For Tavares, face-to-face appeal is key in Fifth Suffolk contest

Danielson Tavares

On a recent Saturday, seven supporters joined Danielson Tavares, who is on the ballot for state representative in the 5th Suffolk District on Sept. 6, inside the first-time candidate’s campaign office on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester. His sister and cousin were among them, as was a retired state trooper. The 36-year-old candidate was dressed casually, with a white polo shirt, slacks, and checkered Vans sneakers.

The orders went out: Use an app to keep track of which voters’ houses to visit and remember. Campaign literature can’t go into mailboxes. When talking to voters, feel free to pass out his cell phone number and note that he worked in City Hall (chief diversity officer under Mayor Marty Walsh).

To a reporter tagging along, Tavares said he makes sure to visit any house with a sign for his opponent, Chris Worrell, to try to flip their votes. “Same routine every day: Doors, doors, and more doors,” he said.

Shifts typically start at 11 a.m. since work patterns during the pandemic have allowed for more contact with voters later in the morning, though they still try in the evening, too.

Tavares, who is Cape Verdean, is hoping to turn out the local population in what’s a heavily Cape Verdean district. Born in Praia, he has lived in Boston for 28 years, raised in Dorchester with five siblings. The district’s current House lawmaker, Liz Miranda, is also Cape Verdean.

“They’re willing to show up for us,” Tavares said.

For her part, Miranda will be on the ballot in the Second Suffolk Senate race, as she faces off against fellow state Rep. Nika Elugardo, former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, and senior pastor Miniard Culpepper.

As election day draws closer, the busy ballot has caused some confusion, as some people don’t realize that Tavares and Worrell are in the same House race. Perennial candidate Althea Garrison is also on the 5th Suffolk ballot.

Voters in the district, which includes parts of Dorchester and Roxbury, typically tend to come down in the middle of the road, according to Tavares. “The left is the loudest, [but that] doesn’t mean they’re in the majority,” he told the Reporter.

For example, he said, the police should not be abolished or defunded, though reforms are needed, and more transparency should be shown with officer disciplinary records. He also pointed to a cadet program that he oversaw while working in City Hall as part of an effort to diversify a white police force.

“I would love to see more kids who grew up in the neighborhood become law enforcement agents,” Tavares said, noting that the department is understaffed.

The day on the trail also included stops at a Grove Hall fair for people recently released from prison and their families, with cornhole, popcorn, and cotton candy, as well as a swing through Cushing Manor, a senior living community around the corner from the Strand Theatre.

Cushing’s residents were interested in what Tavares had to say. Their main issue: the lack of air conditioning in the bedrooms of the old building. Another issue? Low Social Security payments as they try to make ends meet every month.

Tavares brought up the Fair Share Amendment, which will be on the November ballot. If approved throughout the process, it would institute a 4 percent surtax on household income above $1 million per year, meaning a household’s first $1 million would be taxed at 5 percent, as is the case now, but anything over that would be taxed at 9 percent.

State lawmakers can fight to direct some of that added tax revenue toward seniors, he said.

“The chess board is resetting; we have a whole lot of new leaders coming in,” Tavares said, and he hopes to be one of them.

Reporter managing editor Gintautas Dumcius and the State House News Service contributed to this article.

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