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Wilkerson pulls papers for 2nd Suffolk race

Last-minute entry makes it a four-way race for vacant seat

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News

Roxbury activist Dianne Wilkerson, who served time in federal prison for bribery charges, appears to be restarting her political career.

According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, Wilkerson pulled nomination papers to run as a Democrat for the state Senate seat she held before her 2008 arrest and indictment. She later, in 2010, pleaded guilty to eight counts of attempted extortion.

Earlier this year, she said she was contemplating a run for the 2nd Suffolk District seat, which is being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz.

Wilkerson’s name, address and phone number are recorded in an informal candidate sign-up sheet maintained by the Secretary of State’s office. The entry, dated April 15, is non-binding, according to the agency, meaning the papers pulled may ultimately be used to campaign for another office.

Wilkerson declined to comment on her plans.

Wilkerson, who became the first Black woman elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1992, represented a different version of the 2nd Suffolk District until her resignation from the seat following her arrest. The district, which will contain more Black voters beginning in 2023, includes Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Mission Hill, Roslindale, Roxbury and the South End.

Since then, Wilkerson has re-emerged as one of Boston’s most visible Black activists, co-founding and adopting high-profile roles within the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition, a group dedicated to equity in pandemic decision-making, and WAKANDA II, a coalition of Boston Black political leaders that unsuccessfully attempted to unite Black voters in an effort to elect a Black mayor.

Candidates for district and county offices seeking to appear on ballots must submit signatures to their local election officials by May 3. Candidates for state Senate must collect at least 300 signatures, while candidates for state representative must submit 150.

Wilkerson’s candidacy has yet to be made official with an announcement or a certification of the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.

Her entry would expand the race in the 2nd Suffolk District into a four-way competition.

The three other candidates have launched campaigns for the seat are: state Rep. Nika C. Elugardo, who currently represents portions of Brookline and Boston’s Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods in the 15th Suffolk House seat; state Rep. Liz Miranda, who currently represents portions of Dorchester, Roxbury and South Boston in the 5th Suffolk House seat; and the Rev. Miniard Culpepper, senior pastor at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church and former regional counsel for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Culpepper, who entered the race in February, leads the trio in cash on-hand with $54,000 in the bank. He also raised the most in March, taking in more than $59,000.

He declined to comment for this story.

Elugardo, who worked closely with Wilkerson to cultivate political participation in communities of color over the course of the mayoral campaign, has about $13,000 in the bank, according to last month’s state campaign finance tallies.

She said she feels a sense of “excitement” at the thought of a larger race for the 2nd Suffolk District.

“It’s very emotionally difficult to run against a good friend of mine like Liz Miranda,” Elugardo told GBH News.

“Having Dianne in the race, it feels less personal and easier for me, as a human being, to focus hard on the needs of the district and the distinction in my leadership style and priorities and values around movement building and empowerment of our people … that’s an exciting dynamic for me,” she continued.

“Maybe the two strongest people [in the race] are just going to be me and my bestie,” Elugardo said, referring to Miranda, whom she said she considers “like a little sister.”

Miranda who sits on a war chest of just under $29,000 as of March, embraced Wilkerson’s seemingly evident entry.

“I welcome her warmly to the race and have a great amount of respect for her long tenure in politics prior to her departure,” said Miranda in a statement to GBH News. “I respect much of what she’s done for the community.”

Miranda said she expects to submit the necessary signatures to the state for within the next several days.

The district, which will contain more Black voters beginning in 2023, includes Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Mission Hill, Roslindale, Roxbury and the South End.

The primary election for the seat will occur on Sept. 6. From there, two candidates will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.