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Lawton wages sticker campaign for 5th Suffolk

Ernesto Arroyo | 10/20/2010, 4:08 a.m.
Despite losing the September Democratic primary for Dorchester’s 5th Suffolk...
Despite losing the September Democratic primary for Dorchester’s 5th Suffolk District, Barry Lawton is waging a write-in sticker campaign and hopes to see a greater turnout this time around. Ernesto Arroyo

After losing the September Democratic primary for Dorchester’s 5th Suffolk District by a 41-vote margin, school teacher Barry Lawton is betting on a sticker campaign against Democratic nominee Carlos Henriquez.

Lawton, a long-time Democratic Party activist, says he was hampered by low turnout, despite winning 11 out of the 19 precincts in the district, which is centered around Bowdoin Street.

“I won majority of the districts in the primary election because of hard work and getting out there and talking to the voters,” Lawton said. “I lost badly in one precinct and that impacted the outcome of the election but to me the community spoke by electing me in the most precincts in the district.”

While Lawton is banking on increased turnout in the perennially low-voting district, he may face an up-hill battle persuading voters to affix his name to their ballots in the write-in section.

Henriquez, said he is unfazed by Lawton’s sticker campaign.

“It’s well within his legal right to do it, and it does not change our campaign strategy at all,” he commented. “I never had an idea that I would stop reaching out to residents after Sept. 14, because the job has never been about a campaign victory. It is about community victory and raising the voter turnout in our district, whether it is a campaign year or not a campaign year.”

Henriquez prevailed in a four-way race against Lawton and perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens. Garrison has endorsed Lawton. Owens is reportedly running his own sticker campaign.

To successfully wage a sticker campaign, Lawton will have to distribute rolls of stickers bearing his name to volunteers at each polling location in the district and persuade voters to affix his name to their ballots in the write-in section.

In the primary, Lawton enjoyed union support from the Boston Teachers Union, the AFL-CIO and the Boston Fire Fighters Local 718. Now that Henriquez is the Democratic nominee, Lawton may face and up-hill battle garnering support, especially from party activists.

Former Ward 15 Committee Chairwoman Judy Meredith said Lawton’s sticker campaign is misguided.

“I know he is very passionate about wanting to serve but I think this is a mistake,” she commented. “Carlos won. I think it’s a little sad. To tell the truth, he is gong to look bad, he is going to look silly and he is not going to win.”

Lawton says he is motivated in his bid for the seat by a concern for the people in the district.

“This is the lowest voting district in the state and has been for years,” he says. “And I think it’s a combination of a working class neighborhood where people are busy and haven’t made the connection to voting and needing representation and that the last two state reps have quit and left for higher paying jobs.

“We don’t need to send someone up there who is unskilled and depending on other people to tell him what to do. My concern is that this is what’s happening with Carlos. It was a low turnout of 11 percent and that should not be the determining factor on what our leadership will be in the next two years.”

Henriquez, who has worked as a legislative aide to former City Councilor Michael Flaherty and as a youth worker, says he is well-qualified to serve the district in the Legislature.

“I have my people who I lean on for support who have more knowledge on certain issues,” Henriquez says. “I reach out for their opinions and I think that is the job of a good leader, to listen. For me being a leader sometimes means supporting others who are doing the work, because at the end of the day, it is about a community victory not an individual victory.”