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Four-way race underway for J.P.-based 15th Suffolk

Candidates have four more weeks to reach voters

Anna Lamb
Four-way race underway for J.P.-based 15th Suffolk
(clockwise from top left) Roxanne Longoria, MaryAnn Nelson, Richard Fierro, Samantha Montaño COURTESY PHOTOS

As the primary date for the 15th Suffolk House of Representatives seat draws closer, candidates are gearing up to make the final push to the finish line this September.

The race for the newly redrawn district seat soon to be vacated by Nika Elugardo, is relatively crowded with four candidates vying for the spot. Elugardo is in a four-way race for the 2nd Suffolk Senate district.

The four running for the 15th include 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. The seat they’re competing for stretches from Forest Hills to Mission Hill, roughly bounded by the Jamaica Way, Columbus Avenue and Washington Street.

Catching up with the candidates it’s clear that all four are preparing to run an intense ground game over the next few weeks with plans to canvas and hold their last events to get their messages out. All four also lean progressive with platforms that prioritize issues like housing justice and climate initiatives. However, there are divides in experience, background and strategy among them as well. The Banner caught up with candidates for the 15th Suffolk over the last week. Here’s what they had to say:

Roxanne Longoria

Originally from Texas, Longoria was raised by a single mother while her father was incarcerated for the majority of her childhood on cannabis charges. Her platform comes from these life experiences with an emphasis on three issues in particular — strengthening Massachusetts’ education system and making it more equitable, reforming the criminal justice system and creating affordable housing.

Her professional life has roots in higher education, having moved to Boston to work at Mount Ida College in Newton. From there, she transitioned into non-profit work with the Boston Youth Service Network before taking on the job with the city. She now serves as a caregiver for her 75-year-old mother.

“I think that my experience is what sets me apart from the other candidates,” Longoria said. “I have the nonprofit leadership experience [and the] executive leadership for the city of Boston.”

Longoria brings advantages to the race having not only lived in Boston for a decade, the second longest time of anyone competing, but also having connected with her neighbors in the heavily Latino district.

“I lived in three different places that are right off of Centre Street and I am a big supporter of small business,” she said. “So in both of those locations, I had the opportunity to build community, with people around me … I’ve been able to feel that during the campaign and on the doors and reconnecting with those people and businesses after the pandemic.”

Longoria has knocked several hundred doors and says that her campaign will continue to knock at least 100 every day until the election. In addition, she plans to hold some final events with supporters before they cast their ballots.

She has raised $22,894 to date. Longoria also has a steady supply of endorsements from Michael Curry, the former President of Boston NAACP, the Sprinkler Fitters Local #550, the Ironworkers Local #7, IBEW Local 103, Massachusetts Bricklayers, Northeast Regional Council of SMART, Boston Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 534 and the IUEC Local 4.

Samantha Montaño

Also doing well on the money and endorsements front is Montaño, who uses she/they pronouns, who comes to the district from Los Angeles and has made roots through community advocacy work on affordable housing and climate action.

Montaño is the child of a single mother as well and has recounted their father’s struggle with substance abuse growing up.

Living in Boston for the last 8 years, Montaño has been extremely involved in the local community, working with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, and also as chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council for a period of time and being involved with the Hyde Square Task Force. She’s currently serving as the director of organizing at the environmental non-profit GreenRoots in Chelsea.

She says her experiences set her campaign apart.

“I wanted to take a lot of the bases of knowledge I have of organizing and bring it into the State House and bring a broader base of folks to participate in our politics,” she said.

Montaño’s priorities include creating affordable housing and pathways to home ownership, investment in green energy and investment in transit.

She’s been endorsed by Rep. Elugardo, Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz, the Boston Teachers Union, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Greater Boston Young Democrats, 1199 SEIU, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Sierra Club and The National Association of Social Workers.

She has raised $34,968, and has a team of volunteers ready to hit the ground running. Montaño says the team has already knocked about 6,000 doors and are ready to keep going.

MaryAnn Nelson

Nelson, who has lived in Mission Hill since the 1980s, has the least structured campaign with no reported cash on hand and a small group of volunteers helping her spread her platform.

She said she is running on a desire to help older homeowners maintain their properties in the district despite rising taxes and to be a voice for whatever other issues may arise for her constituents.

“Our current state Rep. is always thinking about, you know, how to what’s the issue? How can we best solve it, and candidates in the race didn’t seem to show much imagination,” Nelson said. “So I decided to run, because those are things that I bring to the race. I’m very imaginative. I’m a good listener, and I’m a good problem solver.”

Nelson has a special interest in transit in the city, and currently serves as the President of Mission Hill Link Bus — a community run shuttle service that connects residents with MBTA service and other popular destinations. She also volunteers to help distribute food to neighbors.

Nelson plans to continue speaking with neighbors and canvassing the district over the next several weeks.

“I talk to a lot of older people [and] long term residents who have stopped voting,” she said. “I ask that they vote for me, and I would do my best to make sure that I bring their voices to the State House.”

Richard Fierro

The youngest of the candidates at 23-years-old, Fierro has lived in Boston for just five years having come to the city for his undergraduate studies at Northeastern University. He is originally from California.

Now a graduate student pursuing a public policy degree, this is Fierro’s first attempt at public office. His priorities for the position include creating green energy, addressing the opioid crisis and housing stability.

“I felt a sense of duty to jump into this race to try to set the agenda for this race and push some of these forward thinking policy solutions to the center of the campaign here,” Fierro said in a phone interview.

He has previously worked in Gov. Charlie Baker’s Operations Office and the city’s Elections Department.

Fierro, who has raised $3,892, said he is being helped in his campaign by a group of close friends who will continue assisting him canvas and call voters. So far he said they’ve collectively knocked a “couple hundred” doors.

He’s hopeful his message will be clear to neighbors heading to the ballot box in September.

”I come from a different generation, with a different perspective and vision for the policies, and the issues that I want to put forward. I want to represent a new generation in our in our state legislature that I feel doesn’t have much representation right now,” Fierro said.

15th Suffolk District, Boston 2022 election, jamaica plain, MaryAnn Nelson, Richard Fiero, Roxanne Longoria, Samantha Montaño