Haitian American and Rep. Evandro Carvalho is Cape Verdean. Also in the Legislature, though not in the Black and Latino Caucus, is Cape Verdean-born Vinny deMacedo, a Republican, bringing the number of Cape Verdeans serving in the House to two for the first time. deMacedo is running for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Senate President Therese Murray.

While the House and Senate certainly have the most diverse memberships in their history, with three Asian American representatives, there are just 15 people of color serving out of 40 senators and 160 representatives. Despite the fact that nearly 20 percent of the state’s population is made up of people of color, just 7.5 percent of the seats in the Legislature are held by people of color.

In the current election cycle, black and Latino candidates made several unsuccessful attempts to win additional seats.

In the 2nd Essex and Middlesex Senate District, Lawrence School Committee member Pavel Payano won the Lawrence vote, but lost to former state Rep. Barbara L’Italien, who won the vote in Andover, Dracut and Tewksbury. Lower voter turnout in Lawrence undercut Payano’s spirited campaign, noted Massachusetts Latino Democratic Caucus Co-Chairwoman Ileana Cintron.

“When you look at voter turnout, you would expect Andover to win that seat, and that’s what happened,” she said. “Pavel would have had a chance if it were a state rep. seat.”

In the 12th Suffolk District Mattapan/Dorchester seat vacated by Dorcena Forry, Rep. Dan Cullinane won 67 percent of the vote, holding off challengers Corey Allen, Carlotta Williams and Ruthella Logan-Cruz. In the 2nd Suffolk East Boston/Chelsea seat, incumbent Dan Ryan held off a challenge by business owner and former Chelsea City Councilor Roy Avellaneda with 67 percent of the vote.

Cintron said the challenges, successful and unsuccessful, are a good sign for black and Latino candidates.

“I think our campaigns got more sophisticated,” she said. “Not all candidates win their first time out. They’re building their base of support and building resources to make things happen.”

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