First-time candidate to take on incumbent
Rep. Willie Mae Allen in Sixth Suffolk
June 26, 2008

By Gintautas Dumcius
Reporter Correspondent

Call it a rematch of sorts. Spurred in part by Sen. Barack Obama's run for the White House, a Dorchester woman who helped manage William Celester's unsuccessful campaign for the Sixth Suffolk seat in 2006, is mounting a run to challenge incumbent state Rep. Willie Mae Allen.

Faustina "Kathy" Gabriel said she was frustrated with the lackluster turnout in the district for the Super Tuesday primary and sees a need for new leadership.

"Mobilizing people will be tough," she said in an interview with the Reporter. "People think it's normal not to get involved. I think it's abnormal to live like that."

Her purple campaign banner, hanging in her Callender St. home, touts "Unity - Actions - Solutions." She plans to run the campaign out of her home and is holding a fundraiser on July 12 in Randolph.

Gabriel ran Celester's campaign for the seat in 2006, when he faced off against Allen. Both hoped to fill the seat left by state Rep. Shirley Owens Hicks when she retired. Allen, a veteran member of the Democratic State Committee and a former community liaison in the city's Office of Neighborhood Services, prevailed.

Gabriel said she has also worked for Owens Hicks, business man Chris Gabrieli, U.S. Congressman Joseph Moakley and for state Rep. Gloria Fox, among others.

While collecting signatures, few could name their current representative, Allen, Gabriel said.

"The feedback was disturbing to me," Gabriel said. "They didn't even know her gender."

Allen did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment for this article. The Democratic primary is scheduled for September 16.

Gabriel came to the United States in 1970, at the age of 19, from Trinidad, settling into Dorchester in the 1980s, she says. She currently works in Suffolk Superior Court as a clerk in the civil division and has helped out with citizenship workshops for people, she says.

Gabriel received a degree in political science from UMass-Boston. She picked up her interest in politics from her grandmother. She recalled having to read political pieces and editorials to her grandmother, who couldn't read, in Trinidad.

Gabriel is a single mother of two boys: One is 32, an Air Force veteran who works for the Boston Police Department, after returning from Kosovo, Iraq, and Kuwait three years ago, she said. The other is 23 years old.

Gabriel has the backing of Rev. Shaun Harrison, the CEO and founder of Youth In Crisis Ministries, who mulled a run for the seat himself.

Gabriel plans to push for diverting some funds from Veterans Affairs hospitals to local health clear clinics. Veterans should be able to go to any health clinic and receive care, she said.

Returning from overseas, "They have to fend for themselves," she said. "All that notoriety goes down the drain."

Gabriel also highlighted pushing for more funds for AIDS treatments and increased budgets for domestic violence programs. The last two to three years saw a tripling in domestic violence homicides, leading the state's public health and safety officials to declare a "public health emergency."

Gabriel described herself as "police-friendly," but said she still had a few remaining questions of the Boston Police Department's "Safe Homes" initiative.

The project takes tips from parents and uses them to enter the home, with the parents' agreement, to take a gun away. Some, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say it conflicts with the U.S. Constitution protecting people from unreasonable government searches.

"I know that parents need a lot of help," Gabriel said.

 

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