The race for the First Suffolk Senate seat is officially under way, with two state representatives, Nick Collins and Evandro Carvalho, seeking the seat left vacant late last month by former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.
“Today, I will file nomination papers to be your next state senator,” the 35-year-old Collins said in a statement last Friday. He had previously run for the seat in 2013, losing a tight primary race to then-state Rep. Dorcena Forry.
Carvalho, 36, entered the race on Monday, framing his bid as a push for needed representation for neighborhoods that often feel unheard on the state level.
Collins and Carvalho said they had conversations with friends, family, and residents in the district about running for the Senate post. Both pulled nomination papers on Friday afternoon, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office.
“Many of the conversations echoed the same theme: We need a leader who will listen and work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in our community,” Collins said in his announcement. “Our senator needs to be someone who knows our neighborhoods and will improve education, understands the urgency of upgrading our transportation network, is committed to addressing the opioid epidemic and making our streets safe, and will fight for the crucial community funding required to meet these challenges. I am ready to be that leader.”
The South Boston resident, who has represented the Fourth Suffolk district since 2010, and his wife Olivia welcomed their first child just days before Dorcena Forry left office.
Carvalho, a former prosecutor and Dorchester resident who won a special election in 2014 to succeed former Rep. Carlos Henriquez after his ouster from the House, is a Cape Verde native who has lived and worked in Dorchester and Roxbury since arriving in the US at the age of 15. He won re-election to the Fifth Suffolk seat in 2016.
“The political commentators will say it’s long odds,” Carvalho said in a statement, “that money is aligned against me, but I’ve been an underdog my entire life: As a kid from Cape Verde who spoke no English and cleaned buildings in the Back Bay; as a Madison Park student who dreamed of being an attorney; and now as a candidate for State Senate. I can’t wait to show them what we all can do together.”
Both representatives introduced themselves at a Ward 16 caucus meeting at the McKeon Post in Neponset on Tuesday night.
Carvalho said he has advocated to make sure that “other kids, from my neighborhoods, no matter what parts of the neighborhood we’re talking about, can have the access that I’ve had.” Boston is doing well, he added, in terms of job growth and construction, “but who’s going to talk about the little guy?” he asked, referencing families impacted by violence and those suffering from addiction. “I’m that person,” Carvalho said.
In his turn, Collins said the people in the McKeon Post, similar to those around whom he grew up, are “the heart and soul of Boston.” The opioid epidemic was beginning to devastate his community when he ran for state representative in 2010, he said, noting that one of the agenda items he hopes to pursue if elected senator is helping Mayor Martin Walsh re-open the shuttered Long Island Bridge. “I think we need it more than ever right now,” he said.
Collins is entering the race from a strong financial position — his war chest sits at $131,420 to Carvalho’s $23,209 as of the most recent filings. He has also secured the backing of two well-known city councillors who live in the district. Councillors Frank Baker and Annissa Essaibi-George will co-chair Collins’s special election campaign, he announced at a Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association meeting on Monday. Baker’s longtime chief of staff, Amy Frigulietti, has left Baker’s office to take on the campaign manager post for Collins.
With Dorcena Forry, until her resignation the only black state senator in Massachusetts, out of the legislative picture, veteran politicians like Charles Yancey, Marie St. Fleur, and Charlotte Golar Richie said last week that it is vital for the state senate to reflect the diversity of its constituency, according to the Reporter.
Dorcena Forry, who is married to Reporter editor and publisher Bill Forry, left the Senate on Jan. 31 to take a post at Suffolk Construction, a major Boston-based construction firm led by power broker John Fish, where is now working as vice president of the firm’s Northeast region dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion, and community relations.
Her leavetaking kicked off a flurry of speculation on potential successors. Collins’s announcement came after three other state representatives — Dan Hunt, Russell Holmes, and Dan Cullinane — said publicly that they would not enter the race.
In a heavily Democratic district, most of the action is expected to take place before the April 3 primary.
Three other candidates have pulled papers for the special election, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office confirmed Wednesday morning:
Former state Rep. Althea Garrison, who held the Fifth Suffolk post for one term in the early 1990s; Kenny Jervis (D), a longtime BPS parent advocate; and Donald Osgood, Sr. (I), a city anti-violence worker and minister from Dorchester.
Garrison is running without a party affiliation, which guarantees her a place in the May 1 final election if she succeeds in securing 300 certified signatures on her nomination papers. As Garrison met the 1,500 signature requirement to run for at-large city councillor in the 2017 race, the bar is well within reach for her to lock in a slot on the ballot.
Candidates have until Feb. 20 to deliver 300 verified signatures to the Boston Elections Commission for nomination papers. The special election primary is scheduled for April 3, with the final election on May 1 — the same day that candidates for district offices need to submit their signatures for the normal election cycle in the fall.