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Democratic caucuses kick off year of high-stakes campaigning

Three-way race for gubernatorial nod could drive higher turnout to yearly party meetings

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Democratic caucuses kick off year of high-stakes campaigning
Tony Barros and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano

Democratic Party activists entering the Ward 18 caucus in the Hyde Park Municipal Building Saturday ran a gauntlet of clipboard-bearing signature gatherers who allowed only a narrow corridor between the building’s front door and the auditorium.

Few could escape without giving at least one signature to nomination papers for one of the state’s three Democratic gubernatorial candidates, two candidates for secretary of state and various local legislative races.

Standing inside the auditorium, 7th U.S. Congressional District Rep. Michael Capuano shook hands with party activists, getting face time with residents of the most populous ward in the district — and in Boston.

“I’m here to shake hands and ask people for help,” said Capuano, who is facing a challenge from at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

Also seeking support were incumbent 14th Suffolk District Rep. Angelo Scaccia and challenger Segun Idowu, 4th Suffolk Rep. Nick Collins, who was seeking support for his candidacy for the 1st Suffolk Senate seat recently vacated by Linda Dorcena Forry, and 5th Suffolk Rep. Evandro Carvalho, who is mulling a run for the Senate seat. Other elected officials present included state Rep. Russell Holmes and at-large city councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu. Jimmy Tingle, a candidate for Lt. Governor, also attended the caucus.

Ward 18’s majority people of color electorate is in many ways representative of the city’s diverse electorate. The party faithful who turned out Saturday morning are the Mattapan/Hyde Park ward’s die-hard political junkies.

“We’re very active,” said Tony Barros, a special advisor to Mayor Martin Walsh. “We believe in the democratic process. It’s the cornerstone of the United States.”

“It’s big, it’s active, it’s diverse,” added Capuano. “That’s why I’m here.”

The purpose of the Democratic caucuses, which will be held throughout February and March, is to elect delegates to the June 2 Democratic Convention. Candidates for statewide office often secure commitments from delegates for support at the convention to obtain the party’s nomination.

Brandy Oakley chats with Rep. Nick Collins, who has announced his candidacy for the 1st Suffolk District Senate seat.

Democrats run a gauntlet of signature-gatherers as they enter the Hyde Park Municipal Building.

The race for the 7th

While the race for the 1st Suffolk State Senate District seat is still taking shape, Capuano and Pressley are already in the ring, having appeared on radio segments on WBUR to discuss their respective candidacies. The separate appearances did not constitute a debate, but Pressley made the case for taking on a Democratic incumbent in her interview with Radio Boston host Meghna Chakrabarti, saying she would bring a different perspective to the work of representing the district.

“Everyone has their own authentic and unique lens,” she said. “When you have issues that are being developed through a completely monolithic and homogenized prism, everyone suffers for that, because if we’re being honest, the issues that we are grappling with right now, although complex and persistent and growing … they’re not new. If the issues aren’t, the only thing we can change is the approach and the lens to how we take on those issues.”

In his interview, Capuano said Pressley hasn’t articulated any differences between her positions on key issues and his.

“Challengers have an obligation to distinguish themselves from the incumbent and Ms. Pressley will have that opportunity,” he said. “Let’s see what she’ll present to the voters on what she’ll do differently.”

The 1st Suffolk

Collins is, so far, the sole candidate who has declared in the race since Dorcena Forry left the Senate to join the private sector in January. While Carvalho says he’s mulling a run, Holmes has decided against throwing his hat in the ring as has Rep. Dan Cullinane. Former state Rep. Althea Garrison has also pulled papers for the race, according to the Dorchester Reporter. Garrison, who has run for various state and local offices in every election cycle since the 1980s, now has a shot at two seats. Should Pressley win in the 7th Congressional District, Garrison would ascend to the City Council, having placed 5th in last year’s four-slot at-large council race.

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