By Gintautas Dumcius
Stung by a 228-vote loss in the Democratic
primary, state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson this week
confirmed that if a recount effort fails, she will
run a sticker campaign to retain her seat in the
November 4th the general election.
Wilkerson lost to
challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz in the September 16
primary, with Chang-Diaz receiving 50.5 percent, or
9,051 votes, to Wilkerson's 49.3 percent, or 8,823
votes. Both Wilkerson and Chang-Diaz have asked for
votes in specific wards to be re-counted, a process
that will take place at City Hall this
If she falls short in the re-count, Wilkerson
made it clear during a Tuesday evening with
supporters at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in
Grove Hall that she would challenge Chang-Diaz with
a sticker campaign.
"There will be more people at the polls on
November fourth than at any time in our nation's
history," said Wilkerson. "And I'm afraid what
happened here is a harbinger of what could happen
to Barack Obama around the country."
In the Democratic primary last week, Wilkerson
finished behind second-time challenger Sonia
Chang-Diaz by 228 votes. Even on election night,
Wilkerson and her supporters said she missed out on
votes in precincts she carried because some polling
places had been relocated. Within the district,
there were changes in polling places for
Wilkerson campaign spokesperson Jeff Ross said
Monday there were also complaints about ballot
scanners that failed to work and voter requests for
provisional ballots that were turned down.
"The campaign" said Ross, "wanted to respond to
voting irregularities and voter disenfranchisement
and address the issues raised by the
"This ain't Lieberman," she said, referring to
the U.S. senator, Joseph Lieberman, who ran as an
independent in Connecticut after he was knocked out
of the running in the Democratic primary in 2006.
"I'm not an independent. I'm a Democrat. I'm
Wilkerson's move to run would turn the race into
a three-way contest between her, Chang-Diaz and
William Theodore Leonard of the Socialist Workers
Party for the Second Suffolk District seat.
Wilkerson ran a sticker campaign in the 2006
Democratic primary, in her first face-off with
Chang-Diaz and Republican candidate Samiyah Diaz
when she failed to gather enough signatures to make
In a statement on Tuesday, Chang-Diaz said, "Of
course we take nothing for granted, and I look
forward to continuing to meet with voters, listen
to their concerns, talk together about the need for
new leadership for our district, and respectfully
ask for their vote in November."
Wilkerson's announcement was met with wild
cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd of 200
supporters at Prince Hall. The event was billed as
a "community meeting," where Wilkerson campaign
aides took down names and sat at the front door
with piles of unmarked absentee ballots.
Wilkerson, who has held the seat for about 15
years, disputed some of the results of the Tuesday
primary and jabbed at the local media, who largely
endorsed Chang-Diaz, for reporting that she lost
Latino and Asian areas.
"Last Tuesday we won the Latino precincts," she
said. "We won the Chinatown precinct."
The Second Suffolk seat covers Roxbury, the
South End, Jamaica Plain, Beacon Hill, Back Bay,
Mission Hill, and parts of Dorchester, Mattapan and
The general election on Nov. 4 not only offers
Wilkerson a do-over, but a shot at a larger voter
turnout, since it's the same day as the
presidential election between U.S. Sen. Barack
Obama (D-Ill.) and U.S. Sen. John McCain
Wilkerson's comments came after a number of
supporters took to the podium to rally the crowd
with stirring speeches and racially-charged
Calling the primary a "skirmish," Rev. Miniard
Culpepper thundered, "If they want a battle,
they've got one coming."
He was followed by City Councillor Charles
Turner, who said the Second Suffolk seat was
"rooted in the politics of the black
"That seat that Dianne sits on was created by
this community," Turner said.
Jean McGuire, executive director of the
Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity,
Inc. (METCO) compared the moving of several polling
places with little notice in Wilkerson's strongest
districts to alleged voter disenfranchisement in
Florida and Ohio in the 2000 and 2004 presidential
"This is the first time in a long time we will
not have a senator who is a person of color,"
Wilkerson is the Senate's only black member.
Chang-Diaz, a former Jamaica Plain schoolteacher
and State House aide, is of white, Latin and Asian
descent. Her father was the United States' first
Asked afterwards about Chang-Diaz's background,
McGuire said, "There are white Hispanics and black
Hispanics." She added: "She is not a person of
Chang-Diaz, reached for comment on Wednesday,
rejected that characterization.
"I just don't understand what the confusion is
here," responded Chang-Diaz, in a phone interview
with the Reporter. "My family emigrated to this
country from Costa Rica. My father is from Latin
America. He came to this country with $70 in his
pocket and he went on to be this country's first
"I find it disrespectful to tell someone that
they are not what they say they are," said Caprice
Taylor-Mendez, a Latina and director of Emerge
Massachusetts, an organization that trains women
for political office, but did not make an
endorsement in this election. Taylor-Mendez added
that her own ethnicity has been questioned by
others in the past, on the grounds that she was
"too educated," though she was born in Guatemala to
a black and Latino father.
"We can choose the group that we identify with,
the group that we can participate of their
struggles," said Taylor-Mendez. "Starting to
question what race or ethnicity she is dilutes the
Still, Giovanni Negretti, a leader in the Latino
political community as head of the organization
Oiste!, said that Chang-Diaz's connections to the
Boston Latino community were thin.
"There's very little that I know about Sonia
Chang-Diaz," said Negretti in a phone interview.
"She's not on any of our Latino boards, she's not
invested in any of our issues."
Oiste! endorsed Wilkerson and Negretti is a
strong Wilkerson supporter.
Other Wilkerson supporters, who swarmed the
senator after her speech, echoed the sentiment that
returning her to office was an imperative for their
"It's our duty to push forward to maintain that
seat," said Victoria Williams, chair of the Ward 12
Democratic Committee. "I think people are feeling
the fire in the belly."
Wilkerson's campaign declined to say how much
money the senator has left in her account.
Wilkerson rushed a late payment of $1,100 to the
state attorney general's office last week, after a
fundraising spurt just before the primary. The
$1,100 payment was part of an agreement between
Wilkerson and Attorney General Martha Coakley over
campaign finance violations dating back several
Earlier on Tuesday, Boston elections officials
announced that they approved Wilkerson's recount
request for Wards 8, 9 and 12, but did not certify
enough signatures to trigger re-counts in Wards 10
and 11. Chang-Diaz requested a re-count in Ward 19,
which covers Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, and her
signatures from that ward were certified.
The recount is scheduled for Saturday at City
Hall, in the Election Department's Room 241.
Chris Lovett and Pete Stidman contributed to
Results, rhetoric reveal a deeply divided Second
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