After Forry resignation, successors mull vacated Senate seat

Former state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry’s sudden resignation to join a prominent development company left a scramble in her wake. Prospective candidates are gearing up for a lightning-quick special election campaign to fill the First Suffolk Senate seat she has vacated.

Candidates have until Feb. 20 to deliver 300 verified signatures to the Boston Elections Commission for nomination papers. The special election primary is scheduled for April 3, with a May 1 final election date.

According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, May 1 is also the deadline to submit nomination papers for the general district elections this coming fall, though special election candidates in the heavily Democratic district will know by the primary if they need to seek re-election.

Familiar names are already being floated, including the bulk of the South Boston and Dorchester delegation in the House.

State Rep. Nick Collins, of South Boston, is expected to again seek the post that Forry narrowly won in running against him in 2013. In a statement, Collins said he and his wife, Olivia, are focused right now on their newborn first child. “We have discussed our future plans, and will make a final decision soon,” he said.

“While I'm happy for Linda professionally, I will miss the close partnership we have built,” Collins said. She has, he said, “epitomized what a public servant should be and what is right in government. She is a highly effective leader and her decision leaves a huge void in the Senate.”

State Rep. Dan Cullinane, who serves swaths of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Milton, said he is “giving very serious consideration” to seeking the seat. He served as Forry as her state Senate field director in 2013 and followed in her footsteps by winning election to the 12th Suffolk District as representative. In a statement, he congratulated Forry on her new post at Suffolk Construction.

Also on the “seriously considering” list is state Rep. Evandro Carvalho, who told the Reporter on Tuesday night that he is giving thought to pursuing the seat. “I have to consider it for the benefit of the community that we represent,” he said. The Cape Verdean immigrant and Dorchester resident joined the House in 2014.

“To a certain extent, as a result of Linda Dorcena Forry leaving, it means someone has to come in and pick up where she left off,” Carvalho said. He highlighted her symbolic role as a representative of communities of color as well as her district, and expressed optimism that her election heralded a process for a city that has often struggled to elevate voices of color to political positions.

Diverse voices in the Senate are vital, said former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur.

Forry’s departure is “going be a big loss,” she. Fleur said. “I’m glad Sonia Chang-Diaz is there. I’m sad she’s alone. People of African descent have to be part of the conversation, the discussion. Our problems may sound the same, but the way they play in our communities are very different.”

For those wondering if politically seasoned women of color might step into the special election, St. Fleur and Charlotte Golar Richie, the former state representative under whom Forry worked as a staffer, said on Wednesday that they are not interested in seeking the seat. 

St. Fleur said she dislikes the idea of “recycling people” in lieu of “new points of view, new ways of looking at issues."

Added Golar-Richie: “The district needs a leader who is going to be smart and honest and hard-working. Also someone who’s committed to representing all the neighborhoods. I do think that the district offers a unique opportunity for someone who is interested in unity and interested in bringing people together in trying to really roll up their sleeves to tackle some challenging issues."

St. Fleur he said she hopes state Rep. Russell Holmes of Mattapan and Carvalho will consider running. She did wonder, however, “all things being equal, I’m not certain the ramp-up time is enough to overcome people who ran in the past.”

Institutional and financial advantages are always a factor in election campaigns.

A late entry in the “maybe” category is Erin Murphy, a Boston schoolteacher and former “Mayor” of Dorchester — a ceremonial role — who said on Facebook that she is considering running for the First Suffolk seat. 

According to filings as of late January, Collins is sitting on a nest egg of $131,420, Cullinane at $19,450, Carvalho at $23,209, and Holmes at $263.

A few names rumored in the days following Forry’s announcement are already out of contention: John Barros, the city’s economic development chief, said he plans to stay in City Hall. City Councillor At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George considered a run, but said “I believe firmly that my work on the Boston City Council, representing all the voters who recently re-elected me needs to remain my focus.”

Forry has said she does not plan to endorse a successor in the special election.

As to the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, that annual gathering of political jousting, greenery, and belting Irish ditties?

Forry’s election upset the longstanding pattern of a South Boston Irish-American host — the case since the 1940s — and she caused a stir by standing firm against the old guard who were displeased by the prospect of a Haitian-American taking the post. The sitting senator generally hosts the breakfast and Forry insisted on carrying on that tradition. She has presided over the ceremonies since her initial election.

She told the Reporter on Monday that “this is a tradition that is important,” and “we are working on locking down a host.”

A name floated by many is an old hand at hosting the breakfast and widely regarded as a consistent bright spot in the festivities — US Congressman Stephen Lynch. But no concrete decisions have been made, aside from an overwhelming consensus that no one should host the breakfast to gain a competitive political advantage.

Reporter Correspondent Maddie Kilgannon contributed to this report.


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