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May 17, 2016

Special election season is over so let’s take a look at how diversity did in the four house and three senate seats up in 2016. A Republican held the senate seat of former senator Robert Hedlund, and the Democrats won the other six seats. Each winner was a white male and … that’s it for the diversity report.

I wrote about this phenomena before all the votes were counted, in Are We Not a Little White for That Kind of Thing? I only talked about three races in that post, so let’s catch up on the others. Originally, I compared demographic data used by the legislature’s redistricting committee and updated demographics from statisticalatlas.com, and I’ll do the same here.

Let’s go back to the 10th Essex house district, won by Daniel Cahill. He was unopposed. The state data reveals a district that is majority white, but with a healthy minority population of forty-five percent of the district, including thirty-five percent Latino. The more recent SA data though shows a district only forty-four percent white, thirty-two percent Hispanic, thirteen percent Black and eight percent Asian. Maybe an opportunity but since no one but Mr. Cahill ran, we’ll never know.

Then there was the 1st Suffolk & Middlesex senate seat, won in a walk-off on May 10 by Democrat Joseph Boncore. But he prevailed over a primary field that included two impressive minority aspirants, African American Lydia Edwards and Asian American Diana Hwang. State Data has the district about seventy-one percent white. The more recent SA data has the district about fifty-nine percent white, twenty-three percent Hispanic, five percent Black, and nine percent Asian American. It was a crowded field with several progressives, and that may have opened the door for the more moderate Boncore. Still, a lost opportunity to advance a minority woman.

The Plymouth & Norfolk senate district is overwhelmingly white and had been held for years by Republican Robert Hedlund, until he won election as mayor of Weymouth. The Democrats nominated Joan Meschino to run against Republican nominee Patrick O’Connor, so there was another chance here to add a seat to the Women’s Caucus. O’Connor won, though it seems the two will face off again in the November general election.

Finally, in a battle of state representatives for the 2nd Plymouth and Bristol state senate district, Democrat Michael Brady beat Republican Geoff Diehl. The district includes Brockton and the state data has it about sixty-six percent white. SA data has it at sixty-five percent white, with about five percent Hispanic, and twenty-three percent Black.

In a recent op-ed column in the New York Times, Jill Filipovic recounted the loss of Donna Edwards to Chris Von Hollen in the Maryland Democratic Senate primary. Ms. Edwards is an African American woman. As recounted by Ms. Filipovic in Play the Woman Card, here is what Ms. Edwards had to say in her concession speech:

What I want to know from my Democratic Party is, when will the voices of people of color, when will the voices of women, when will the voices of labor, when will the voices of black women, when will our voices be effective, legitimate equal leaders in a big-tent party?

The same question could be asked closer to home.

Ms. Filipovic is hopeful: “Right now, ‘the woman card’ and ‘the race card’ are broadly seen as cynical tactics. Democrats should make them central components of a winning hand.”

That’s an open challenge to both major parties and to the United Independent Party in Massachusetts. But as the special elections show, we have a long way to go.

Massachusetts Democratic party, Massachusetts Republican Party, diversity, United Independent Party

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