Half the candidates running for mayor of Boston are minorities, but black business and community leaders have made up their minds and coalesced around one hopeful:
Charlotte Golar Richie.
Golar Richie, a former state representative from Dorchester and Boston housing chief, has convinced many of the city’s black elite to open their wallets, as well as raise funds and campaign on her behalf.
The list of supporters is long and impressive. It includes former US attorney and Goodwin Procter lawyer Wayne Budd, The Partnership chief executive Carol Fulp, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree Jr., former Suffolk district attorney and Northeastern University general counsel Ralph Martin, developer and restaurateur Darryl Settles, Roxbury Technology chief executive Beth Williams, Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee Clayton Turnbull, money manager Valerie Mosley, Wheelock College president Jackie Jenkins-Scott, public relations maven Colette Phillips, and the Rev. Eugene Rivers.
“We’re not backing her because she is black. There are other black candidates,” said Phillips. “When you look at her accomplishments, it is a wow.”
Business owners like Phillips got to know Golar Richie when, under Mayor Tom Menino, she ran the Department of Neighborhood Development, overseeing a 200-person agency with a $100 million budget. During her eight-year tenure, she created nearly 18,000 housing units and brought jobs into the neighborhoods, from the opening of dbar in Dorchester to the rebuilding of El Oriental de Cuba after a fire destroyed the Jamaica Plain restaurant.
But Golar Richie’s allure goes beyond her MBA and skills as a Menino-style urban mechanic. For African-Americans, her election is a shot at making history as the first black and first woman mayor of Boston. It is an opportunity, not necessarily to rewrite our infamous antibusing history, but to add a new chapter, a much-needed bookend to show the world the city has truly changed.
“Nobody is going to tell the story of Boston where it is and where it is going better than Charlotte,” said Turnbull, her campaign finance chair and a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee with 18 locations in the city.
Golar Richie supporters know she has a lot of work ahead to get past the Sept. 24 primary. In the latest poll, she is the leading minority candidate, with 7 percent, but trails the front-runners: City Councilor John Connolly and state Representative Marty Walsh, who are at 12 and 11 percent, respectively, and Suffolk County DA Dan Conley, at 9 percent.
She has a war chest of only $132,000, far less than Conley’s $1.1 million stash, Connolly’s $665,000, Walsh’s $531,000, and City Councilor Mike Ross’s $440,000.
To win, the 54-year-old Dorchester resident can’t just be the candidate of the black community. That’s why it’s good to count Ogletree as one of your supporters. He may live in Cambridge, but the professor knows a few people across the Charles.
Ogletree, who says he has met Golar Richie “100 times” through the years, has been introducing her to his network.
Earlier this month, the Obama confidante cohosted a fund-raiser with Mosley, the money manager, at her Martha’s Vineyard home.
Back in Boston, he invited Golar Richie to his seats in the State Street Pavilion at Fenway Park, where he made sure she met Red Sox owner (and my future boss) John Henry and Bain Capital managing director and Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca.
“I can’t vote early, often, or at all,” Ogletree said. “But I can be out there to help Bostonians make sure they know who is the most desirable candidate for them.”
Some of her supporters want the other minority candidates to drop out and put their support behind Golar Richie.
“We have too many persons of color running,” said Settles, owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen on the edge of the South End. “We are going after the same voter base.”
Golar Richie, however, isn’t pushing for others to call it quits.
“Everybody has a right to be in this race, including me,” she said. “They may want to stay, but they need to know when they are going to hold ’em and when they are going to fold ’em.”
For this candidate, cultivating a groundswell of support from black leaders is a critical step. With less than four weeks left to the primary, there is still a lot of ground to cover.