Mattapan voters disprove myth about city’s communities of color and turnout counts

By 
By Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor and Manolia Charlotin, Reporter Staff
Nov. 11, 2010

Pols, pay attention to Mattapan.

The neighborhood turned out big for Gov. Deval Patrick, with 95 percent of those who voted supporting the incumbent in his quest for a second term. The number was 94 percent in 2006.

At one precinct at the Chittick School, Patrick received 834 votes to Republican candidate Charlie Baker’s 49 and independent candidate Timothy Cahill’s 27. In 2006, Patrick received 796 votes, GOP candidate Kerry Healey picked up 63 votes, and independent candidate Christy Mihos received 7.

“It disproves the mythology that communities of color don’t vote in Boston,” said Kelly Bates, a local political analyst. “I think [Mattapan’s] high voter turnout will be encouraging to other neighborhoods in the city that they can, and should, vote, on a regular basis.”

Added state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat who represents part of Mattapan: “This is a powerful voting bloc in the city and now they need to not only vote, but also remain engaged to continue to make their voices heard.” Rep. Forry is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry.

Clarence Cooper, the president of the Caribbean American Political Action Committee, said the turnout for Patrick was the Caribbean-American community coming out for a person of color running for office. “When you have somebody like that running – it influences them to come out in larger numbers because they identify with you or a person of color on a larger and broader scale,” he said.

The numbers are also evident in local elections. Last year, when Mayor Thomas Menino cruised to re-election, he won 74 percent of the vote in Mattapan, the best he did in any neighborhood.

Since 1993, the vote share of Mattapan has increased, according to a MassVOTE analysis performed after the mayoral election. “Despite leading the city in turnout, the electoral importance of West Roxbury and South Boston is not as dominant as it was in 1993,” the report said. “In 1993, the two communities made up 10.12 percent and 9.81 percent of the total votes cast in the city. About 1 in every 5 votes in Boston was cast in either West Roxbury or Southie. By 2009, the communities had decreased their share to 8.77 percent and 8.39 percent, about 1 vote in 6. At the same time, the Mattapan/Franklin Field neighborhood has increased its share of the total vote from 5.57 percent in 1993 to 8.05 percent.”

Women were at forefront of winning statewide campaigns

One of the headlines coming out of the 2010 election cycle is the decrease in women serving in the 200-member Legislature. For the first time since 1998, the number of women will fall, decreasing to 47 from 51 women currently serving.

The reasons range from retirement – such as state Rep. Willie Mae Allen, a Mattapan Democrat, and former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, a Dorchester Democrat, taking a job in the Menino administration – to the legislators seeking higher office, such as state Rep. Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican making an unsuccessful bid for state treasurer.

But women appear to making significant inroads behind the scenes, holding top positions in four successful statewide campaigns for public office and a campaign to defeat a ballot question focused on an affordable housing law, and establishing a new pool of political operatives and potential candidates for public office.

They include Sydney Asbury, who managed Patrick’s re-election campaign, and Kathryn Burton, who managed Democratic candidate Steve Grossman’s winning try for state treasurer. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray’s re-election campaign was managed by Jen Murphy, and Megan Amundson managed Vote No on Question 2 Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law. Laura Marlin was the campaign manager for Suzanne Bump, a Democrat who won the race for auditor.

“I hope that we’re creating a new pipeline in that way,” said Judy Neufeld, executive director of Emerge Massachusetts, an organization seeking to address the under-representation of women in public office. “We’ve certainly seen anecdotally there’s more women at the table.”

Neufeld also pointed to a 2008 report from the Barbara Lee Foundation that surveyed various campaigns showing a diverse campaign team matters. “The most effective and disciplined campaign team was gender balanced; the most stressful for the candidate was one with all male senior staff,” the report said.

Burton, Grossman’s campaign manager, said the campaign also had women in the positions of treasurer, director of operations, and deputy field director. “And I think every campaign is a case-by-case scenario, but I have to say I’m gratified by the number of women who led very successful campaigns and I look forward to seeing that continue,” Burton said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.