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Group’s ad draws fire in race for the First Suffolk District

A political ad that features a photo of Governor Deval Patrick posing with Representative Nick Collins is drawing fire from the governor, who called the ad misleading to voters as they gear up to cast their ballots in the special election for the Senate seat in the first Suffolk district.

In a statement Monday, Patrick slammed the ad, which he suggests leaves the impression that he has endorsed Collins. The governor emphasized that he has not endorsed anyone, and will support the successful Democratic nominee during the general election for the district, which includes South Boston, Dorchester, and Hyde Park.

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The full-page ad, appearing Thursday in the Bay State Banner, was paid for a group of advocates for minorities that call themselves Communities United Political ­Action Committee, formed several months ago to influence the race.

The ad includes an open letter to communities of color that states the group’s rationale for supporting Collins over his Democratic rivals Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American from Dorchester, and Maureen Dahill, a fourth-generation South Boston resident who runs a community website, Caught in Southie.

The ad also features a collage of five photographs, including one of Collins and Patrick standing closely with Patrick’s arm around Collins’s back. Some observers say the image leaves the impression that Patrick is backing Collins for the seat, which has been vacant since John A. Hart Jr. resigned earlier this year.

“This past week, a group calling itself Communities United PAC published a misleading ad in a local newspaper implying that I had endorsed Nick Collins in his race against Linda Dorcena Forry and Maureen Dahill,” Patrick wrote in his statement. “That is not true.”

The governor said he issued the statement so the public can be clear about where he stands before the special election vote Tuesday.

“I hate shady campaign tactics,’’ he said. “Overcoming them will depend on voters participating and making their voices heard.”

Reached by phone Monday, an angry William Celester, the president of Communities United, said it was never the group’s intention to mislead anyone with the ad. He said the ad’s aim was to explain in detail why the group feels Collins is a better choice than Dorcena Forry.

“Nowhere in our ad do we say that the governor endorsed Nick,’’ Celester said. “We have pictures of a lot of people in the ad that Nick knows and is friendly with. We state in the ad that we endorse Nick Collins. There is nothing in there that would lead anyone to believe that the governor endorses him.”

He pointed to a Dorcena Forry ad that also appeared in the Banner that includes a seal from the NAACP, which Celester said could also be viewed as an endorsement.

Both the NAACP and Dorcena Forry’s campaign said the NAACP has not endorsed the candidate. Dorcena Forry’s ad did include the NAACP’s New England Area Conference report card giving Dorcena Forry an A+ for her voting record and Collins an F for his.

Cacyce McCabe, a spokesman for the Dorcena Forry campaign, said her supporters saw the Banner ad and wondered why the governor’s photograph appeared in it.

“From my standpoint I don’t believe that our campaign ever thought that Representative Collins was supported by the government,’’ said McCabe. “But we have supporters who were confused by that. And more importantly wondered why that photograph was chosen.”

Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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