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Focus Of State Senate Campaign Shifts From Southie To Dorchester

BOSTON — In addition to the U.S. Senate primary, some Boston voters will also be casting ballots in a state Senate race Tuesday.

The First Suffolk state Senate seat is often referred to as the “Southie seat.” It’s recently been passed from former Massachusetts Senate President William Bulger to Rep. Stephen Lynch to Jack Hart, who resigned earlier this year to join a Boston legal firm.

But the bulk of the district is not in South Boston. It includes Dorchester, Mattapan and parts of Hyde Park, with large populations of African-Americans, Cape Verdeans and Spanish-speaking residents, as well as Haitian and Irish-Americans.

State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, one of three Democrats vying for the party nomination, dropped in on seniors at a large apartment building in Dorchester last weekend. This is one group that doesn’t have to be reminded Tuesday is Election Day — residents say they have been inundated by calls from candidates.

On this day, Forry is joined by former state Sen. Paul White, who once represented this neighborhood.

“This is a very, very important election,” White said. “Our community, for quite a while, has not had someone from our midst representing us.”

Dorcena Forry, who is Haitian-American, is married to the editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter, who is Irish-American.

“This is an amazing, real diverse district. This is culturally, ethnically and economically diverse,” she said. “There’s been amazing support from all those different groups.”

At the State House, Dorcena Forry shares the same office suite with the man she’s facing in the special election, Rep. Nick Collins, of South Boston.

The youngest of the candidates in the race, Collins draws enthusiastic support in his home neighborhood of Southie. Supporters gathering to hold signs  – like a group that gathered in Perkins Square Saturday — are part of a typical campaign day.

“Actually the day kind of mirrors the campaign,” Collins said. “We started the day in Adams Village in Dorchester and then in Savin Hill, we’re here in South Boston, going down to Fort Point next, and then finishing up with a house party in Mattapan.”

Collins, who says he cut his teeth working for the Obama campaign in 2008, has drawn support from the likes of the Rev. Eugene Rivers, of Dorchester, and the head of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.

“[This is] the most urban district in the commonwealth and definitely the most diverse,” Collins said. “I find myself kind of speaking in tongues when I get back at night — Cape Verdean, Spanish, Vietnamese community. There is a wide range of ethnic communities in this district.”

Knocking on doors is a staple of every campaign, but it’s something new for Maureen Dahill.

A lifelong South Boston resident, Dahill has never held political office. She’s the woman behind the blog Caught in Southie.

“[Residents] always come back, whether they enroll their children in South Boston youth soccer or they’re out at Castle Island having a hot dog at Sully’s, they always eventually come back,” Dahill said. “People really like it. It appeals to both lifelong residents and people who have moved away from South Boston that want to feel reconnected with their hometown, as well as it appeals to the newer South Boston residents, and we have a huge influx of new Southie residents.”

When she’s out knocking on doors it’s hard for Dahill not to run into someone she knows. She’s been encouraged to run for political office before. This mother of three says her children are older now and this year the timing was right. She’s been criticized as a potential spoiler, taking votes away from the two state representatives running for the seat.

“From what I hear, I’m a double spoiler. Not only am I splitting the Southie vote but I’m now splitting the female vote, too. So I think that kind of evens off the playing field maybe now that I’m a double spoiler,” Dahill said.

Whoever wins Tuesday will face Joseph Ureneck — the only Republican running for the seat — in the May 28 general election.

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