Two of the candidates hoping to replace former State Senator Jack Hart on Beacon Hill made their pitches to Dorchester voters in Savin Hill on Monday, appearing before a joint caucus of the Ward 13 and Ward 17 Democratic committees to introduce themselves as their campaigns for the April 30 primary election move into gear.
South Boston Rep. Nick Collins began his remarks by saying that he doesn’t view the race as South Boston vs. Dorchester but as a race to determine who can best represent the four neighborhoods that make up the First Suffolk District, which comprises Dorchester, South Boston, Mattapan, and a portion of Hyde Park.
Forry, who represents Dorchester and parts of Mattapan, Milton, and Hyde Park, described the race as an opportunity to bring about a new partnership to tackle issues important to the neighborhoods, including education and small business.
Collins told the committee members that he has friends in each of the neighborhoods, and he cited the legislative and community achievements he’s accomplished since taking office in 2011, such as saving the Roger Clapp School from closure and working to keep it open as an innovation school.
Collins also touted his work in the Legislature to provide funds for his district through the budget process and said constituents want a senator who can do that. “I have a track record of delivering in the budget,” he said.
Forry, who is married to Bill Forry, the publisher and editor of the Reporter, currently serves as the House chair of the Legislature’s Community Development and Small Business Committee. She listed senior issues and jobs access as other areas she has worked on, and mentioned local efforts such as working to lessen dangerous traffic patterns in the neighborhood.
“There are many issues all of you have and I’m here to listen and to learn,” said Forry, who has served in the House since 2005.
Collins cited public safety as a particular concern his, coming from South Boston, which last year saw a series of homicides, including the death of a 67-year-old grandmother. “We do have crimes we’re going to need to address,” he said, adding that “we’re going to have a crisis,” that calls for leadership. Collins said he has worked with the MBTA and State Police to reduce crime around the Andrew Square T station and across South Boston.
More than 50 people filled the library at Cristo Rey Boston High School on Savin Hill Ave. to hear from the candidates and to vote on delegates to the Party convention later this year.
Other elected officials and candidates for local office who introduced themselves at the meeting included At-Large City Councillors Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo, district Councillor Charles Yancey and At-Large candidate Michelle Wu.
Backers of Forry and Collins were in attendance to support their candidate.
“Linda has been a good friend, mentor and a leader in this community,” said Stephanie Everett, a former City Council candidate who has held down various jobs in state government. “We couldn’t ask for a better senator and an additional minority woman in the senate,” Everett said.
Savin Hill’s Donna Shaw said she has known Collins since he was born and vouched for his hard-working family, which includes former state Rep. Jim Collins, who represented Charlestown. “He believes strongly in community. He was raised that way,” Shaw said, adding that she supports Collins “because he is the candidate you can trust to have labor’s back.”
Another Savin Hill resident, Jeff Klein, said he wasn’t swayed one way or the other by the candidates. The retired machinist said his “default was for Linda” but he is willing to hear more from Collins. “I want to hear about the labor stuff,” Klein said. “It’s one issue, not the only issue for me.”
Two Savin Hill voters who won’t be publicly supporting either candidate are state Rep. Marty Walsh and District 3 Councillor Frank Baker. Both say they are sitting the race out and count Forry and Collins as friends.
“Both are great candidates, both will represent Dorchester well,” Walsh said. Earlier this week, Rep. Forry’s campaign announced several endorsements, including the Ward 15 Democratic Committee, MassEquality, which promotes gay and lesbian issues, and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
A Collins campaign spokeswoman said they have picked up endorsements from several unions, including Pipefitters Local 237, IBEW 2222, and Utility Workers 369. The campaign also provided a statement from David Holway, NAGE national president, calling Collins “dedicated to public service…while at the same time aggressive in his pursuit of resolutions that best serve the community he represents.”
After addressing the meeting, Collins reiterated to the Reporter his view that the race isn’t about neighborhood versus neighborhood. “The days of identity politics are over and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
After the April 30 primary vote, the winner will face the Republican candidate in the May 28 general election.
South Boston Democrat Maureen Dahill and Republican Joseph Ureneck have also pulled nomination papers for the race.