Reporter's Notebook: Audiences sparse, but Henriquez stays at it

State Rep. Carlos Henriquez faced two challenges at his community meeting last Thursday night: Low turnout and a Republican, far afield from his Beacon Hill home, demanding his resignation.

Maybe it was the New England Patriots’ first preseason game. Or the humidity of a Thursday night in August. But few people trekked out to the Dorchester House to hear Henriquez, a first- term Democrat seeking reelection this fall while fighting allegations that he kidnapped and assaulted a 23-year-old student he was dating.

At least one person was seeking confrontation, which effort turned into an awkward back-and-forth. Clad in a red jacket and with a female companion in tow, Thomas Dooley, a Republican challenging state Sen. Anthony Petrucelli (D-East Boston), struck up a conversation with Henriquez once the lawmaker arrived for the community meeting. After chatting amiably with him about the campaign trail and the weather, Dooley looked nervously at the assembled media and then to Henriquez, asking him to resign.

“At this point you are a distraction to your party,” Dooley said.

Henriquez maintained his innocence and said he hasn’t missed community meetings or votes. The back-and-forth continued until a Dorchester resident waiting for the meeting to start broke in. Henriquez is “innocent until proven guilty,” said John McGrath, who lives near the Dorchester House.

Dooley eventually left. Henriquez, his aide, and McGrath, among others stayed, discussing the so-called “three-strikes” bill recently signed into law, prostitution in the Freeport Street area, and environmental issues.

They were joined by an environmental activist, a young woman, former candidate for City Council Sean Ryan, a Dorchester House employee, and Claudette Jordan.

Jordan said she has seen Henriquez attend community meetings since the assault and kidnapping charges surfaced. “As long as he [does] his job, I don’t care,” she said. “And everybody makes mistakes. I don’t look at that. He does his work.”

Henriquez, who will be facing off against former state Rep. Althea Garrison in November, said a plea deal for him was not in the cards. “I can’t plead to something I’m innocent of,” he said.

Asked about the low turnout, Henriquez said he has dropped literature promoting the community meetings. A similarly low number of people attended last week’s community meeting elsewhere in Dorchester, he said. “It’s tough, but you gotta stay at it,” he added.

Another meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Grove Hall Community Center on Geneva Avenue.

Endorsement Corner: Sheriff Cabral backs Dello Russo for Suffolk criminal clerk

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral said this week she’s backing sitting Suffolk Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Maura Hennigan’s opponent, Robert Dello Russo. Hennigan, who oversees the criminal division and is up for reelection, is being challenged by the former assistant clerk magistrate, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2006.

“The Clerk’s Office is the hub of the criminal justice system. Everything that we do in law enforcement revolves around the consistent good quality of its work,” Cabral said in a statement released by the Dello Russo campaign. “I’m endorsing Bob Dello Russo because of his unparalleled level of experience, hands-on leadership, and commitment to making sure that office serves the public and works with law enforcement as it should.”

Cabral clashed with Hennigan earlier this year in a verbal slapfight over who was to blame for the accidental release of a man suspected of murder.

Hennigan is a former city councillor who ran against Mayor Thomas Menino in 2005.

Dello Russo’s bid has been picking up support from local polls, and his campaign has circulated photographs of the North End resident with Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-North End), City Councillor Sal LaMattina, Supreme Court Clerk Maura Doyle, and former state Attorney General Frank Bellotti.

Hennigan did pick up support from Ward 4 Democrats, who hail from South End, the Back Bay, and the Fenway/Kenmore area. The Ward 4 Democratic Committee voted Tuesday night to back her.

Dorchester plays backdrop to Senate race, again

One of the nation’s hottest U.S. Senate races returned to Dorchester on Tuesday, as Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren stopped by the Harp and Bard to meet with supporters.

The gathering of reporters and cameramen from local and national publications almost outnumbered the local supporters, with scribes from Businessweek, and among the faces in the crowd that packed the back room of the Dorchester Ave. restaurant.

Warren, speaking to reporters outside, attempted to tie U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to former Gov. Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominees for president and vice president, respectively.

For his part, Brown used a speech at the South Shore Chamber of Commerce in Randolph to slam Warren, saying she supports “the largest tax hike since World War II.”

Several local lawmakers attended Warren’s afternoon event, including District 3 Councillor Frank Baker and state Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Nick Collins.

Collins, a South Boston Democrat, said he supports Warren. Asked about former Mayor Ray Flynn’s endorsement of Brown, Collins said he “greatly respects” the fellow South Boston Democrat’s opinion. “I think he’s got his own opinions,” he said.

Some Democrats have groused that Flynn has endorsed Republicans, like Brown and President George W. Bush, on a regular basis. But Collins noted that Flynn has been a registered Democrat “his whole life.”

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