Forry's farewell a political gala with hints of her return

Former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry returned to Beacon Hill Wednesday to deliver a farewell address from the House rostrum to members and guests, including former Gov. Deval Patrick (background). Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS

Former Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry bid farewell – for now - to the State House in a festive ceremony on Wednesday that drew a Who's Who of city and state politics to say goodbye to a colleague who was both liked and respected on both sides of the aisle.

Related: Forry talks about her exit, career highlights and what's next

Forry resigned somewhat abruptly late last month from the Senate to take a job with Suffolk Construction, the prominent Boston development company led by John Fish. But while Forry said she was "thrilled" to be striking out into the private sector after almost 13 years on Beacon Hill, she did not rule out a comeback.

"I won't promise you today that I won't be back someday, somehow," Forry said in her farewell address attended by Gov. Baker, former Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and former Senate President Murray, among others.

The speech in the House chamber where Forry began her elected career had all the trappings of a major political event.

The Dorchester Democrat, who became the first elected Haitian woman to the Senate in 2013, had family, friends, supporters and colleagues stacked in the galleries and on the House floor. Her husband, children and relatives were seated in a section usually reserved for the governor's family once a year during the State of Commonwealth address.

"Anybody who heard that speech knows how well she can make a point and represent a point of view, and can do it with just a tremendous amount of grace and I certainly am going to miss her and I think most of us here will miss her as well, and I hope that the campaign to succeed her is a lively one and that whoever it is that succeeds her brings that same kind of aptitude and attitude to the job as she did," Gov. Baker said after the remarks.

The governor said he and others seated on the rostrum behind Forry during her speech were talking among themselves about how they would hate to follow her to a microphone, and the Republican said Forry's possible return to politics or public life would be good for Massachusetts.

"I would certainly hope that at some point down the road that she considers doing something in the public square," Baker said. "She's an incredibly charismatic person, but more importantly she's somebody people want to work with and get things accomplished and her heart's in the right place," he said.

Forry, after the event, didn't hint at what she might like to do in the future, only explaining that the decision to take the job at Suffolk was the right one for her family at this time, but not one that would foreclose a future in politics.

"I don't know but I see that you can step away," Forry said. "People will say, 'Wow, this is a big time for you to step away from public service and I say, 'This is the right time,' because other people have done it before, like Governor Patrick, like Governor Baker where they left to go into the private sector and get the business experience and be able to come back and do amazing things."

Patrick, who has been a rare presence at the State House since he finished his second term in 2015, gushed about Forry.

"She's a great friend, she was a terrific partner, wonderful, wonderful family, and I think you heard from her remarks today why she is so beloved and, frankly, why we hunger for that collaboration and collegiality in this Legislature and beyond," Patrick said.

With Forry gone from the Senate, the chamber now counts just two people of color. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz is of Costa Rican and Chinese descent, and Sen. Dean Tran was a refugee from Vietnam.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a friend of Forry's, spoke about the loss of her presence in the Senate where he said she was a voice for immigrants and minority communities and spoke out against racism and bigotry.

The Acton Democratic told a story about one afternoon when his sister brought her two biracial children to the State House for a visit, and Eldridge called Forry because he wanted them to meet her. Forry joined the family at Emmet's Pub down the block from the State House, and engaged with the two young children.

"I saw their eyes light up looking back and me and my sister and then Linda and taking in that someone has the same job as Uncle Jamie that looks like them," Eldridge said.

The Democratic primary to replace Forry in the Senate has been scheduled for April 4, and so far the field includes at least one person of color, Rep. Evandro Carvalho of Dorchester.

Asked about the lack of diversity in the Legislature, Patrick, the state's first black governor, said, "I don't think it's on the Democratic Party alone. I think it's on both parties and good people to step up and serve and there are lots of opportunities to do that."

Patrick, it has been reported, sat down with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is black, as she was considering a primary challenge to Congressman Michael Capuano. The former governor declined to comment on whether he would be supporting her campaign, or endorsing at all in the race.

"I'm here for Linda today," he said when asked about Pressley. He similarly declined comment about former Gov. Mitt Romney running for U.S. Senate in Utah.

"He's always been a gentleman to me. I don't have any comment on his prospects in Utah," he said.

Pressley issued a statement about Forry's departure, noting her distinctions as only the second Haitian-American to be elected to the House and the first Haitian-American and third woman of color to serve in the Senate.

"As a first generation Haitian American, her professional and life example is an inspiring one. Linda is that rare combination of heart, guts, and talent. She has contributed and accomplished so much, and inspired so many women to run for elected office," Pressley said.

Capuano, who counts Forry as a constituent, did not attend the speech, but sent a representative from his office who took the microphone after Forry speech to present a certificate of Congressional recognition to Forry for her work.

"I think it's fair to say that if Donald Trump were not president Mike Capuano would be here today to pay tribute to Sen. Forry, for whom he has immense respect, but he has compelling business and in fact he has a war to fight, so he's not here," said Kate Auspitz, the congressman's issues director.

Forry may be gone from the Senate, but she hasn't been able to completely wash her hands of one of the perks (or burdens) that typically comes with the job of representing the First Suffolk Senate District – hosting the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day breakfast.

"The breakfast is happening," Forry assured, indicating that while she is no longer directly in charge of its planning she does plan to "be helpful" and will take part in a meeting Friday with South Boston's delegation, including the neighborhoods representation at City Hall, the State House and Congress.

"Hopefully we'll be able to get the host nailed down by the end of the week," she said.

Baker said he's not worried.

"I'm quite sure there will be a breakfast. I'm quite sure there will be a host, and I'm quite sure a lot of it will come at my expense and I'm looking forward to that," he said.

Topics: