Newly re-elected City Councilor Chuck Turner told the Gazette that after he leaves office in 2013, he wants unsuccessful at-large City Council candidate Tito Jackson to replace him in the District 7 seat.
“I already talked to him in a general way to encourage him about [running for] the district seat,” said Turner, whose district includes JP’s Egleston Square area.
Jackson did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.
Turner previously told the Gazette he intended to run for two more terms, leaving office in 2013 to focus on such issues as starting a statewide industrial hemp program. Last week, he said he would “very much” like Jackson, a Grove Hall resident, to take over the seat Turner has held for a decade.
“I would see him as my leading candidate to be supportive of,” Turner said, adding that he is firm about his vow to not run again in 2013. “At age 73 [at that time], I need to be creating space for [new candidates] to provide leadership in District 7.”
Turner, who is under indictment on federal corruption charges, said his Election Night victory over Carlos Henriquez was also a win in the “court of public opinion.”
“There’s a feeling of pride in the community [that] we were able to stay together as a community and not be swayed by [government] manipulations,” Turner said.
After months of essentially refusing to participate in his own legal case, delaying it, Turner said he will now go along and file a motion to dismiss.
Meanwhile, Turner said, he will step up his political criticisms of former US Attorney Michael Sullivan, a Republican who brought the charges against him. Turner, a member of the Green-Rainbow Party, said he already has been researching Sullivan in the Boston Globe archives.
“Now that the court of public opinion…has spoken, I don’t feel as much need to go into the particulars of the case that might violate the ‘evidence,’ quote-unquote, they claim to have in the case,” said Turner, who had refused to go along with a court order not to reveal any government evidence given to him as part of his pre-trial process.
“Now, given where we are in the process, this would be the time to really begin to raise the question of, ‘Who is Michael Sullivan and what does he want?’ Can we begin to see patterns of behavior here that suggest this [case] fits more with his personal agenda than with a pursuit of justice?”
Sullivan left office earlier this year and joined a legal and consulting firm founded by controversial former US Attorney General John Ashcroft. A new US attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the US Senate this week.
Sullivan previously said at a press conference that the case against Turner was solely based on evidence, not any kind of political or racial bias as Turner has alleged.
Turner clearly remains unconvinced of that. While Sullivan originally prosecuted Turner in federal court, Turner indicated that he now will prosecute Sullivan in the “court of public opinion.” Turner said he believes Ashcroft’s firm is a grooming agency for Republican candidates, and that Sullivan will soon seek some public office.
“I think he could be a dangerous force in New England politics,” Turner said of Sullivan.
“He seemed to focus [to] a large extent on communities of color and cases that should have been handled by lower courts,” Turner said, referring to his research on Sullivan. Turner said he intends to “periodically put out articles” about Sullivan to “help people put a little spotlight on him.”
The charges against Turner are a kind of spin-off from a much larger bribery case against former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. Turner and Wilkerson’s cases are joined by a conspiracy charge. Both have pleaded innocent.
Wilkerson recently filed several court motions, including to dismiss her case; to separate her case from Turner’s; and to move the location of any trial because of the heavy pre-trial publicity.
Turner said he will file similar motions—except that he won’t be seeking a change of venue for his trial. He indicated that is because of his own version of pre-trial publicity. Unlike Wilkerson, Turner has publicly denounced the charges against him at rallies and through the media.
“I don’t want to leave Boston. I want to have my trial right here,” Turner said. “I think the whole politics of me winning the election helps in people’s minds,” he added. “I would rather stay in the area where there’s been a focus on my campaign.”
New City Council
Turner said he is excited about new City Councilors-elect Felix Arroyo, a former Turner aide, and Ayanna Pressley, the council’s first African-American woman member.
“He’s a good debater, has great political instincts,” Turner said of Arroyo, a JP resident. He also praised Arroyo’s involvement with youths through coaching baseball, saying, “It kind of demystifies politics…It says councilors can be real people who try to help us at the everyday level.”
Turner said he believes both councilors can help with Boston’s unemployment crisis. He said he is considering holding a community meeting for unemployed people to hear their concerns, and to conduct a “census” of them because unemployment figures are typically undercounts.
“I think Felix with his union background and Ayanna with just her experience working with [US Sen. John] Kerry can help us as a council think about what role we can play,” Turner said.
Turner said he is generally pleased that three young candidates of color did well in the election. That includes Jackson, whose fifth-place finish in the at-large City Council race did not win a seat, but was impressive for a late-starting campaign. Turner endorsed Jackson and supported him through phone calls and campaign literature.
“That’s a testament to the fact there is a new political force on the scene,” Turner said. “It gives our community a boost of energy and pride. I’m more proud of [Jackson] than [of] what my campaign did.”
Turner also allowed that four years is a long time in politics, and that other good candidates for the District 7 seat could emerge—including Henriquez.
“Carlos could provide some sort of leadership that vaults him into a position where people see him as a serious candidate [in 2013],” Turner said.