Candidate John O’Toole, in his gracious remarks following Tuesday night’s election results in the 13th Suffolk special election, was spot on in his observations about the field and the race, telling the Reporter: “The thing I like best about this race was that [it was] a very civil, good discourse and I’m very proud of all the people.”
The five-person, all-Democrat contest to succeed Marty Walsh was certainly competitive, but it never veered into the negativity that can sometimes mar hard-fought neighborhood elections. Each candidate brought a unique profile and set of experiences to the table— and each was respectful of the others’ finer qualities. In doing so, the candidates deserve our thanks for giving their Dorchester neighbors a robust opportunity to think through their leadership options moving forward.
The winner, Dan Hunt, would do well to look to his former rivals – O’Toole, Liam Curran, PJ McCann, and Gene Gorman – for their counsel and support on issues moving forward. We expect that he will. Hunt showed impressive strength across the district on Tuesday and proved that he is capable of reaching out to diverse constituencies beyond his Neponset base. That’s a capacity that he will need to replicate in his tenure as state rep.
Mayor Walsh, who held the seat for nearly 17 years, earned a solid reputation as a reliable, go-to lawmaker on matters ranging from labor issues and development to substance abuse recovery. Hunt will face some of the same challenges that confronted Walsh when he assumed office in 1997. But there are new issues, too: He will be called upon to usher in long-awaited public amenities along the Neponset River. The neighborhood’s waterfront has seen a dramatic transformation on Walsh’s watch, with his efforts aided by his colleagues in government and the advocacy community, including groups like Boston Natural Areas Network. Now, Hunt will take the baton.
Dorchester residents picked the 33-year-old Hunt, in part, because they know that he has an intimate understanding of the state agency most responsible for executing the promised improvements to the Neponset Greenway, including a new park in Port Norfolk. He is a wise choice in that regard. His expertise as a senior official at the Department of Conservation and Recreation makes him highly versed in the issues before the representative’s office.
Even before ground is broken on any new amenities, his constituents will look to Hunt to lead the charge to clean up the existing parklands along the coast— some of which are in dire need of better maintenance.
In that effort, he will clearly benefit from the advice of Mayor Walsh, who made it a point to drop by Hunt’s victory party in a welcome sign of orderly transition. Walsh deftly stayed on the sidelines as his neighbors considered their choice of successor in his former House seat. Now, he has pledged his support to Hunt, who will likely be sworn in next month following a perfunctory final election on April 1.
– Bill Forry