only a primary contest, the three-way race for the Democratic candidate
for 1st Suffolk State Senator highlighted the traditional racial, turf
and gender positions that have determined election outcomes for the
past 40 to 60 years. This time, however, new faces, new voters and new
ideas swept aside the decades of "what used to work to get me elected."
Linda Dorcena Forry's surprise victory over the two South Boston
candidates, Nick Collins and Maureen Dahill, resulted from several
factors including redistricting, a changing South Boston population,
the dominance of Dorchester in the district and a general change in
mindset among the younger voters.
1940, the 1st Suffolk State Senate position has been held by white men
from South Boston: John E Powers (1940 to 1964), William Bulger (1971
to 1996), Stephen Lynch (1996 to 2001) and Jack Hart (2002 to 2012).
The Mass Numbers Blog for April 4
suggested that history gave Nick Collins the strong advantage because
"the last three winners ... were State Representatives from South
Boston." However, they pointed out that the distribution of Democratic
voters in the 1st Suffolk has changed. The impetus in the voting
population has shifted from South Boston to Dorchester. "Only 20% of
the Democratic votes .. are likely to come from South Boston" while
Dorchester and Mattapan "are likely to support Linda Dorcena Forry."
The intense commitment to supporting Ms. Forry is illustrated by a
young woman of color who came in to vote on Tuesday, April 30. "Where
is the Linda Dorcena Forry ballot?" she asked, looking almost petrified
that it could be missing. She and her sister, she explained, were
adamant about voting for Linda. A call into election headquarters
answered the question (non-1st-Suffolk precinct) but the resident was
to take away from this vignette is the sense of empowerment and hope
expressed by the young voter. What about Linda Dorcena Forry is
creating the "buzz?" Is it her reputation for reaching out, being
inclusive and effecting a working compromise? Is it her Haitian
American status in the face of so much controversy over immigration? Is
it her dark skin color? Is it because she is female, the mother of four
young children? Is it her interracial marriage?
which includes Fields Corner needs to be won by the candidate, at least
that is the tradition and the belief. Nick Collins won that Ward but
not the election. Some of the strongly white Dorchester wards went to
Nick Collins but the strategy of winning white districts / precincts
was clearly not sufficient. As Joyce Ferriabough, political consultant,
said in an interview with Chris Lovett on Network Neighborhood News,
"Although Nick Collins carried Southie and the white sections of
Dorchester, the black vote totally overcame the white areas."
New Voters - New Ideas
Christ Lovett's analysis
identified "rising turnouts among people of color casting ballots for
Governor Deval Patrick and President Obama. Over the same period,
higher voter participation has also been noticeable in this population
even in city elections."
words, voting in two presidential elections has helped establish a new
custom and a new sense for some that voting is important. This custom has tramslated
into a surge of voters who the traditional voting populations
have never had to contend with. The once sleepy, disinterested and
effectively disenfranchised voters (may) see
Linda Dorcena Forry as someone who is more like themselves than not and
an inspirational role model - capable, endearing, inclusive,
Voter apathy in the United States is a problem for the proper
functioning of our democracy. Giving voters the prospect that
their vote can make a difference is exciting. The young voter
described above, so committed to her candidate, may have done that
because of color, race, gender, capability or the possibility that the
"old South Boston Boys Network" would be broken. The people who
voted for Ms. Forry were not just people of color or females but people
of white, men and those aspiring to bring transparency and
accountability to our city.
Surely Linda appealed to specific ethnic and racial groups, but her stature
and skills take her well beyond the stereotypes of race and gender to
the shepherding role of a public servant. Hopefully, she will be
elected and will represent all.
Congratulations to Linda Dorcena Forry. Yes, the race is not yet won,
but with luck and hard work, she will bring the people of the 1st
Suffolk District together as one. Whether we wear the Democratic banner or
not, we can trust her to unite our community under a Boston version of
as Boston's population continues to move into its "minority majority"
status, Linda's win will be a sign of Mayoral change, if not in this
election, then the next.
|Posted: May 2, 2013 Nancy J Conrad
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