It has been almost 23 years since a Republican has won significant support in a general election for the First Suffolk state Senate seat, much less seriously threaten the Democratic stranglehold on the district that includes South Boston and Dorchester.
Joseph A. Ureneck, the GOP candidate in this month’s special election to replace Jack Hart Jr., acknowledges he may be unlikely to break that mold, but is eager to try.
“Even though the district is heavily [Democratic], voters will have a clear choice in the politics and ideology of the candidates,” Ureneck said, adding he was asking voters to “look beyond party labels.”
A 61-year-old Dorchester native who has never held elected office, Ureneck knows that he faces an uphill battle against Democrat Linda Dorcena Forry, a well-known state representative who would become the first woman and racial minority to hold the seat if elected.
Forry narrowly defeated state Representative Nick Collins in Tuesday’s primary and is widely expected to stroll to victory in the heavily Democratic district when voters head back to the polls in the special election on May 28.
While Forry said last week she is not taking her next challenger for granted, most political observers expect her to all but ignore Ureneck.
A self-described “Ron Paul Republican,” Ureneck said his candidacy is important because it provides voters with an alternative at the polls and an outlet for further discussion of his primary issue: state restraining order laws that he sees as discriminatory against men.
Ureneck has lived in the First Suffolk district much of his life, leaving only for an 11-year stretch beginning in the 1990s when he studied and worked in China.
Ureneck currently works as a Chinese translator and serves as chairman of the Fatherhood Coalition, the state’s most prominent “men’s rights” organization, which was founded in 1993.
In 2003 and 2005, Ureneck ran for one of Boston City Council’s four at-large positions, coming in last both times, with 907 and 133 votes respectively.
A longtime political independent, Ureneck said one reason Republicans in his district are unlikely to rally around him is his refusal to commit to voting along party lines.
“Republicans and Democrats are essentially the same thing,” Ureneck said. “I don’t know if all of the Republicans are very enthused by me, because I’m not really a party rah-rah-rah guy.”
Inspired by the long-shot presidential campaign of then-Republican representative Ron Paul of Texas, Ureneck became a registered Republican in 2007 and said his thoughts on foreign policy are shaped largely by Paul’s noninterventionist stances.
In 2010, Ureneck ran for a seat on the Governor’s Council, which the Fatherhood Coalition sees as an important body in the fight to change state judicial policy, but lost.
This January, when Hart’s resignation prompted a special election for the First Suffolk Senate seat, Ureneck decided to join the race.
The sole declared Republican candidate, Ureneck raised just $235 during the primary, in which he won 829 votes, and has received no support, financial or otherwise, from the state Republican Party.
But with or without pledged support from fellow Republicans — he says he has not sought, or received, any endorsements — Ureneck faces a daunting challenge.
Few Republicans have gained significant traction in the district, which has been long dominated by South Boston Democrats. Before Hart, the seat was held by US Representative Stephen Lynch and William Bulger, former Senate president.
Both spent more than a decade in the seat, often running uncontested and almost never encountering a general election opponent who yielded more than 25 percent of the vote.
The most successful Republican candidate in recent memory, John DeJong, a Back Bay veterinarian, captured 35.6 percent of the vote in his 1990 attempt to unseat Bulger.
While Ureneck acknowledges he is engaged in a battle against history and demographics, he said he hopes to raise enough money for television or radio advertisements or some posters and yard signs. He has challenged Forry to a debate, but it is unclear if she will accept.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Ureneck said Thursday afternoon. “But we’ll see what we can do.”