Standing at an intersection in Dorchester’s Bowdoin-Geneva section known for gun violence, a group of community leaders and advocates for minorities threw its support behind a South Boston candidate for their next state senator.
Members of the group said they are endorsing state Representative Nick Collins in the First Suffolk District instead of state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American Democrat who represents Mattapan, Milton, and parts of Hyde Park and Dorchester.
The endorsement puts a new wrinkle in a race that has been widely seen as a battle between an old-guard political structure based in South Boston, where Jack Hart held the seat for years, and newer forces in Dorchester, heavily populated by racial and ethnic minorities.
The group, which formed the Communities United Political Action Committee several months ago to influence the race, said they interviewed the two candidates and were impressed with Collins’s plan to tackle issues such as gaps in education, gun violence, jobs, and the surge in market-priced housing development that has squeezed out low-income residents.
“We’ve been looking at all the candidates in this race for state Senate,’’ said William Celester, chairman of the group and a retired Boston police superintendent.
“This seat is very important to this community,” Celester said. “In this very area that we are in, we’ve had kids die, kids shot. We want someone who can do something about that.”
Dorcena Forry shrugged off Tuesday’s endorsement, saying she has strong support of leading lawmakers in Boston’s minority neighborhoods and key public safety officials, including the Suffolk County sheriff. She pledged to continue to press hard to improve conditions for the lives of the people she serves.
“People have a right to choose whomever they like,’’ she said, adding that she has numerous supporters, “These folks know, respect, and value the work that I’ve done.”
Collins and Dorcena Forry, who share an office in the State House, are locked in a little-watched battle to replace Hart, who disclosed in January that he was resigning to take a job at a law firm.
The election is scheduled for May 28.
Collins, a Democrat, joined members of the group at the corner of Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue Tuesday and laid out what he called his track record working to ensure better opportunities for jobs, business, and investments in the district.
He stressed improvements in housing, local schools, and an easing of violence as critical components of his plan.
“Residents are looking for leadership on schools,’’ he said.
“I’ve been part of the leadership when it comes to public safety, issues of public health, substance abuse, which are at the heart of all these troubled communities in this Senate district,” Collins added.
At the gathering, dozens of supporters carried green signs with Collins’s name.
“Nick is more reachable, and I can relate to him,’’ said one, Nelson Rodrigues, an Uphams Corner resident.
“He’s young. He speaks to us. I don’t even know who that other person is,” Rodrigues said.
Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers and a member of the group backing Collins, said residents deserve a candidate who can articulate a clear plan and “not someone who states the obvious,’’ he said.
“Nick has shown as a state representative in South Boston that he can deliver for his community, and we want him to deliver on this side,’’ Ellison said. “This community really needs leadership. And it doesn’t matter what it is packaged in.”
Ellison said he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the minority officers association.
Leonard Lee, another member of the group who worked in prevention of youth violence, said Collins is a tenacious supporter of neighborhood residents. He noted Collins’s effort in mobilizing law enforcement, the community and residents, after a horrific murder in South Boston recently.
“This is not a black and white thing,’’ said Lee. “This is about qualified folks who can do the job and deliver.”