Field takes shape in 13th Suffolk

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor and Jordan Frias, Special to the Reporter
Jan. 23, 2014

Candidates facing a six-week sprint to the primary election for Marty Walsh’s empty seat are on the move. It’s door-knocking time as one formally launched his effort over the weekend and others began pulling nomination papers.

Neponset’s Dan Hunt kicked off his campaign on Saturday and grabbed the backing of a top elected official and some neighborhood activists. Other potential candidates who have pulled papers include former City Council candidate John O’Toole, attorneys Liam Curran and PJ McCann, former reporter Gene Gorman, Christopher Michael Sachetti, and Columbia Savin Hill civic association regular Bill Lynch Sr. Tony Dang, a Vietnamese-American activist and MBTA police officer, has said he is waging a write-in campaign for the seat.

The papers, with 150 signatures from voters for each candidate, were due to local elections officials by Tuesday of this week. Hunt and Curran say they’ve made it onto the ballot; the full slate should be made clear later this week after elections officials have sorted through the signatures.

The primary will be held on Tuesday, March 4, with the general election set for April 1. The district includes precincts in Dorchester’s Wards 7, 13, 15, 16, and 17 along with a precinct in North Quincy’s Ward 3.

On Saturday, the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association’s Phil Carver took to the podium at the Phillips Old Colony House to tout his support of Dan Hunt. “I’m here for the Hunt family, because the Hunt family’s always been here for Dorchester, the city of Boston, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said.

In his speech, Hunt said he will work to connect people to state services, support small business, create local jobs, and protect workers’ rights if elected. “The historic election of Marty Walsh means great things for Dorchester, for Boston and its people, but it leaves a huge void for the voice of working families on Beacon Hill, and I want to be that voice,” he said.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, praised Hunt’s efforts as a government affairs director at the Department of Conservation and Recreation and his involvement in securing resources for projects like the cleaning of the Shaffer Paper site and the Neponset River Greenway trail.

Dorcena Forry, who is married to Reporter editor Bill Forry, referred to Hunt’s potential opponents as “good candidates,” and said Hunt is the right “Dorchester guy” for the job given his experience. “For the 13th Suffolk seat, we’re going to need someone who can get in there to be able to work on legislation, to be able to work on policy, but most importantly, to be able to work on the budget,” she said.

“These opportunities don’t come around a lot,” said John O’Toole, a longtime Cedar Grove neighborhood activist who bid for the District 3 City Council seat when now-City Clerk Maureen Feeney decided against running for another term. Frank Baker of Savin Hill won the race, picking up 5,252 votes to O’Toole’s 4,120. The battle had a City-Hall-versus-the-State-House dynamic, with Walsh backing Baker and Feeney, along with then-Mayor Thomas Menino, backing O’Toole.

Last week, O’Toole posted a note to supporters on Facebook. “My 25 years as a neighborhood activist, and 25 years as a proud member of Plumber’s Union Local 12 afford me the qualifications to serve the 13th District well,” he wrote. “I look forward to earning your support, and anticipate a great campaign.” He also announced his endorsement by Local 12.

O’Toole’s kick-off is scheduled for tonight (Jan. 23) at 7 p.m. inside the McKeon Post. McCann plans to formally announce at the McKeon Post next Tuesday while Curran’s launch is set for next Thursday at the Blarney Stone in Fields Corner.

Gorman, who teaches at Emerson College, helped in the effort to keep the Clap School open and worked on Mayor Walsh’s transition team. He launched his campaign on Jan. 15 at the Harp and Bard in Savin Hill.

“Whether you are from Dorchester or the Dominican, whether you were born on Hallam Street or in Haiti, or whether you are from Neponset or, in my case, North Carolina, I am asking for your support,” Gorman said at his kick-off. “This is a tremendous opportunity. An opportunity to unify this incredibly diverse district around a shared vision for progress and transformation.”

Among the 250 attendees at Hunt’s event were former state Sen. Paul White, former Carney Hospital chief Bill Walczak, Quincy Councillor-at-Large Doug Gutro, members of the Quincy Committee, and Mike Lake, a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hunt family friend and campaign supporter Joe Hannigan, 53, sat at a table by the podium. A former resident of Bruce Street in Dorchester who now lives in Randolph, Hannigan said his mother and Hunt’s mother have been friends for years but he had never heard Hunt give a public speech until Dan speak that day. He calls the Hunts “the Kennedys of Dorchester.” The candidate’s father is Jim Hunt Jr., the head of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, and his brother, Jim Hunt III, served as Menino’s environment and energy chief.

Melville Park’s Peter Sasso said he was also supporting Hunt. “It’s not about good vs. bad, but it’s about good vs. better, and Dan is a better candidate for us,” he said.

Hunt has hired Wes Ritchie, who worked for MassEquality and on Jeff Ross’s City Council bid last year, as his campaign manager.