Three generations square off in 5th Suffolk state rep race

Kenneth J. Cooper | 9/1/2010, 5:05 a.m.

He frequently expressed indignation about youth violence, inadequate public transit and environmental conditions in the district. While stating his support for Gov. Deval Patrick, Lawton suggested his administration has shortchanged Dorchester and Roxbury in distributing federal stimulus funds.

“How much of that stimulus money has been spent here? I haven’t seen it. Have you?” Lawton said, skeptically. “I haven’t seen it generate one job. I haven’t seen it improve one thing.”

Later in the forum, Henriquez noted the stimulus money is funding construction on the Fairmount commuter rail line. “We are getting four new stops in Dorchester,” he said.

Lawton was also critical of the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” education program, which he said requires schools to restructure and students to take a national test that “lowers the standards for us, quite frankly.”

Asked to list his five top priorities for the district, Lawton omitted jobs, except summer ones for youth. Henriquez did include employment — “we can not just talk about summer jobs for teenagers” — but he identified only four priorities. Both mentioned education, housing and public safety.

Henriquez cited his role, through the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, in closely monitoring the hiring for construction jobs on the nearly-completed Kroc Corps Community Center in the Dudley Street/Upham’s Corner area. He said more minorities, city residents and women have been hired than required under the city’s mandate.

Lawton entered the race earlier, in March, four months before Henriquez formally announced his candidacy. Lawton appears to have the better organized campaign and has collected a number of labor endorsements, including those of the city’s teachers, firefighters and electrical workers.

Henriquez, who is black and Latino, has enlisted two 2009 candidates for at-large seats on the City Council, Tomás Gonzalez and Andrew Kenneally, to handle his field operations and campaign messages. Henriquez also has the advantage of having had his name on the ballot more recently than Lawton, in at least part of the legislative district.

In his final statement, Lawton adopted the posture of a presumptive winner over the younger Henriquez as well as the older Garrison and Owens.

“I want to thank Carlos for running. I’m proud of you. You’ve made me run harder. You’re an investment in our future,” Lawton said.

In his closing, Henriquez turned his graciousness in another direction. He thanked Lawton and the other candidates for running “because it does improve our civic engagement.”