By Gintautas Dumcius
Dianne Wilkerson's long-shot crusade to save her
political career continues this week, despite the
bombshell arrest that has turned Boston's political
world on its head. A defiant Wilkerson pledged to
"stay the course" with plans to mount a write-in
candidacy in next Tuesday's general election and
accused US Attorney Michael Sullivan of seeking to
"imperil [her] re-election campaign."
In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon,
Wilkerson asked supporters to keep an open mind
about the charges against her and to continue to
support her sticker candidacy.
"Not only does this represent the biggest
challenge in my personal and political life, but it
will test to the limit the notion of innocent until
proven guilty,"Wilkerson said in a written
She went on to assail Sullivan for what she
termed a "political calculus" that she "seriously
"In one fell swoop, and even before an
indictment has been returned, he's sought to
imperil my re-election campaign, and has set much
of the state's Democratic Leadership back on its
heels," Wilkerson stated.
Her decision to press forward with the sticker
race sets the stage for a dramatic,
racially-charged and contentious showdown with the
Democratic nominee Sonia Chang-Diaz.
In the hours immediately preceding Wilkerson's
arrest, Wilkerson called September's Democratic
primary, which she lost to Chang-Diaz, the "most
racially divisive process I've ever seen."
Wilkerson supporters, speaking at a Prince Hall
rally six days after the Sept. 16 primary, had
argued that in order to maintain minority
representation in the district - which includes
neighborhoods ranging from Roxbury to Beacon Hill,
along with parts of Dorchester and Mattapan
-Wilkerson must be sent back to the State House.
at the time noted that at least one Wilkerson
supporter contended that Chang-Diaz is "not a
person of color."
Chang-Diaz is of white, Latino and Asian
heritage. Wilkerson is the state Senate's first and
only black member. Wilkerson, in an interview on
WBUR 90.9 FM last Friday, backed away from the
statements made by supporters.
But after speaking at a Monday night forum at
Roxbury Community College, Wilkerson accused the
Chang-Diaz camp of racial divisiveness, saying the
candidate sent out literature with her grandparents
on it and saying "vote for the Chinese girl."
"That's exactly what happened in the primary,"
Wilkerson told the Reporter.
Wilkerson also accused the Chang-Diaz campaign
of calling Latino-based agency heads and saying,
'you have to vote for me because I'm Latino."
"That's exactly what she did," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson did not mention any specific names or
provide any evidence for the charges.
Chang-Diaz, who was also at the forum, which
focused on the slowing economy and recent state
budget cuts, immediately denied the charges.
"I often err to the opposite," Chang-Diaz said.
"It's totally unnecessary. It's not what the voters
Chang-Diaz acknowledged that for many Latino
voters, having someone to talk to about their
concerns who speaks in their native tongue has
"made a difference," but added that she would never
ask for anyone to vote for her because of her
"It's the kind of politics that doesn't serve
the community," she said.
Wilkerson said the media had overlooked the
alleged incidents. "The fact that it happened,
everybody was well-aware that it happened, and not
a single press report was ever made, one time," she
said. "And then after the primary, you know, if you
follow just the press, you have to
conclude that the only racist people in the city of
Boston are black people. I mean, that's why I said
this is so bizarre to me. I think it has no place
in a race at all. Never did."
"I would never ever be anywhere saying, 'You
should vote for me because I'm African-American.'
That's not how I introduce myself. Never have," she
Referring to her allegations against Chang-Diaz,
Wilkerson said the campaign was "past that."
"But it was part of the reason why I think
people were so jaundiced," she said. "Because not
once ever in the process leading up to a primary
was there an engagement on the issues. Never."
Wilkerson and Chang-Diaz, joined by Socialist
Workers Party candidate William Leonard and elected
officials from other areas close to Roxbury, faced
off for what could be the final time before
Tensions between her campaign and the Chang-Diaz
camp were evident at the beginning of the Roxbury
Community College forum.
Spotting a pair of cameras in the audience,
Wilkerson demanded to know with whom they were
with. One was for Boston University TV and the
other was held by a Chang-Diaz volunteer.
"I'm not sure why she's taping us if she's not
here," Wilkerson said, referring to Chang-Diaz, who
arrived a half-hour late because of a scheduling
Wilkerson's comment led to a round of applause
from the friendly crowd, followed by shouts of
"Shut it off!" The volunteer then turned the camera
off as moderators of the forum did not move. The
Boston University TV camera remained on.
"I don't really care if you leave it on or off,"
Wilkerson said, before noting the camera still had
a light on. The volunteer then made a show of
putting on a lens cap and resumed filming when
Asked about the roughly $900 million in cuts
that Patrick had made to the state's $28.2 billion
budget to staunch the effects of a $1.4 billion
deficit, Wilkerson raised the possibility of taxing
alcohol. Package stores currently have an
Wilkerson also hit Patrick for cutting half the
budget of Casa Esperanza, which helps with
substance abuse treatment, while cutting only
$100,000 from Sail Boston, an annual five-day
festival with a $1.1 million budget.
Chang-Diaz said she supported closing corporate
tax loopholes as a way to raise revenue.
Leonard said he was opposed to taxes on
cigarettes, alcohol and gambling. "Taxing
cigarettes and alcohol, these are taxes on working
people," he said.
He also advocated for a shorter work week,
calling for "30 hours with 40 hours pay."
Asked about the $700 billion bailout that
Congress recently passed Leonard said the money
will go straight to banks and bondholders.
"That has nothing to do with you and me," he
said. "All they want is more money now."
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