Weeks before the Sept. 14 primary, the influential Ward 15 Democratic Committee met and declined to endorse either one of the top two candidates in the race to replace former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur.
Neither Barry Lawton nor Carlos Henriquez was able to gain two-thirds approval of the committee, which had played a crucial role in grooming past candidates for Fifth Suffolk state representative.
Henriquez, 33, a former City Hall staffer making his third run for public office, was feeling good, since Lawton, a high school teacher and former State House aide, is a longtime member of the committee.
But what followed was later described as a “tongue-lashing” by Henriquez: Phone calls came in from supporters within the ward telling him to pick up his campaigning. “So we pitched a tent, we got a sleeping bag, and we were in Ward 15 every single day in August,” Henriquez said last week over brunch at McKenna’s Café in Savin Hill.
Henriquez, who had run unsuccessfully against City Councillor Chuck Turner, would end up winning the primary by 41 votes, beating Lawton as well as perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens.
Henriquez gives credit to John Barros, a longtime resident of the Dudley St. area and others affiliated with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-organized group, with helping him eke out the win.
“Having people who are from the neighborhood, recognizable, covering the polls for us, made a difference,” he said.
After the polls closed, Henriquez sat out on his porch with a laptop, checking the website of the city’s Elections Department. Barros, who community activists had courted to run for the seat, called, saying he was up by several dozen votes with one precinct to go. For most of the night, the results remained unclear, until the figures for the last precinct were finally posted on the city’s website shortly after 11 p.m.
Then it hit Henriquez. “I felt the weight of responsibility instantly,” he recalls.
He is already taking meetings with members of House leadership. Last week, newly-minted Democratic nominees met with House Speaker Robert DeLeo at the Omni Parker House.
Henriquez said he’s angling for slots on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Education Committee, which St. Fleur once chaired, and the Public Safety Committee.
As a freshman state representative, he would get a single staffer. If he wins in November, he hopes to set up an internship program for high school teens from the district, he said.
He also hopes to seek out advice from St. Fleur, who took a job with the Menino administration in June and endorsed him the day before the primary, and former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, he said.
Lawton, who also made his third run for office, this week said he’s launching a write-in campaign, hoping to overtake Henriquez in the general election.
Henriquez, now the Democratic Party nominee, vowed to keep campaigning. “You’ll continue to see me walking down the street,” he said.
More on Henriquez: A YouTube video posted by his campaign in August 2010.