Reporter's Notebook: Adams Village Republican sets early focus on taking Feeney’s seat on Council

His signs are popping up on Dorchester street corners and in store windows. And his campaign literature – with the “At-Large” part blacked – is found on doorsteps. Doug Bennett, who ended up far outside the winner’s circle in the 2009 City Council At-Large race, is back, and this time he’s running for the City’s Council’s District 3 seat.

The seat is currently held by Dorchester’s Maureen Feeney, who was first elected to the post in 1993. She has said she is leaning toward another run, and that it would likely be her last. Feeney, has easily rolled to victory in the last few election cycles.

Bennett, a former Nantucket selectman who moved to Boston’s North End, came in last place out of eight candidates running for four at-large seats in 2009. He is now living in the Adams Village section of Dorchester and so far is the only declared candidate for District 3. Names of community and civic leaders are circulating within the neighborhood, predicated on the possibility of Feeney bowing out this year.

Asked about switching gears from an at-large run to a district seat, Bennett, one of Boston’s rare Republicans, told the Reporter, “The way I look at it, whether it’s local or at-large, there are 13 city councillors, they all have equal say and there’s no real difference.” At-large seats cover the entire city, while the nine district councillors represent various neighborhoods.

Bennett cited Dorchester’s diversity as a reason for moving into the area. “I really thought it was a beautiful area,” he said.

He said he has heard from voters who were concerned about the potential closure of the Lower Mills branch library – which was spared from the chopping block this fiscal year – and the Roger Clap Elementary School – which is instead getting turned into an “innovation school” with greater administrative autonomy. Trash and the lack of leadership at the Fields Corner civic association are other issues, Bennett added.

Endorsement Corner: SEIU 1199, First Lady Patrick back Jackson
Gov. Deval Patrick tends to stay out of contested primaries, but his wife, not so much. First Lady Diane Patrick, an attorney at the Boston law firm Ropes and Gray, headlined District 7 candidate Tito Jackson’s campaign kick-off Monday night at Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall.

Jackson, a former aide to Patrick, is among seven candidates running for the open seat, left vacant after the City Council voted out Councillor Chuck Turner because of his bribery conviction.

This wouldn’t be the first time First Lady Patrick has endorsed a candidate while the governor stayed out: When U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano was waging a primary campaign for U.S. Senate, the governor remained neutral while his wife endorsed him.

Asked by the Reporter earlier this month whether he would be campaigning for Jackson, the governor said, “I love Tito,” but added that Jackson had not asked for a formal endorsement yet. And, Patrick quipped, he has been “admonished” to stay out of contested primaries.

The other candidates running for Turner’s seat include Cornell Mills, a former homicide investigator; Natalie Carithers, ex-aide to former state Rep. Willie Mae Allen; Danielle Renee Williams, a former aide to state Rep. Gloria Fox; Haywood Fennell, a write-in candidate and community activist; and perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens.

Separately, a top union with more than a few members in District 7, also announced its backing of Jackson. Based in Dorchester, healthcare union SEIU 1199 this week touted its support for him after meeting with the candidates. Union officials touted his support for union elections in Boston hospitals.

About 800 members of SEIU 1199 live in District 7, which includes Dorchester, Roxbury, and parts of the Fenway neighborhood and the South End. Union officials said that canvassing, phone banks, and mailings on Jackson’s behalf were starting this week.

A “candidates night,” hosted by ROXVote, is slated for Feb. 8 at Hibernian Hall at 6 p.m. The preliminary election, which will winnow the field to two candidates, is Feb. 15. The final election is March 15.

Capuano waiting until later this year to make 2012 decision
U.S. Rep. Capuano plans to make his decision on whether to challenge U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) in 2012 in the next few months.

According to the State House News Service, Capuano (D-Somerville) said he agreed with two of Brown’s moves – calls for a repeal of a medical device excise tax and the 1099 expense reporting provisions in the federal health care reform bill.

“There’s lots of places we can find agreement, but at the same time, the senator and others tried to repeal the entire bill,” Capuano said, referring to the national health care reform law. “If they want to talk about details, I’m happy to talk. If they want to repeal the bill, I will not vote for the repeal of the bill. I will not cost the government that much money. I will not deny health care to any single American.”

Caucus Meetings This Month
February brings a flurry of caucus meetings for Dorchester and Mattapan Democrats ahead of the annual Democratic State Convention on June 4 at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell. At the caucuses, party members are expected to elect delegates to attend the convention.

Following is a listing of some of the local ward committees and the dates and times for their local caucuses.

Ward 7: Feb. 9, 6 p.m., Curley Community Center, 1663 Columbia Rd.
Ward 13: Feb. 8, 6 p.m. Located at 100 Savin Hill Ave.
Ward 14: Feb. 12, 1 p.m. Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center Building, located at 895 Blue Hill Ave.
Ward 15: Feb. 12, 10 a.m. 130 Auckland St., Community Room
Ward 16: Feb. 7, 6 p.m. McKeon Post, 4 Hilltop St.
Ward 17: Feb. 10, 7 p.m. Sheet Metal Workers 17 Hall, 1157 Adams St.
Ward 18: Feb. 5, 10 a.m., Hyde Park Municipal Building, 1179 River St.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Material from State House News Service was used in this report.