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Mass. attorney 'elected' head of NAACP Boston

Associated Press | 12/1/2010, 5:37 a.m.

Hundreds of NAACP members lined up at the Roxbury Community College media center to vote Monday for a new president of the Boston branch of the legendary civil rights organization. Michael Curry was the unofficial winner. (Eric Esteves photos)

A Brockton attorney has defeated a longtime civil rights activist to become the next president of the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Unofficial results Monday showed that attorney Michael Curry edged out former state Sen. Bill Owens by fewer than 80 votes in the Boston’s chapter’s first contested election in a decade. Both candidates billed the election as a referendum on the future of one of the nation’s oldest NAACP chapters.

The election was held Monday at Roxbury Community College (RCC). NAACP officials say it attracted nearly 500 members to vote.

The 43-year-old Curry is legislative affairs director for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and succeeds Karen Payne, who stepped down earlier this year to pursue and unsuccessfully run for state representative.

The vote will not become official until all challenges are reviewed by the NAACP’s national branch. Former Boston Branch President Leonard Alkins said that either candidate has five days to challenge the results and then the NAACP’s national board has another 30 days for review. “It could be as early the middle of December or as late as the end of January,” Alkins said. “We will not know the election results until then.”

In the meanwhile, most of those who stood in line for as much as two hours were very pleased at this year’s turnout.

“People have been complaining about the lines being too long, but I think that’s a good thing,” said Adler Elecian who was running for Boston branch treasurer. “ Last year this process was done in an hour and it’s so exciting to see so many people come out to vote.”

Boston at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley was especially heartened.

“It’s beautiful,” Pressley said. “I believe in Michael Curry’s leadership for a 21st Century NAACP. What I also think this demonstrates for anyone that has had an iota of doubt in their mind that the NAACP is still relevant. I don’t think that this many people show up to cast a ballot in an election that is irrelevant if they don’t believe that there is room and a capacity for this iconic civil rights institution to still play in empowering and advancing our community.”

State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry was equally impressed. “This is an amazing turnout,” she said as she stood outside. “You see folks from all walks of life, young and old. It’s incredible. People are coming out to make their voices heard and I think that is so important.”

The bottom line, she said, “is about the communities of color and how we are going to come together to try and shape the direction of this city and really make some policies that are going to affect our lives.”