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New political faces emerge in 6th Suffolk

Brian Wright O’Connor | 9/9/2010, 3:18 a.m.

“I am not only in tune with the struggles this community faces — having faced these troubles myself — I know how to connect people to different resources,” Howell said. “I’m not just the typical candidate. I know what people are facing, having been CORI-challenged until Councilor Turner gave me a second chance.”

Howell called recent CORI reform legislation a good first step but said offenders who have stayed out of trouble should be able not just to seal their records, but to expunge them.

“Employers can still see the full list of charges if they want to and that will affect people’s job prospects,” he said.

Howell, who has been conducting an aggressive grassroots campaign, said residents of the neighborhoods south of Franklin Field have been surprised to answer their doors to find him asking for their vote. “People aren’t used to candidates out there walking door to door. I understand the imagery associated with this neighborhood, but to me, it’s home,” he said.

Payne grew up in a politically active church family in Hartford, Conn., and moved to Boston more than 25 years ago to work as a radiologist at the New England Medical Center. The immediate past president of the Boston NAACP, she also serves as co-chair of the Ward 19 Democratic Committee.

Her credentials as a ward leader and member of the Democratic State Committee helped her earn a wide swath of endorsements, including the backing of outgoing state Rep. Willie Mae Allen, Democratic state Reps. Alice Wolf of Cambridge and Gloria Fox of Roxbury, and Boston City Councilors Rob Consalvo, John Tobin and Maureen Feeney.

On Beacon Hill, Payne intends to strengthen access to health care under the reform law, increase funding for drop-out prevention programs and expand training programs for job opportunities in nursing, electrical and plumbing trades, and other professions that can’t be outsourced.

“These are the jobs we can fill — the middle-skilled jobs that will be available in the years to come,” said the Roslindale Square resident. “First and foremost, this is what the people of the 6th Suffolk District need — jobs.”

The key to those jobs, she added, is education, and cited her experience as a consultant and volunteer working on drop-out prevention and retention programs as preparation for legislative work.

Election observers credit Payne with having won significant institutional support in her primary bid while noting Howell’s network of young activists, drawn from Turner’s base, spreading across the district in a ground campaign of unusual scope for a 6th Suffolk contest.

Political operative Joyce Ferriabough, unaligned in the race, said the test for Payne will be whether an openly lesbian candidate can win support in a district with numerous socially conservative churches that balked at the onset of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

“It remains to be seen whether a gay candidate with a strong base in Ward 19 and Jamaica Plain can expand her support to the Bible Belt of Dorchester,” she said.

Payne said her sexuality was not an issue in the race. “I am running to represent all the voters of the district — every one of them,” she said. “My focus will be on the issues and the work that needs to be done.”

Article updated Sept. 2nd - Joyce Ferriabough endorses Karen Payne in the primary.