Dorcena Forry appears to win 1st Suffolk Senate primary

Linda Dorcena Forry held her daughter Madeline Forry, 2, as she celebrated a possible close victory at Phillips Freeport Tavern in Dorchester.
Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe
Linda Dorcena Forry held her daughter Madeline Forry, 2, as she celebrated a possible close victory at Phillips Freeport Tavern in Dorchester.

State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American from Dorchester, appeared late Tuesday to have narrowly won the Democratic nomination for the First Suffolk Senate district, a seat long held by Irish-American men from South Boston.

With 100 percent of votes tallied, the City of Boston’s unofficial results showed Forry holding a lead of 378 votes over South Boston state Representative Nick Collins, out of a total of 21,730 votes cast in the three-way race.

Collins, who received 9,836 votes to Forry’s 10,214, refused to concede Tuesday or make any statements about a possible recount. Because the margin of victory appears to be greater than half a percent of total votes cast, he would face an arduous precinct-by-precinct recount process if he appeals the results.


The third candidate in the race, South Boston native Maureen Dahill, received 1,593 votes, potentially playing the spoiler for Collins by siphoning votes from his neighborhood base. Both Collins and Dahill had also raised concern about a ballot mix-up in some parts of South Boston early Tuesday, although election officials insist that no voters were disenfranchised.

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They say that fewer than six voters received ballots that did not include entries for the state Senate race and that those ballots were retrieved by 8 a.m.

If the results hold, Forry — as the Democratic nominee in a heavily Democratic district — would become the prohibitive favorite to win the so-called “Southie seat” in the June general election. She would face a political unknown, Dorchester native Joseph Anthony Ureneck, in the June 25 general election.

If elected, Forry would become the first woman and racial minority to represent the district, which also covers portions of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, and the first Haitian-American ever to serve in the state Senate. She would also become the only black lawmaker currently serving in the state Senate.

Forry gave a victory speech at the Phillips Old Colony House late Tuesday after a tumultuous night that saw the Associated Press — which generally predicts the outcome of races based on preliminary results — hand the race to Collins. The Forry campaign, however, remained insistent that their candidate held a slight lead. And ultimately, after all the votes had been counted, the Associated Press took the unusual step of retracting its call on the race.


The results of the race provided by the City of Boston are considered unofficial until they are certified by the Secretary of State’s office.

Flanked by her mother, her husband and four children, Forry teared up as she addressed supporters at the evening’s end.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,’’ she said. “We had an amazing campaign. We had people in every district.”

Her supporters chanted: “Linda! Linda! Linda!”

Forry would replace former state Senator John A. Hart Jr., a South Boston Democrat, who resigned in January to take a job at a law firm. Hart and other former senators from the district have hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston. Forry has in the past attended the breakfast, but stayed clear of the Southie parade because it bars gay groups from participating.


Hart’s resignation prompted a behind-the-scenes scramble among those aspiring to ascend to Senate leadership and kicked off a shotgun special election to replace him.

Political observers painted the three-way matchup between Collins, Forry, and Dahill as a potential turning point in Boston political history — with Collins and Dahill, both from deeply rooted Southie families, representing the city’s Irish-American political power and Forry, a Haitian-American from Dorchester, representing “New Boston.”

Both Collins and Dahill fought hard to shed the image that they were simply the next generation of South Boston Democrats, with Dahill using extensive online and social media campaigning and Collins, the youngest of the three hopefuls, calling himself the “millennial candidate” and campaigning heavily in Dorchester, Hyde Park, and Mattapan.

Collins’s campaign trumpeted the endorsement of various leaders of color and emphasized his work as a state representative to improve antidrug efforts and transportation quality in the district’s urban neighborhoods.

Forry relied heavily on her deep connections throughout the district in a campaign that heralded her as a barrier-breaking candidate. Her campaign attributes her victory to her ability to win and turn out votes in parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.

Her aides say she came in a distant third in South Boston, whose voters have traditionally wielded outsized political power in the district because they typically show up on election day. Of the district’s roughly 160,000 registered voters, only 30,000 reside in South Boston.

Before Hart, the seat was held by US Representative Stephen Lynch and, before that, William Bulger, who represented the district for 25 years.

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com.