Some blacks support Brown on education, business

Kenneth J. Cooper | 1/27/2010, 4:21 a.m.

They were not all that visible during the campaign, but U.S. Senator-elect Scott Brown does have his African American supporters, who say he has established a record of being in tune with black interests when it comes to education and minority business issues.

One of the Republican’s most prominent supporters is Jane C. Edmonds, who the day before the Jan. 19 election sat with him at the annual Martin Luther King breakfast in the Hynes Convention Center. She directed the state Department of Workforce Development during the  Romney administration and, long before that, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

“It was my privilege to escort him around to meet some people who I thought he should know and should know him,” explained Edmonds, who now teaches at Northeastern University and describes herself as a “lifelong Democrat.”

Another supporter is Robert Fortes, a Republican who coordinated Brown’s campaign in the Boston area starting last October. Fortes said he met Brown last year when he hosted a downtown fundraiser for Fortes’ at-large council campaign. Fortes lost in the preliminary election.

In the state Senate, Fortes said, Brown “always fought for funding for the Metco program.”

Jean McGuire, Metco’s executive director, confirmed that Brown served as a co-chairman of the Legislature’s Metco caucus and worked with former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson to assure funding.

Although Brown’s hometown, Wrentham, does not have a Metco program, his state Senate district contains three school districts that do — Wayland, Dover-Sherborn and Needham. McGuire noted that those school districts voted to accept Metco students, who have host families there.  

“He was a Metco supporter,” McGuire said. “He didn’t have a choice. I think he’s a very practical politician.”

On minority business isssues, Josie Haywood, CEO of Executive Analytics and Design Inc. in Concord, said Brown has shown his support for minority — and women-owned enterprises by attending the annual breakfast of the Affirmative Market Program, which helps certified firms land state contracts.

Haywood, a former member of the Affirmative Market board, said Brown attended the breakfast as recently as last February and has also reached out to minority- and women-owned businesses in his community. Wrentham, in Norfolk County, is about 3 percent minority.

“He always looks beyond party lines to see how he can work with other people,” said Haywood, who said she is a political independent.

Brown also drew support from Frank Cousins Jr., the Essex County sheriff, a Republican who lives in Newburyport, as does Brown’s father.

Other African Americans with ties to the Republican Party did not line up behind the party nominee. None of the state’s most prominent black Republicans appear on a list of individuals who donated to Brown’s Senate campaign through the end of last year, though some may have contributed since January 1 in the closing weeks of the race.

Ralph Martin, the former Suffolk County district attorney, was co-chair of the campaign of Democratic nominee Martha Coakley. Businessman Richard Taylor, transportation secretary in the Weld administration, said he had met Brown but “strictly” backs President Obama and Gov. Patrick — despite being a registered Republican.