Upham's Corner Online

Linda Dorcena Forry - New Image - 1st Suffolk District in Boston

Linda Dorcena ForryWhile 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.

Since 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 "Buzz"

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 still disappointed.

The image 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?

Ward 16 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."

In other 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, compassionate.

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 "we can."

And maybe, 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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