Only token opponents for St. Fleur, Hart

A pair of perennial candidates will challenge two of Dorchester's most powerful incumbent lawmakers this fall in a sleepy state election cycle that will likely benefit from a huge turnout for the presidential showdown in November.

Marie St. Fleur, a state representative since 1999 and vice-chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, was re-elected to the Fifth Suffolk seat with a roaring 84 percent in 2006. Now, she will gear up for another re-election campaign and for a familiar challenger, Roy Owens, in the Democratic primary in September.

Even as rumors swirl that she might exit public life, St. Fleur said she's "not going anywhere" and plans to serve out her term if re-elected. "That is my intention," she said. "Who knows where life takes me, but that is my intention."

Asked if she was entertaining any job offers, St. Fleur pointed to her work on the state budget. "I've been too busy," she said.

"I love the Fifth Suffolk," she said, but added she did not come to the seat to "stay in politics forever."

Owens, who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on Boston City Council in a crowded race in 2005 and against St. Fleur in 2006, could not be reached for comment.

A year-end report for 2007 showed an ending balance of $12,330 in St. Fleur's campaign account. She promised a "vigorous" campaign.

"I think it's healthy to have a race," she said.

St. Fleur pointed to a $3 million increase to $5 million for the After School and Out-of-School Time program grant in the state budget, after she co-chaired a special commission on after school programs.

The House also unanimously last week passed a bill putting the state towards universal pre-kindergarten education. The House and Senate had passed a similar bill in 2006, but then-Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed it after the Legislature adjourned for the year, preventing lawmakers from attempting an override. "I'm proud of that," St. Fleur said of the bills new prospects.

St. Fleur also pointed to $100,000 each for the Kit Clark Adult Day Health and Memory Loss Program for seniors and their families and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute for services to families of homicide victims.

State Reps. Marty Walsh, Linda Dorcena Forry, and Gloria Fox - who all head to August's Democratic National Convention in Denver - and Brian Wallace do not have opponents. Republicans did not file to contest any local seats.

Freshman Rep. Willie Mae Allen, who won a competitive race to replace longtime State Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks in the Sixth Suffolk in 2006, will also face a Democratic challenger, Faustina Gabriel. Neither Allen or Gabriel, who lists a Callender Street address as her residence, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Sen. Jack Hart is facing former state Rep. Althea Garrison, a perennial candidate who is running as an independent. Garrison, who lives in the Dudley Street area near Uphams Corner, served one term as the delegate for the Fifth Suffolk. She has run in nearly every city and state election since she was unseated from her House seat in 1994.

Sen. Dianne Wilkerson will go up against Sonia Chang-Diaz in the September's Democratic primary, with the winner facing William Theodore Leonard of the Socialist Workers Party in November.

Chang-Diaz, a former schoolteacher from Jamaica Plain, waged a write-in campaign in 2006 after Wilkerson did not submit enough valid signatures for her to run. Wilkerson later prevailed in a write-in campaign.