Wallace, St. Fleur seats attracting challengers; quiet scene otherwise

A pair of Beacon Hill lawmakers representing the Dorchester and Mattapan areas could face challengers this year, as Democrats and at least one Republican have shown interest in their seats.

State Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston) may see four opponents, including three Democrats. Wallace has held the Fourth Suffolk district seat, which covers parts of Uphams Corner and Harbor Point, since 2003. He ended 2009 with $3,670 in the bank.

Michael McGee, a South Boston attorney who announced in November that he was running, has pulled nomination papers as has Jacob Bombard, former president of the student government association at South Boston Harbor Academy. Both are Democrats. Jeffrey Poreda had not pulled papers as of Tuesday, but the UMass-Boston student already has a website launched. Running as a Republican is accountant Patrick Brennan.

The widening field comes after Republican Scott Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to replace the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy. Although Coakley won Boston by a large margin, conservative enclaves, including Wallace’s district, went for Brown.

But the voter anger that was on wide display during the Brown-Coakley showdown has yet to surface within the Dorchester and Mattapan area. With the exception of Wallace and Rep. Marie St. Fleur, most incumbents, all Democrats, are likely to run unopposed, in contrast to the anti-incumbent mood in other parts of Massachusetts and across the country. Most have easily cruised to re-election in the last several election cycles whether they had an opponent or not.

The incumbents who have not seen potential challengers pull papers include state Sens. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) and Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat in her first term representing the Second Suffolk District, and state Reps. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), Elizabeth Malia (D-Jamaica Plain), Marty Walsh (D-Savin Hill) and Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Lower Mills).

The retirement of Rep. Willie Mae Allen (D-Mattapan) has drawn three possible candidates into the race to succeed her, including Karen Payne of civil rights group NAACP’s Boston branch, Darrin Howell, an aide to District 7 Councillor Chuck Turner, and past candidate Kathy Gabriel, who unsuccessfully challenged Allen in a 2008 Democratic primary.

Nomination papers are available at Secretary of State William Galvin’s office. Those who pull papers must submit them to district and county offices by April 27 for certification if they want to get onto election ballots. The state primaries are Sept. 14 and the general election is Nov. 2.

“I don’t know if it’s resonated in Boston yet,” Walsh said of the voter anger that appeared to carry Brown to victory. “People are angry. People are upset with what’s going on. But I think the voters of Boston tend to look at the bigger picture” and see that their representatives are generally doing a “good job,” he said.

Walsh has one of the bigger campaign accounts among Dorchester and Mattapan lawmakers, with $59,000 in the bank as of the end of 2009.
In the state Senate, Hart has $5,455, while Chang-Diaz has $63,000, according to the latest data available at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.Among the state representatives, Forry has $52,534 and Malia has $6,663. Allen has $1,166 in the bank. Fox ended 2009 with a $309 deficit in her account. St. Fleur had a $2,716 deficit.

“I never take anything for granted,” said Rep. Forry. “I’m going to campaign and I’m going to campaign hard.” Forry, a top House leader as co-chair of the Committee on Small Business and Community Development, is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry.
St. Fleur, who has served in the House for 10 years, is likely to face two opponents: Steve Wise, an unenrolled candidate who has pulled papers, and Barry Lawton, a Democrat who has made a run at the Fifth Suffolk seat twice before. “I’m preparing to run,” Lawton said Tuesday, adding, “It’s still early.”

St. Fleur had not pulled papers earlier this week, but aides said she has just returned from Haiti. A Haitian-American, St. Fleur has immersed herself in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated that country.