fb-pixel Skip to main content
Trail Mix

East Boston Democrats battle for backers

 The Democrats seeking the East Boston seat are (clockwise from top left) Camilo Hernandez, Ed Deveau, Lou Scapicchio, Joe Ruggiero, and Adrian Madaro.
The Democrats seeking the East Boston seat are (clockwise from top left) Camilo Hernandez, Ed Deveau, Lou Scapicchio, Joe Ruggiero, and Adrian Madaro.

It’s 8:30 a.m., and it’s snowing.

Outside the Maverick MBTA station in East Boston, Ed Deveau is greeting commuters.

“Good morning! How are you? My name’s Eddie Deveau, and I’m running for state rep here in East Boston,” he calls cheerfully as snowflakes dust his scalp. “I hope you’ll consider me.”

Deveau, 33, and four other candidates — Camilo Hernandez, Adrian Madaro, Joe Ruggiero, and Lou Scapicchio — are working against the clock and the elements to snag the Democratic nomination to represent their neighborhood in the Legislature.

As successive snowstorms pelt the region, candidates struggle to reach voters, scarcely able to miss a day as a March 3 primary looms. Sometimes they grab shovels and help clear paths.


“It’s been quite fun, I’ll tell you that, navigating the snow, and some people still haven’t shoveled, so you’re trudging through that,” says Madaro.

Many in this tight-knit neighborhood of 40,000 believe the race’s top contenders are Madaro, 26, and Ruggiero, 27, who have close ties to influential figures and access to important donors.

“Most people think it’s between Ruggiero and Adrian, but Deveau certainly has paid a lot of dues,” says Larry DiCara, a former Boston city councilor and longtime political observer, who supports Madaro.

Madaro, who was chief of staff to East Boston’s previous representative, Carlo Basile, before Basile accepted his current post as chief secretary to Governor Charlie Baker, boasts many of his former boss’s supporters.

Basile, though, says he will not endorse a candidate, and both state Senator Anthony Petruccelli and City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina are publicly staying out of the race. Neither could be reached for comment.

Ruggiero, a funeral home director and field organizer for Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s 2013 campaign, has Walsh’s endorsement and is represented by the mayor’s former spokeswoman, Kate Norton.

He also has endorsements from Felix D. Arroyo, whom Walsh supported in his successful campaign last year for Suffolk Register of Probate, and five labor unions — Walsh is a former secretary treasurer of the Boston Building Trades Council, an umbrella group representing 16 construction unions.


Madaro has support from neighborhood activists, including Mary Ellen Welch, and former Menino administration officials Ernani DeAurajo and William F. Sinnott. LaMattina’s daughter, Liana, serves as Madaro’s campaign manager.

With top candidates tied to powerful pols, some see the race as a proxy battle between Walsh and Basile, who endorsed Walsh’s opponent, John Connolly, in 2013. Madaro brushed aside the suggestion.

“I’m my own man,” he says. “I’m running on my own record and no one else’s.”

Madaro campaigns on his experience helping Basile craft legislation and his relationships with legislators. He says he would work to noise-proof more homes near Logan International Airport’s flight paths and to use property tax abatements to offset values diminished by the airport.

“I bring a fresh vision,” he says. “I bring ideas, and I bring the wherewithal . . . to put them into practice and get them done.”

Ruggiero got to know Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, through the recovery community after getting sober at 21, and he says he learned by observing Walsh’s work as a state representative.

He says he would fight for access to economic development; public safety; better schools; affordable health care, particularly for mental health and addiction; and community input in the rapid development of high-end housing in East Boston, which resident say has displaced some low-income residents.


“I think we’re at an opportunity here in East Boston,” he says, “where we can really shape what we want in our neighborhood. And the only way to do that is to get community engagement.”

After launching their campaigns late last year, Ruggiero and Madaro took an early lead in fund-raising, according to year-end campaign finance reports, the most recent available.

Ruggiero came in just shy of $38,000 — including a $4,000 loan to himself, with $100 each from Walsh and Walsh’s girlfriend, Lorrie Higgins — and Madaro tallied nearly $40,000, lending $13,000 to his own campaign.

But in this tight five-way race, nothing is certain, and the other candidates could surprise observers.

Hernandez, 37, a Colombian immigrant and an aide to LaMattina, asserts support among the Latino community, which constituted 53 percent of the neighborhood’s population in 2010.

But many are not yet citizens and cannot vote, and some prominent Latinos, such as DeAraujo and Arroyo, are supporting other candidates.

Hernandez, who became a citizen in 2011, says his priority would be to make government more accessible to all his constituents and connect them with services to help them achieve the American dream, as he has.

“I want to bring that smile, that confidence, that feeling when I got off the plane the first time I landed in Boston,” he says.

Scapicchio, 32, an attorney and Army veteran whose father’s first cousin, Paul Scapicchio, was a Boston city councilor from 1998 to 2006, may appeal to veterans and other young professionals.


An East Boston native, Scapicchio was posted around the country during his military service, which he says showed him how other communities addressed issues East Boston faces, such as rapid development.

He supports using tax incentives to promote middle-income housing and small businesses, he says, and increasing the state’s minimum wage.

“You have people that are working full-time jobs at minimum wage, and they still can’t make a living, so they have to work multiple jobs,” he says. “What’s the point of a minimum wage if that’s the way it’s going?”

Deveau, who was a Petruccelli aide for 13 years, says he would work to ensure that “additional amenities” accompany development.

“I don’t want to just see housing being built and that’s it,” he says. “Is it housing that fits in the fabric of the neighborhood, is it community driven, and what comes along with that?”

The winner of the Democratic primary will face off on March 31 against independent candidate Joanne Pomodoro, 62, an East Boston native and social worker who is running an unconventional grass-roots campaign. There are no Republican candidates in the race.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.