The field of candidates aiming to replace former state Sen. Jack Hart solidified this week as Democratic state representatives from Dorchester and South Boston announced they were in the running. Linda Dorcena Forry and Nick Collins will be scrambling over the next several weeks to gather supporters and nomination signatures.
Unless a Republican or an Independent candidate joins them, the April 30 primary, which will be held the same day as the Democratic primary for the US Senate special election, will likely determine the next occupant of the First Suffolk District Senate seat. The general election is set for May 28.
Rep. Forry, who has served in the House since 2005, released a statement on Monday morning, saying, “I have a range of life experiences that will inform my work in the Senate.” The lawmaker is the daughter of Haitian immigrants and is married to Reporter publisher and editor Bill Forry of Lower Mills.
Collins, who hails from South Boston, released his own statement several hours later, saying he had received encouragement to run from colleagues and business leaders. “I am honored and humbled by this support and I want you to know that I will be a candidate for the First Suffolk District Senate seat and will be making my formal announcement in the coming days.” Collins, who was elected to the House in 2010, had worked for Hart before that.
Hart resigned from the Senate last week to take a job at the Nelson Mullins law firm.
A number of current and former lawmakers said this week they won’t be candidates. State Rep. Marty Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat and a top labor official, said he is staying out of the race. “I’m in a very good place here in the House of Representatives,” he said. “At this point, the seat is not the right one.”
Walsh, who also passed on running for the seat when it was last vacant 11 years ago, said he was staying neutral in the special election because Collins and Forry are “friends of mine.” He is frequently mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate if Mayor Thomas Menino does not run for a sixth four-year term.
State Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) said on Monday night that he will not be a candidate, and is instead endorsing Dorcena Forry.
Former City Councillor At-Large and South Boston Democrat Michael Flaherty, after expressing interest last week, said on Tuesday in a Facebook posting that he wouldn’t be running. An unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 2009 who fell short in a bid to regain a City Council seat in 2011, Flaherty left the door open to another run in the future.
Fundraising and endorsements will be keys to the race, and the added wrinkle of having a contemporaneous US Senate special election that has Congressman Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, on the ballot will no doubt make for an interesting campaign.
The calendar also features St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March, with the parade in South Boston and the political breakfast at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, traditionally overseen by the holder of the First Suffolk Senate seat.
South Boston Democrats have held the post for decades, going back to Joe Moakley, Bill Bulger, Stephen Lynch, and Hart. But due to redistricting efforts – lawmakers redrawing political boundaries after US Census figures are released every ten years – the seat has become a district that includes a significant chunk of Dorchester, along with South Boston, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, which many see as giving a Dorchester candidate an edge.
“Dorchester has a sophisticated organization that can raise money and can put bodies on the street,” said James Chisholm, a political observer who has worked for former US Sen. John Kerry and City Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley.
On the money side of the equation, as of the end of the year, Forry had $64,695 in her campaign account, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and Collins had $6,327.