Golar Richie reviews her mayoral campaign at UMass forum

Charlotte Golar Richie, in her first public parsing of her mayoral candidacy, said she needed three things to propel her into the general election: money, time, and opportunity.

She said she needed more money to support her campaign by paying for literature, buttons, and advertisements. She needed more time to campaign, being one of the last candidates to join the race. And she needed more opportunities to meet people and share her message of eradicating disparities in income, violence, and privilege to unite the city.

“It was 20 years ago that I served in the Legislature,” Golar Richie told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at the University of Massachusetts Boston Tuesday night, for a forum on women’s political leadership in Boston. “My husband and I had just met with a financial planner to think about when he could retire. My father was ailing. It was a lot to pull together and I wasn’t sure I could pull it together.”

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But, in the end, she did exactly that, putting together a campaign that fell just short of making it to the final vote.

The former state legislator from Dorchester and aide to Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick finished third in the preliminary mayoral election with 15,546 votes.

The mayor’s race was often discussed in historic terms, being the first election in 20 years without an incumbent candidate. It was also the first contest with such a diverse pool of candidates in a city with an acrid racial history. And Golar Richie said she expected to have more support from women and people of color.

“That was an assumption and you know what they say about those,” she said.

Still, she was buoyed by a coalition of progressive lawmakers and political activists from Brighton, the North End, and Charlestown who rallied around her candidacy and let her know that her support extended beyond her Dorchester base.

The 54-year-old Golar Richie’s run was also also marred by racism, sexism, low voter turnout—particularly among communities of color—too many candidates of color, and critical media coverage, said the forum’s panel. The panel was moderated by Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan and included one of Golar Richie’s senior campaign advisers, community organizers, and political observers.

“I think the Globe OpEd piece was devastating. I think it had a huge impact,” said Paul Watanabe, a UMass Boston political science professor, of a column written about Golar Richie four days before the Sept. 24 election. “The timing couldn’t have been worse.”

The Globe’s Lawrence Harmon wrote a column that appeared on the Sept. 20 Opinion page, which operates independently of the newsroom, that was sharply critical of the candidate and how she ran her campaign.

But, Tuesday’s conversation was as much a look back at the logistics of Golar Richie’s run as it was a look ahead about opening doors for more women and women of color to seek future office.

Too few women of color make their way up the political pipeline because they are underrepresented at the ground floor—local government, activists and political experts say. Women, particularly women of color, often must be asked to run for office and then encouraged to say yes, as they weigh a myriad of issues, including fear, finances, family, and experience.

“Women do have different dynamics that they have to deal with,” said Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, a senior advisor to Golar Richie’s campaign. “But I think if we can get away from what we don’t have when we get out here to run and be as strong as the guys in terms of your focus that will bode best.”

According to the university’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, 21 women have run for the Boston City Council since 1993 and six have been elected, including two last week. Michelle Wu, the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council, was elected to her first term, and Ayanna Pressley, who was the first African-American woman to serve on the council, was reelected to her third term.

Golar Richie, who is African-American, was the only female candidate in a crowded field of 12 to replace the city’s chief executive during the first wide-open mayor’s race in a generation.

Panelist Priti Rao, executive director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, a nonprofit that prepares and encourages women to seek public office, said she hopes for the day her job becomes unnecessary because women are running for office en mass.

“I’m sick and tired of the first, and I’m sick and tired of the second,” she said referring to references to the first or second woman to hold a particular office. “We just have to be breaking that ceiling.”

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