Lawton: Lack of representation, turnout has hurt Fifth Suffolk

By 
Letter to the Editor
Oct. 7, 2010

To the Editor:
The Boston Globe endorsement of state representative candidate Carlos Henriquez and last minute support from former state rep Marie St. Fleur during the September primary signal the continuation of a “tradition” the people of Dorchester and Roxbury can no longer afford. As the Globe opined, “he (Henriquez) will be the best candidate to continue the tradition of leadership from the Fifth Suffolk district.”

What leadership tradition is that, of leaving the district in the lurch by leaving for other jobs?
The geographic majority of the Fifth Suffolk clearly disagrees with the Globe’s assessment of what we need in new leadership, as I carried a majority of the district’s precincts.

The past two state representatives from this district have left office midterm, leaving the district unrepresented for the equivalent of two years. The last representative, Marie St. Fleur, resigned to take a $140,000 position with the City in June of this year, leaving the district without a voice in the House until January 2011, thus leaving us without an advocate at the height of critical budget and social legislation negotiations.

The loss of anti-gang, elder care, and a host of other resources have made our community more vulnerable than ever. St. Fleur’s absence during the CORI debate and other votes stayed true to her tradition, which includes compiling the worst attendance of any legislators during her ten year tenure, missing 22 percent of roll call votes, many of them from her own Committee on Ways and Means.

Not only was her legislative record poor, but the way she represented the political will of the district was equally disturbing. In 2008, when her district voted over 80 percent for Obama, she endorsed Hillary Clinton. In 2006, when Deval Patrick eventually garnered nearly 90 percent of votes locally, she chose to run against him as Lt. Gov. running mate of Tom Reilly.

The tradition of Marie St. Fleur, a charismatic personality, is one that can be likened to taxation without representation and not putting community first. This is a tradition more suited to be a bookmark in history rather than a blueprint for the future.

Does representation, and showing up to vote, and paying attention to the District’s needs, really matter?
You bet it does. Lack of attention to resources like anti-crime funding may be attributable to the recent spike in crime. The CORI reform legislation, which is very important to citizens of our community, came down to the wire in July. I was on Beacon Hill to advocate successfully for its passage. There was no elected state representative there for us to do so, and my opponent Mr. Henriquez was also absent from the scene and this debate.

Our district historically is the lowest voting in the state, and only 11 percent of voters showed up at the polls in September. Possibly the fact that their “leaders” have shown little interest in representing them is reflected in these abysmal numbers. Nonetheless, our people deserve much better. It is time to start a new tradition whereby the people have faith in, are excited about and committed to candidates who have faith in them, are excited about representing them, and are committed to them over the long haul. I have that faith, excitement, and commitment, and so that’s why I am continuing my “Community First” campaign and running in November.   

-Barry O. Lawton

The writer was a Democratic candidate for Fifth Suffolk district House seat in September and plans to run a write-in candidacy for the same seat on Nov. 2.