Primary elections in the spotlight

Rebeca Oliveira

Woodbourne, Forest Hills have major contests

Primary elections on Sept. 14 in Jamaica Plain will decide more than just who’s on the ballot come Nov. 2. For some races, there are no second party candidates, so whoever wins the primary wins the race.

US Congress

The Ninth Massachusetts Congressional District seat, features the incumbent, Stephen Lynch, opposed by Mac D’Alessandro on the Democratic ballot and Republicans Keith Lepor and Vernon Harrison. Independent Phil Dunkelbarger will not be on the primary ballot.

Stephen Lynch: Lynch, while a Democrat, doesn’t always vote along party lines: he voted against health care reform and voted in favor of the Stupak amendment, which prohibits health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in a plan to anyone. He also voted for the war in Iraq and its continued funding, as well as for the PATRIOT Act and its reauthorization.

However, Lynch voted for the Respect for Marriage Act of 2009, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and is highly rated by the Human Rights Campaign, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

Currently, Lynch is a member of the Financial Services Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he serves as Chairman on the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia. Lynch is also a member of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Congressional Labor and Working Families Caucus, which was formed to protect workers rights and educate Members of Congress on issues that impact American families, according to his website.

Former president Bill Clinton endorsed Lynch at a rally in July. Several workers’ unions have also endorsed Lynch.

Mac D’Alessandro: MacDonald “Mac” D’Alessandro is running as a more progressive alternative to Lynch. D’Alessandro joined the campaign after Lynch voted against health care reform, according to his website.

While campaigning on a much more limited budget, (roughly $70,000 to Lynch’s $1.3 million, according to the Federal Election Commission), D’Alessandro is still confident: “We’re running lean and mean,” he told the Gazette in a phone interview.

He has spent his efforts visiting his would-be constituents in his “21 in 21” campaign where he visited each of the 21 towns in the district in 21 days.

“We’re running a much more old-fashioned campaign,” D’Alessandro said, talking about his persistent door-to-door canvassing schedule. “Our volunteers are talking to their neighbors, friends and family.” He visited JP most recently last Saturday, at a barbecue attended by Gov. Deval Patrick, as part of his gubernatorial campaign. A current schedule of his events is available on his website.

He has been endorsed by Bay State Stonewall Democrats, a local LGBT advocacy organization, and MoveOn.Org, a national organization that advocates for progressive values and policies. Previously, D’Alessandro was the Northeast Director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

D’Alessandro has twice challenged Lynch to debates so far. “I’m ready to debate anytime, anywhere,” D’Alessandro said in a press release. “Voters deserve the chance to hear each of us make our case, side by side, for why we should be the one to represent this district.”
A 15-minute debate with Lynch and D’Alessandro will air on Sunday morning on WBZ Channel 38 [Debate video available here]. D’Alessandro has also accepted invitations to a debate on Sept. 2 and a candidate’s forum being sponsored by Wards 11 and 19 on Sept. 7.

Vernon Harrison: By far the most conservative candidate on the ballot for the seat, Republican Harrison attended a Tea Party event in Braintree on July 14, according to his facebook page. On the same page, he said “It is the ‘pursuit of happiness’ not the redistribution of happiness. Socialism is a failure and has failed everywhere its tried.” [sic]

On his website, he states that until “we have control over our boarders, it is foolish to offer any advice” [sic] on illegal immigration, illegal drugs and national security. E-mails to the Harrison campaign went unanswered.

Keith Lepor: While until recently a consultant, published author and wartime photojournalist, Republican Lepor has no previous political experience.

He told the Gazette in a phone interview that he decided to run after his most recent assignment in support of US and international forces as a photojournalist in Afghanistan, where he saw equipment disparities on the front lines.

“I needed to put my proverbial money where my mouth is,” he said, referring to his commitment to the issue.

He is in favor of lowering taxes, clean energy policies including nuclear power and natural gas, and small government. He opposes the recent health care reform, according to his website.

Concerning his lack of experience, Lepor told the Gazette that people really like the idea of a “citizen politician,” though he acknowledged the “uphill fight” he would face running against an incumbent.

But, he added, “it’s nice that the people of the Ninth will finally have a choice… we need new, fresh ideas. We need to clean house.”

State House of Representatives

Sixth Suffolk District

Three seats in different areas of JP are up for grabs in the State House. The Sixth Suffolk District includes Woodbourne and part of Forest Hills, though none of the potential candidates lives in JP.

The Sixth Suffolk race for the state legislature has a crowded ballot in September. With five Democrats running for the seat and no Republican challengers, the primary is the de facto election for the post being vacated by Willie Mae Allen.

Kathy Gabriel: Focusing on the elderly and disabled as well as the younger members of the district, according to her website, Gabriel is also pushing for affordable housing and funding from the federal government for local services for veterans.

She has also worked with her community to build ties between police and neighborhoods and received several community service awards.

The campaign did not answer a Gazette e-mail.

Russell E. Holmes: Community organizer, former Mattapan Library Task Force chair and business owner, Holmes is focusing his campaign on jobs and economic security, education, safety, and infrastructure.

In a phone interview, he said, “The election will go to who will work the hardest, so we’ve been working for that,” sending out mailers and recently opening his headquarters.

“We [the constituents] want someone who truly represents us and has come from community and its efforts,” he added.

Darrin Howell: Former Constituent Services Director at City Councilor Chuck Turner’s office, Howell’s focus is on Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform.

Amaad Rivera, a campaign representative, said Howell has been knocking on doors, talking about the issues that are important to community members.

Howell “understands their community and their struggles,” Rivera said. They’re going to “fight hard” in this race by reaching out to the community.

Divo Rodrigues Monteiro: Monteiro, a justice of the peace who officiates at weddings, wrote to the Gazette in an e-mail that he’s posting signs, talking to people and is excited, as all the candidates are Democrats. He’s hoping for “some surprise […] on the election day.” He does not have a campaign website.

Karen Payne: Payne supported the libraries in the recent budget crisis and is backed by retiring representative Allen. She currently serves as president of the NAACP and is campaigning for equality, public safety, dropout prevention, education, job creation and workforce development, according to her website. E-mails to her campaign went unanswered.

Fifteenth Suffolk District

The Fifteenth Suffolk district, which roughly covers western JP, also has only Democrats in the running, making the winner of the primary winner of the election.

Jeffrey Sánchez: The incumbent, Sánchez was unanimously endorsed by the Ward 10 Democratic Committee, along with other regional organizations. In a phone interview, he said his campaign was “running strong.”

Currently serving as House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Health, Sánchez is working on health care reform, as well as furthering efforts on education, public infrastructure development, workforce development, public health and affordable housing, according to his website.

Sánchez has been the local state representative since 2003. He is also working on a master’s degree in public administration at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He lives in JP.

Jeffrey Herman: In garnering his “tremendous support,” Herman and his 17 volunteers spend several hours knocking on doors daily, he told the Gazette in a phone interview.

Herman is in favor of medicinal marijuana, while Sánchez effectively killed the bill last session by referring the issue to another committee for further study.

The Gazette has previously reported that Herman believes he can get medical marijuana legalized in his first term as state rep. “If that’s all I accomplish, I’ll be happy,” he said.

He calls himself proudly “soft on immigration,” as the Gazette has previously reported, supports eliminating government waste, and CORI and sentencing reform. A CORI reform bill has recently been signed into law, and was supported by Sánchez. Herman lives in JP.

Eleventh Suffolk District

Liz Malia, a Democrat, is running unopposed for re-election in the Eleventh Suffolk District, which covers about half of JP, a seat she has held since 1998. She is the chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and a member of the Network for Women in Politics and Government. She lives in JP.

State Senate

Suffolk & Norfolk District

The State Senatorial District of Suffolk & Norfolk covers one precinct in the Woodbourne area. Now that 18-year veteran Marian Walsh is relinquishing the seat, two Democrats, Michael F. Rush and Michael F. Walsh, are fighting for the opportunity to go up against Republican Brad Williams for it in November.

Mike Rush: Currently the state rep. for the 10th Suffolk District, Rush has voted for health care reform, raising the minimum wage, strengthening child labor laws and a comprehensive stimulus package intended to make investments in workforce training, infrastructure, technology, and cultural facilities, according to his website. A dozen state trade organizations and unions have endorsed him. E-mails to his campaign went unanswered.

Michael Walsh: Walsh is basing his campaign on giving a voice on Beacon Hill to small businesses and containing health care costs.

He is interested in “the issue of [health care] benefits going to people who don’t deserve them for not paying in,” he said in a Ward 19 Democratic Committee meeting on August 2. When asked by the Gazette after the meeting if he was referring to undocumented immigrants, he answered, “Yes,” adding that “it’s a delicate issue.”

He is also interested in setting up 24-hour non-emergency clinics to lighten the burden on emergency rooms, and wants to develop new ways to encourage doctors to become primary care physicians.

Second Suffolk District

The Second Suffolk District, currently held by Democrat Sonia Chang-Díaz, covers most of JP and is being challenged by Democrat Hassam Williams. This is the seat previously held by Dianne Wilkerson, who lost the primary and tried to run a write-in campaign before a bribe scandal surfaced right before election day. No Republicans are running for this seat.

Sonia Chang-Díaz: In her first term, Chang-Díaz made CORI and foreclosure reforms a priority, and by the end of the last legislative session, both had passed and been signed by Gov. Patrick. She supports affordable housing, creating jobs that keep funds local, improving schools and the environment.

According to Winston Vaughan, a campaign representative and JP resident, Chang-Díaz is “hard at work on the campaign trail.” He said that it “looks like it’s going to be a real race, as we have an opponent for the primary,” noting that their efforts are going very well.

Chang-Díaz has been endorsed by the Boston Ward 10 Democratic Committee, as well as over a dozen state organizations. She lives in JP.

Hassan A. Williams: Though he has never held public office, Williams is involved in community organizing through the MBTA Southwest Corridor Development, the Friends of Melnea Cass Rink Initiative and other community groups. After overcoming a troubled youth that involved homelessness and violence, he created math enrichment clinics and has built coalitions that have helped facilitate youth gang intervention and counseling programs. He is running on a platform of economic development, public safety, education and affordable housing, according to his website.

“We’ve been knocking on doors all across the district,” Williams told the Gazette in a phone interview, “It’s been great, seeing young people engaged in the process.”

The deadline to register to vote for the Sept. 14 primaries has passed. Registration forms and absentee ballots are available at

David Taber contributed to this article.

The print version of this story incorrectly stated that state Senate Second Suffolk candidate Hassan Williams said he was in a gang when he was a youth. He says he was not in a gang.

Candidate websites
Find your voting information:
Stephen Lynch:
Mac D’Alessandro:
Vernon Harrison:
Keith Lepor:
Phil Dunkelbarger:
Kathy Gabriel:
Russell E. Holmes:
Darrin Howell:
Karen Payne:
Jeffrey Sánchez:
Jeffrey Herman:
Liz Malia:
Mike Rush:
Michael Walsh:
Sonia Chang-Díaz:
Hassan Williams:

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