Black & Latino Caucus picks up new seats
More people of color now serving in House, Senate
For years, political pundits said Latino candidates couldn’t win a majority-Latino Massachusetts state Senate district in Hampden County, where Springfield candidates were often out-gunned by candidates from higher-turnout suburbs.
On Tuesday, Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez proved the pundits wrong, becoming the first Puerto Rican to win election to the Massachusetts state Senate. Gomez took out five-term incumbent Sen. James Welch in the Sept. 1 primary. There is no Republican candidate on the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.
“They said we couldn’t do it,” Gomez told the Banner Wednesday. “We came out and we did.”
Gomez’ victory and wins by two other legislative candidates of color will boost the ranks of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus from 13 to 15.
In the Mattapan-based 12th Suffolk District, former nonprofit director Brandy Fluker Oakley bested third-time candidate attorney Javon Lacet and attorney Stephanie Everett, who ran for the seat in 2013. She replaces Dan Cullinane, who was first elected to the seat in 2013. In Springfield, City Councilor Orlando Ramos prevailed in a three-way race for the 9th Hampden District seat soon to be vacated by Rep. Jose Tosado.
In the Holyoke-based 5th Hampden District, Rep. Aaron Vega did not run for re-election. Longtime aide Patricia Duffy prevailed in the Tuesday primary to replace him.
The Legislature’s Asian Caucus may see its ranks rise from five Asian-American members to seven, with the election of two Asian-American candidates. In Lowell, former governmental affairs specialist Vanna Howard, who was born in Cambodia, unseated 11-term incumbent David Nangle, who in February was indicted in federal court on 28 counts of fraud stemming from his alleged use of campaign funds to pay for gambling. In Somerville, Democratic Socialist Erica Uyterhoeven beat out Catia Sharp in the race for the 27th Middlesex seat soon to be vacated by Rep. Denise Provost.
This year’s election will bring the number of Latinos, Blacks and Asians in the State House to 22 out of total of 200 lawmakers.
“It’s been beneficial to keep adding more members of color to the State House,” said Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, chair of the Black and Latino caucus. “The Legislature needs to start reflecting the diversity in our state.”
Gonzalez said Gomez’ election to the Senate will go far in amplifying the concerns of Caucus members in the Senate.
“With the historical win in Springfield, we’re getting what we’ve been missing – more representation in the Senate.”
Gomez, a veteran community organizer, serves as vice president of the Springfield City Council, on which he is serving his third term. He said he looks forward to working on issues such as wealth and education gaps between higher- and lower-income communities in the state. He says that in many areas of Springfield, the median family income is just $12,000.
“We’re seeing a lot of food insecurity now,” he said.
Gonzalez said he expects to see Gomez and the other new Black and Latino legislators bring a new perspective to the Legislature.
“We’re excited about the new members, especially as we’re addressing police issues and health care policies,” he said. “We need people who can articulate the needs of the community from a personal perspective more than from an outside perspective.”