Reporter’s Notebook: Forums are planned for House, Senate races

MassVOTE, a civic education nonprofit, is joining up with 32 other groups in sponsoring forums with candidates running in the Fifth Suffolk and Sixth Suffolk House districts. Forums on the Second Suffolk Senate district are also planned.

The details, per MassVOTE: In the Fifth Suffolk, four Democratic candidates are competing to replace former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur: high school teacher Barry Lawton, youth activist Carlos Henriquez, former state Rep. Althea Garrison and perennial candidate Roy Owens.

That forum, which will also include candidates in the Second Suffolk Senate district, is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square. State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Democrat Hassan Williams.

A forum with the candidates running to replace retiring state Rep. Willie Mae Allen is scheduled for Thursday, Aug 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Prince Hall in Grove Hall. The candidates include Darrin Howell, who is on hiatus from his job working for City Councillor Chuck Turner; local activists Russell Holmes and Karen Payne; past candidate Kathy Gabriel and local justice of the peace Divo Monteiro.

On the same night, a second forum for the Second Suffolk Senate district candidates is also scheduled.
A third forum will feature candidates for state treasurer and state auditor. The forum is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 3, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Reggie Lewis Center.

The Dorchester Reporter is among the media sponsors of the forums.

Voters go to the polls on Sept. 14 for Democratic and Republican primaries. Because all are the candidates in the Fifth Suffolk and Sixth Suffolk are Democrats, whoever wins will be all but guaranteed a win in the November general election.

Wilkerson date pushed up

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and prosecutors are asking a federal judge to move up her sentencing date to Sept. 14. The sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 21.

In a joint court filing Wilkerson and prosecutors with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office state that one of Wilkerson’s attorneys has a conflict on Sept. 20, and Sept. 14 is the “nearest date that the Court and all counsel are available.”

Sept. 14 is the same day voters go to the polls for Democratic and Republican primaries.
The next court date -- for a status update on the case -- is August 20 at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom One at the Moakley Courthouse in South Boston.

A Roxbury Democrat who had represented the Second Suffolk District from 1993 to 2008, Wilkerson pleaded guilty in June to eight counts of attempted extortion, which included taking $23,500 in bribes. Prosecutors are recommending up to four years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Watchdog: Mayor shouldn’t sign library trustees’ expansion

We reported two weeks ago that Mayor Thomas Menino had reservations about signing a City Council proposal to expand the Boston Public Library’s board of trustees. The proposal, a home rule petition that needs his approval before it could head to the Legislature and the governor, also hands the trustees fundraising powers.

Menino said the trustees are meant to set policy, while the library’s foundation is supposed to fundraise. Several city councillors have argued that both entities have done a poor job with their respective duties.

But Menino has some back-up on his side: The Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Sam Tyler says the bill was rushed to Menino’s desk without a public hearing, a concern voiced by some councillors, though they voted unanimously with their colleagues to do so anyway.

“The proposal may have merit but it should be fully discussed in public before being sent to the Mayor for his signature,” Tyler said in an email to the Reporter.

The proposal was part of the horse trading that happens every year between the mayor and City Council, but, as Tyler notes, rarely does it include a policy change as big as changing the role and number of library trustees.

The other deals, in exchange for votes for the budget, include the restoration of 43 school custodians, keeping 10 libraries, and allowing four branch libraries, including the Lower Mills branch, slated for closure to stay open a total of nine months.

Endorsement Corner: Merced backs Henriquez

Former state Rep. Nelson Merced is endorsing Carlos Henriquez in the Fifth Suffolk District race, Henriquez told the Reporter.

Henriquez is a community activist and former City Hall aide who ran twice against City Councillor Chuck Turner.

Merced was the first Latino elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, serving for two terms. Althea Garrison, a frequent candidate for public office, knocked Merced off the Democratic ballot in 1992 by successfully challenging him on an electoral technicality. She would go on to serve one term in the House.

Henriquez also received the endorsement of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women and Oiste, a top Latino political group.

In the Fourth Suffolk District race, where four candidates are vying to replace retiring state Rep. Brian Wallace, gay rights group MassEquality has endorsed city youth worker Mark McGonagle. The other candidates in the race include Nick Collins, Michael McGee, Jacob Bombard, who like McGonagle are all Democrats, and Republican Patrick Brennan.

Personnel File

With things slowing down in the state Senate, the communications director for Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) is hitting the campaign trail for U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch’s Democratic challenger.

Jamaica Plain resident Melissa Threadgill has worked for Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, MassEquality and City Councillor John Connolly. She signed on as Milton Democrat Mac D’Alessandro’s communications director this week.

Clarification: The state Senate’s interests

We wrote in this space last week that Senate President Therese Murray said most of her members weren’t interested in returning to formal sessions on Beacon Hill. That wasn’t exactly right. Because the Senate voted 25-15 in support of the casino bill, they don’t have the numbers to return and finish work on that particular piece of legislation. That said, they can return to tackle budgetary issues, such as an expected $655 million from Congress for Medicaid and a jobs fund.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at