Lawton: Experience needed to fill Fifth Suffolk void

Dave Eisenstadter, Special to the Reporter
Mar. 27, 2014

A longtime teacher with experience drafting political legislation, Barry Lawton is making another attempt at the Fifth Suffolk seat in the State House.

Lawton ran unsuccessfully in 1988, 1999, and 2010.

“We need to have strong, skilled, vocal leadership and we don’t have it now,” Lawton said at Merengue, the Blue Hill Ave. restaurant on a recent Friday. “The past three representatives we’ve had have left early and this is now the third budget cycle we are unrepresented.”

Speaking with Lawton, Merengue owner Hector Pina said the most important issues in the district were education, crime and public safety, and job opportunities.

Pina said the law should be tougher on those who are found to possess an illegal firearm.

Lawton related a story about gun violence that happened recently in front of his Mt. Ida Road house. He heard about 20 shots and then a vehicle crash. Outside, he found a woman who had slumped over inside a car pretending to be dead.

“Kids were off that day because it was a holiday, but they would have been coming home then,” Lawton said. “[Ronan] park is right across the street from where I live. It’s just outrageous.”

He continued that there is a culture among some young people where they feel like they need a gun for self-protection. Lawton, 58, is assertive about keeping his own 13-year-old twins out of harm’s way, even as they participate in his campaign.

Lawton said it is important to keep children in school and off of the streets, and that is why he filed legislation in 1998 to reward students with good attendance free T passes.

In terms of education, Lawton marked one major problem that a large percentage of students had family members or knew people who did not have a pathway to citizenship. He told Pina that the public education system could be used to help students learn about the immigration system and to learn to speak the English language properly.

“That is a necessary tool for assimilation to move into the labor forces,” Lawton said.

Both Pina and community leader Mel King pledged support for Lawton for Representative on Friday.

Lawton moved to the district in 1982 and got involved with the Boys Club of America, later changed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, as well as the becoming the chair of the All Dorchester Sports League for six years. He also joined the Dorchester Day Celebrations Committee.

Lawton was a legislative assistant to the black caucus in the State House and eventually moved on to work in the office of Gov. Michael Dukakis in the early 1980s.

He has been a history teacher in Boston Public Schools for 24 years, while also continuing to file legislation through those on Beacon Hill.
Lawton pointed out that the Fifth Suffolk district regularly has the lowest voter turnout and he hopes voters will come to the polls. A vocalist, Lawton has been singing on the campaign trail.

“I’ll sing for a vote, but I won’t dance,” he said.