Signatures reflect sharp turn on road to the primary vote

A busy campaign season crossed a preliminary threshold last week as potential candidates submitted their signatures to local clerks for certification. 

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz’s gubernatorial candidacy kicked off a domino effect down ballot. She is leaving her Second Suffolk district seat to run for governor and will likely face off with Attorney General Maura Healey in the September Democratic primary.

Two Republicans – former state representative Geoff Diehl and businessman Chris Doughty – are also running for the corner office.

A slew of familiar faces are vying to fill Chang-Diaz’s seat, which was redrawn after the 2020 Census to stretch farther into Dorchester and Mattapan, with less of Jamaica Plain inside its borders. 

One is former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, the first Black woman elected to the Massachusetts Senate, who served jail time for federal bribery, has submitted the requisite number of signatures to the Boston Elections Department. Wilkerson pleaded guilty to eight counts of attempted extortion in 2010 for taking $23,500 in bribes. 

In interviews since submitting her papers, Wilkerson told a local radio station and the Boston Globe that she has more experience than the other candidates, that she highlighted inequities in procurement and education infrastructure, and that she hopes to regain the Second Suffolk’s trust.

Wilkerson filed her statement of organization with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) after the monthly OCPF financial report deadline, so her first round of campaign donors should show up in the April report cycle. 

State representatives Liz Miranda, of the 5th Suffolk District, and Nika Elugardo, of the 15th Suffolk district, were the earliest two candidates in the race for the Second Suffolk seat. Both were elected to their House districts in 2018.

Miranda, a former community organizer and youth worker who was spurred to run for office after her younger brother was shot and killed, highlights her work on gun violence prevention, environmental justice, and Covid-19 funding and vaccine equity. As of the May OCPF filing, Miranda had pulled in about $13,800 in May and has $13,500 cash on hand.

Elugardo, once Chang-Díaz’s policy director and a nonprofit worker, was backed by progressives in her initial run when she ousted former representative Jeffrey Sanchez. Her policy proposals include removing the statewide ban on rent control. During the race to date, she has highlighted ongoing efforts to address the conditions of incarcerated persons. She brought in about $20,600 in April and has $26,400 cash on hand.

Miniard Culpepper, a lawyer and senior pastor at Roxbury’s Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, announced his intention to run in March. The faith leader and community advocate oversaw HUD’s fair housing policies in New England for decades, and is running on a platform of affordable housing, income and wealth equality, and youth education. He raised $25,000 in April and leads the pack with $71,000 cash on hand.

Culpepper, Elugardo, Miranda, and Wilkerson will take part in a JP Progressives candidate forum on May 19.

Two other potential Second Suffolk hopefuls have submitted signatures to the city. James Grant, a MBTA trolley driver and deacon at the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, says on his campaign website that he wants to bring change and accountability to the seat.

Kelechi Linardon, whose OCPF filings indicate only a P.O. Box, has submitted enough signatures to the city, though the elections department is still reviewing the papers. Lindardon is seeking the Second Suffolk seat as an unenrolled candidate. All others are running as Democrats, according to the city.

The 5th Suffolk seat left open by Miranda is also drawing a crowd. Candidates must submit at least 150 certified signatures to run for state representative, as compared to the 300 for state senator.

Christopher Worrell, assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Boston Planning & Development Agency; Danielson Tavares, the city’s chief diversity officer; and former state representative and former at-large city councillor Althea Garrison have all submitted enough signatures to the city to run as Democrats. 

Worrell is the younger brother of District 4 City Councillor Brian Worrell. He raised $3,563 in April and has $7,714 in cash according to OCPF filings. Former mayor Martin Walsh-appointee Tavares brought in $4,623 the same month and has $13,741 in his war chest. Garrison’s OCPF filing numbers have not moved during this race. The perennial candidate began with $375.38 and has reported no receipts as of May.

Frequent candidate Roy Owens, who has unsuccessfully sought state and city offices, and Sean Nelson have also submitted signatures as unenrolled candidates, according to the city. Owens has not updated his OCPF filing from his prior run for the District 7 council seat. Nelson has no state financial filings as of May.

Signatures will be reviewed by the state until the end of May, with May 31 as the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers for district offices.

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