Mattapan community activist Russell Holmes yesterday won a five-way Democratic primary for state representative in the Sixth Suffolk District, besting a City Hall aide and the head of the local chapter of the NAACP, among others, in the race to replace retiring state Rep. Willie Mae Allen.
Holmes received 910 votes, or 32.94 percent of the total cast, according to an unofficial tally of votes by the city of Boston’s Elections Department. Karen Payne, a local NAACP chief who is active in Democratic power circles, received 622 votes, or 22.51 percent. Darrin Howell, an aide to City Councillor Chuck Turner, garnered 16 percent, or 442 votes.
The other candidates vying to replace Allen, former candidate Kathy Gabriel and local justice of the peace Divo Monteiro, received 14.8 percent and 2.82 percent of the vote, respectively.
No Republicans were on the ballot, meaning Holmes can cruise to victory on Nov. 2 and will take the oath of office in January.
“I know that there are a lot of dreams and hopes that are being put now on my shoulders, so I’m just planning on staying humble and serving the community,” Holmes said. “The biggest thing that I hope to be is available. One of the things that I’ve noticed while knocking on doors is that people don’t know who their state representative is or even what a state representative does.”
Holmes raised $17,736 through the end of August, a figure that includes a $5,000 loan he gave to himself. He received money from Local 103 IBEW and $200 from Boston schools’ chief Carol Johnson. Payne raised $16,770, receiving funds from the Boston Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers and City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo. Payne, who worked as Rep. Allen’s campaign treasurer, also received $500 from her campaign.
Howell raised $4,973, his financial backers including Arroyo and Minister William Dickerson of Greater Love Tabernacle. Gabriel raised $2,914 and Monteiro $318, mostly his own money.
The district includes parts of Mattapan, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain.
In South Boston’s Fourth Suffolk District, where four Democrats were battling to succeed retiring Rep. Brian Wallace, Nicholas Collins won by 789 votes. The district includes some areas of Dorchester, including the Polish Triangle, Uphams Corner, and Columbia Point. Collins received 47.28 percent of the 6,703 votes cast against chief opponent Mark McGonagle’s 35.86 percent. Michael McGee, a local party activist who worked for Flaherty’s mayoral campaign last year, received 11.03 percent while Jacob Bombard, who works at the South Boston Neighborhood House, received 2.76 percent.
The race to replace retiring state Rep. Brian Wallace was touted for its civility among the candidates, but in the days leading up to the primary and hours before polls closed, the air was rife with allegations of mischief and skullduggery. A last-minute mailer targeted McGonagle, questioning whether he has a stance on the so-called “bathroom bill.” The legislation, which had previously gone unmentioned in debates and on the campaign trail, is aimed at preventing discrimination of transgendered people. The mailer appeared to be aimed at older, more conservative voters. There were also allegations of prank phone calls and campaign literature being taken off voters’ doorsteps by rival campaigns.
In some ways, the race was a battle that echoed the 2009 mayoral campaign: Collins’s uncle is Richie Paris of the local firefighters union that frequently butted heads with Mayor Thomas Menino and endorsed Menino challenger Michael Flaherty. McGonagle’s father is the head of the Boston Housing Authority.
The race is also a loss for Menino’s field operations group, which delivered the mayor a solid win against former City Councillor At-Large Flaherty in 2009 but also suffered a string of losses. They include the 2006 gubernatorial race (the candidate they were backing, Attorney General Thomas Reilly, lost to Deval Patrick), the 2008 president primary (Menino backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama) and the 2008 state Senate race between Dianne Wilkerson and challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz (Menino supported Wilkerson at the time, before she was indicted on corruption charges).
Collins faces Republican Patrick Brennan in the Nov. 2 general election. Brennan is one of two Republicans running for seats in Suffolk County. But South Boston is also where Republican Scott Brown rang up big numbers on his way to grabbing the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Edward Kennedy.
Reporter news editor Gintautas Dumcius contributed to this report.