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Candidates press for votes in 5th Suffolk

Tavares, Worrell, Garrison vying for seat to be vacated by Miranda

Anna Lamb
Candidates press for votes in 5th Suffolk
Christopher Worrell (left) and Danielson Tavares COURTESY PHOTOS

With less than two months before the September primary, two leading candidates continue to compete to replace outgoing state Rep. Liz Miranda in the 5th Suffolk District seat.

BPDA Assistant Director of Diversity and Equity Christopher Worrell and former Boston Chief Diversity Officer Danielson “Donny” Tavares are competing against perennial candidate Althea Garrison for the seat, which includes precincts in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Worrell, the younger brother of recently elected district 4 city councilor Brian Worrell, is a Dorchester native with more than a decade of experience in local government. He has held several positions including director of constituent services for state Sen. Nick Collins, community engagement manager for the City of Boston and most recently the assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

He boasts local connections, as well as his work on equity projects including affordable housing along the Fairmount T line.

“I’ve done this work all my life,” Worrell said in a conversation with the Banner. “it’s not about the politics, it’s about the people and working with the people to gain real results for this community.”

In addition to affordable housing, Worrell said he is actually prioritizing affordable home ownership opportunities, mental and public health in the district, and immigrant rights.

Worrell said he’s been relying heavily on his family in the district, and is using his brother’s campaign manager Chelsea Jones. He added that he has a team of 30-40 volunteers hard at work knocking doors and making calls. Claiming his team has already made at least a twice over of the district — Worrell has an ambitious goal of knocking every door himself before election day.

“I want to personally talk to everyone in this district, and let them know that I’m running,” he said, adding that he wants to hear all their suggestions on making the district better.

Worrell’s ambitious outreach is coupled with another goal of his — to drive up the vote by informing people of their right to do so and register folks who aren’t already registered.

He said the 5th Suffolk has some of the has the lowest voter turnout in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“One thing that we’ve done while knocking on doors and getting to meet people, and in passing, is registering them to vote.”

Worrell said his team has registered nearly 80 voters who were either formerly incarcerated and unaware of their ability to cast ballots, or others unregistered for various reasons.

Tavares also brings a wealth of political experience to the race having worked at Dorchester drug court right out of UMass before becoming a legislative aide and then holding positions in the administration of former mayor Martin Walsh. Tavares, under Walsh, served as a special assistant to the mayor and as deputy chief operating officer, before his most recent role as chief diversity officer.

Tavares, the youngest of 6, moved to Boston from Cape Verde when he was 2 years old –– into the 5th Suffolk which is home to a large population of Cape Verdeans.

As with his opponent, he supports affordable housing and pathways to homeownership, access to quality education, and economic development. During a conversation with the Banner he pointed to increases in diverse hirings under his watch in city government.

“I’ve had a track record of having done the work, I have a track record of success. And I have a track record of understanding the mechanisms of government to actually be able to get things done,” Tavares said.

He leads the pack in fundraising with about $30,000 on hand compared to Worrell who has just under $14,000 as of this month. Garrison has loaned her campaign more than $3,000. Tavares said he’s used those funds to bring on a staff of 4 and that his team also includes over 100 volunteers.

Tavares said he’s knocked over 16,000 doors so far, and made over 6,000 phone calls.

“I think that that’s what it’s going to take to win this race,” he said. Continuing to engage residents and continuing to offer solutions to issues that we care about as a community.”

Edward Cook, co-chair of the Ward 15 Democratic Committee, which endorsed Tavares, said that in the next few months, name recognition will prove to be an important element in winning.

Worrell, with his brother’s success, has an advantage in that sense and has in turn used the political capital to gain endorsements from sitting city councilors Julia Mejia and Ruthzee Louijuene, former Mayor Kim Kaney and Senator Lydia Edwards.

Asked about what influence his brother’s win has on this election, Worrell said, “I hope people recognize the work that he’s put in knowing that that same work ethic, that same constituent services outcomes that he’s been doing, that good work he’s been doing is coming to the 5th Suffolk. They’re going to get that times two now.”

Tavares has raked in his own share of endorsements on top of the Ward 15 Committee, including the Boston Teachers Union and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

“I think our community is not looking for outside influence to tell us who is the best candidate for this race, but really put it in the hands of everyday residents,” Tavares said. 

Cook said the next few months will come down to a strong ground game, fundraising, and social media campaigns.

“And I think, hard work on the part of the candidates,” he said.