State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester hardly flinched in the mid-evening hours of Tuesday as The Boston Globe and the Associated Press were reporting that state Rep. Nick Collins, her opponent from South Boston, would win the Democratic nomination in the special election to represent the First Suffolk District in the state Senate.
Despite those calls by the local media, all the ballots in 77 precincts across South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan, and parts of Hyde Park had not yet been counted, and when the unofficial results were posted a few hours later, it was Dorcena Forry who was on top, by 378 votes out of 21,730 cast.
The final, if yet uncertified, results from the city Election Department gave Dorcena Forry 10,214 votes, Collins 9,836, and South Boston’s Maureen Dahill 1,593, suggesting strongly that the latter’s participation in the campaign might have cost Collins the election.
It took an overnight, but Collins elected not to pursue a recount, issuing a statement of concession.
The electoral back and forth on Tuesday night made for some jittery moments, although the Dorcena Forry camp says it never got truly rattled, knowing that its figures pointing to a win in the end were on target.
The candidate entered her election night party at the Phillips Old Colony House to the Fugees’ “Ready or Not” and at about 10 o’clock called the win for herself. After the Associated Press had retracted its call for Collins, and the unofficial tally of the 77 precincts had been posted, she credited her get-out-the-vote organization for the close-run win.
“We were in the community, we were on the ground,” she said. “We had people at every poll.”
She told the State House News Service, “We won because we had an incredible operation. This is about bringing this district together. Obviously there were a lot of people who were in different camps; now I am the Democratic nominee, so I look forward to bringing the Democrats together and really everyone together.”
At the Blarney Stone, where Collins supporters were having their party, City Councillor Frank Baker’s brother James said the race was unlikely to be over on Tuesday night. Collins later joined his supporters at the restaurant.
“We’re not going to have anything for you tonight, unfortunately,” he said.
But in the morning, Collins conceded to Dorcena Forry.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Collins campaign had raised concerns over ballots that did not include the state Senate race. They were found in two South Boston wards. Election officials later insisted that no voters were disenfranchised, noting that fewer than six voters were affected, and the issue was taken care of by 7:30 a.m.
In the counts from various bellwether precincts, Collins won Florian Hall, 647 votes to 376 votes, according to the unofficial tally. But at a double-precinct at the Chittick School, which has become a major location on the Mattapan/Hyde Park line and a leading indicator for performance in communities of color, Dorcena Forry won, 714 votes to Collins’s 50. Dorcena Forry also won the double precinct at the Groveland Community Center off River Street in Mattapan, 586 votes to Collins’s 75.
Due to the heavily Democratic make-up of the First Suffolk District, which has been represented for decades by men from South Boston, Dorcena Forry, who is married to Bill Forry, the editor and publisher of the Reporter, is seen as likely to cruise to a win in the May 28 general election against Dorchester Republican Joseph Ureneck.
Overshadowed by another special election on the ballot – five people jockeyed to succeed former US Sen. John Kerry in Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday – and a compelling early mayoral campaign in Boston, the state Senate campaign was under-covered by Boston’s two daily newspapers. The April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, their aftermath, and a blizzard in February also steered the headlines away from the state campaign.
The three Democratic state Senate candidates and their surrogates crisscrossed the district throughout the campaign, and especially on Tuesday as their supporters stood outside polling locations, often next to signature-gatherers seeking voters who could sign mayoral nomination papers.
At one point, all three contenders converged on Florian Hall, home to two crucial Dorchester precincts, to greet voters.
As Dorcena Forry moves on against Ureneck in the general campaign, another lively special election could be in the offing. Potential candidates for her House seat if she leaves it include two Mattapan residents; Stephanie Everett, a former aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), and Mary Tuitt, who works for state Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury).
The two ran in the 7-person preliminary for the District 3 City Council seat in 2011. Neither made it to the final election, which was won by Savin Hill’s Frank Baker.
Reporter staff members Gintautas Dumcius and Tom Mulvoy and correspondent Mike Deehan compiled this report.