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Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Candidates for 15th Suffolk seat air views
15th Suffolk forum

The four candidates vying for the 15th Suffolk state representative seat being vacated by Nika Elugardo came together for their first candidate forum last week, outlining their positions on issues raised by the group Jamaica Plain Progressives.

For the most part, the candidates — former City of Boston Director of Youth Homelessness Initiatives Roxanne Longoria, former Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation organizer Samantha Montaño, environmental lawyer Maryann Nelson, and Northeastern graduate student Richard Fierro — expressed support for the group’s legislative priorities, including eliminating qualified immunity for police and corrections officers, supporting a home rule petition for an elected school committee and supporting the proposed millionaire’s tax.

Fierro and Nelson, however, opposed several positions. Fierro said he would not support legislation enabling cities and towns to enact rent control, raising the age for criminal offenses from 18 to 21 and making public transportation fare-free. Nelson said she was opposed to safe consumption sites, barring local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration law and allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections.

The quartet of candidates is competing for a newly redrawn district, which lost precincts in Brookline and the Pondside and Moss Hill neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and now stretches from Forest Hills to Mission Hill, roughly bounded by the Jamaica Way, Columbus Avenue and Washington Street.

Qualifications and positions

Fierro, who moved to Boston five years ago, noted that he has worked for the city’s 311 constituent services line and in Gov. Charlie Baker’s Operations Office and the city’s Elections Department. He listed as his top priorities green energy, housing stability, addiction recovery services, universal pre-kindergarten and tuition-free community colleges. He is currently working to complete a graduate degree in public administration.

“As state representative, I will advocate for substantive policy solutions to effectively address these issues,” he said.

Longoria, who was raised in Texas, described her life growing up with a single mother while her father, an immigrant, was incarcerated on cannabis charges.

“I used the systemic inequities my mother and I faced to inform my work as a child and foster care advocate, and then as the director of youth homelessness initiatives for the City of Boston,” she said.

She said she would use her coalition-building skills to work for rent control, increased transit funding, climate justice and reform of the criminal legal system.

Montaño, who grew up in Los Angeles and uses she/they pronouns, described growing up with a single mother and a father who was struggling with substance abuse and post-traumatic stress following his deployment in the 1991 Iraq invasion. She said she would prioritize housing legislation, including rent stabilization, sealing eviction records and giving tenants the right of first refusal when rental properties are up for sale. She also cited addiction recovery services as a priority.

“As someone who has experienced a fear of losing their home, moving yearly, and packing lighter and lighter every year, I get what it means to have the stability of a home,” she said.

Nelson, who has lived on Mission Hill since 1985, described her work for environmental groups and organizing in her neighborhood.

She listed as priorities rent stabilization, state funding for education, environmental protection and transportation, and restructuring of government agencies, including the state Department of Transportation.

“I’m a longtime resident and I really want to work with you and be supportive of you and be your rep,” she told the audience of the forum, held on Zoom and streamed via Facebook Live.

Areas where all four candidates agreed included support for a law that would seal tenants’ eviction orders, legislation enacting single-payer health care in Massachusetts, ending the practice of state receivership of local school districts, and requiring large nonprofit institutions to make payments in lieu of taxes at a rate 25% of what they would pay if they were for-profit. The current PILOT system calls for nonprofits to make voluntary contributions that are a much smaller fraction of the for- profit property tax rate.

Voters will select one of the four candidates in the Sept. 6 state primary. Because there are no Republicans or independent candidates in the race, the primary victor will be seated in January after Elugardo, who is running for the 2nd Suffolk District state Senate seat, vacates her house seat at the end of the year.