Culpepper jumps into Second Suffolk Senate race

Miniard Culpepper, the pastor of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury, this week kicked off his campaign for the Second Suffolk Senate seat, which opened up after Sonia Chang-Diaz launched a 2022 run for governor.
Screenshot from campaign video

Miniard Culpepper, the pastor of Roxbury’s Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church and a former official with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on Tuesday tossed his hat into the ring for the Second Suffolk Senate seat.

The seat will open this year as Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, seeks to run for governor.

The Second Suffolk already has two candidates: State Reps. Liz Miranda and Nika Elugardo. Dianne Wilkerson, who once held the same seat 14 years ago, previously told the Reporter she was weighing another run, but she has not responded to requests for comment.

Culpepper retired in February from his job as HUD regional counsel. He held his state Senate campaign kickoff in Grove Hall, close to where he worked as a teenager in his grandfather’s shoe store.

“I am a lawyer who follows the law and a minister who follows the Lord,” Culpepper said in a campaign launch video. “Now it’s time to become a lawmaker who works for the people of the Second Suffolk Senate district.”

Before he was at HUD, he worked for Congresswoman Cardiss Collins of Illinois and was active in Democratic Party politics, helping on voter turnout for the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The Seaver Street resident lives in the house across the street from Franklin Park and once owned by his grandparents, who fought to become the first Black residents on the block.

Attendees at his campaign launch included former state Rep. Royal Bolling, Jr., whose late father held the seat in the 1980s; Rev. Gregory Groover, pastor of Charles Street AME Church and a former Boston School Committee member; and Andrea Swain, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Roxbury, among others. Juan Marcelino, a securities lawyer, is serving as the chairman and finance director for Culpepper’s Senate run.

“I will offer bold solutions to build affordable housing and expand homeownership,” Culpepper said. “Now’s the time to take that fight, that leadership, that experience to Beacon Hill.”

Chang-Diaz has held the seat since 2009, after she defeated Wilkerson in a Democratic primary. With all the candidates registered as Democrats, the September primary will likely determine who wins the November general election and gets sworn into office in January.

The district includes Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Mission Hill, Roslindale, Roxbury and the South End, though state lawmakers recently redrew the district as part of the decennial redistricting process. Under the new lines, Black voters in Mattapan and Hyde Park were shifted into the district, while parts of Jamaica Plain and South End were cut out.

Now, nearly half of the population in the district is Black.

City’s first Black deputy police superintendent dies at 78
William “Billy” Celester, the city’s first Black deputy superintendent who later went on to serve as director of police in the New Jersey city of Newark, died on Monday, Feb. 21, due to heart complications. He was 78.

A Boston native who grew up in Madison Park, Celester would go from being part of a gang of teenagers to becoming a top law enforcement official.

In between, he worked as a sandblaster in the Charlestown Navy Yard. He was recruited to join the Boston Police Department in 1965 as part of an effort to diversify the force, which had 30 Black officers out of 2,800 cops.

He was appointed deputy superintendent at Roxbury’s Area B-2 station under Mayor Ray Flynn in 1979. He also co-founded the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO).

Celester left Massachusetts in 1991 to take the police director job in Newark. In 1996, he was sentenced to two years in prison for taking nearly $30,000 from police accounts, allegedly using the money for vacations and gifts for his girlfriend. He later returned to Massachusetts and unsuccessfully ran for state representative.

Wake and funeral services are scheduled for Sunday, March 6, at Mattapan’s Morningstar Baptist Church. His family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to MAMLEO, which is based in Dorchester.

Caucuses underway, Wards 13 and 18 this weekend

Democratic caucuses are underway across the state, both in-person and virtually, to elect delegates and alternates to the 2022 Democratic Convention in Worcester.

Wards 13 and 18 are set for Saturday, March 5. Ward 13 (Columbia Point, Savin Hill and Roxbury) meets at noon, while Ward 18 (Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roslindale) meets at 10 a.m. Ward 13 is virtual, while Ward 18 is in-person at 1179 River St., with a virtual option.

Ward 14, which includes Dorchester and Mattapan, is scheduled for March 12 at 1 p.m. It is in-person with a virtual option at The Guild, located at 260 Washington Street.

Dorchester and Mattapan’s other wards have already met and elected their respective delegates. The last day of caucuses, which have been underway since Feb. 2, is March 12.

The convention is set for June 3 to June 4, at Worcester’s DCU Center.

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