They say the Mystic/Tobin Bridge is a symbol for the great unification of two places – Chelsea and Charlestown – but those folks haven’t looked at recent election results.
It was once again a game of turnout on either side of the Bridge for the state representative race, with incumbent Rep. Dan Ryan of Charlestown cruising to a hard-fought victory over Chelsea City Councillor Damali Vidot on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
The vote count was clear on that point. Overall, State Rep. Ryan beat Councillor Vidot 4,195 to 3,093 – a difference of 1,102 votes in the end. The key to the race was a greater turnout in Charlestown, which has been the story of that seat for many years – going back to elections between Ryan and Chelsea City Council President Roy Avellaneda (who endorsed Ryan this time around). In Charlestown, Ryan got 3,319 votes compared to Vidot’s 1,223 votes. However, in Chelsea, Vidot got 1,870 votes compared to Ryan’s 876 votes. In the end, Charlestown turned out higher, and Ryan won. On the other side of the Bridge, keeping the seat in Charlestown was a major part of the campaign, as Charlestown went 37 years before Ryan was elected without having a resident in elected office.
Another caveat of the campaign was the substantial amount of money that was drawn into the race, nearly $200,000 was raised by both candidates combined at the end – a huge influx for a local state representative race. The story there was a great deal of money coming from outside of the district – and some from outside the state – for Vidot from powerhouse Progressive organizations that backed her and endorsed her in the campaign.
Meanwhile, Ryan featured more fundraising from sources within the district, and some from statewide networks.
At his Election party in Charlestown Tuesday night, Ryan gave a speech to a lively crowd that included State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Councilor Lydia Edwards, Chelsea Council President Avellaneda, Chelsea Councilor Leo Robinson and a host of neighborhood supporters from Charlestown and Chelsea.
In his speech, Ryan touched on the fact that this was a race where outside money and people from the suburbs tried to tell city kids in Charlestown and Chelsea how they should live through their support of Vidot. He said voters turned that notion back.
“It was a tough year and an awesome victory,” said Ryan. “We were so positive. I would wake up every morning with them calling me names on Twitter and I would say, ‘Please, please, no one from my campaign respond to that.’ And nobody did because it’s all about our message and two great communities working together. We don’t care about the rest of the state coming here and telling us what to do. To me, that’s structural racism. When you’re telling city kids what to do and you’re living way out there, that’s part of the problem. We know how to take care of ourselves. We had the most diverse campaign in the state, and not because we were endorsed by some group that writes White Papers…but because we were surrounded by kids that grew up in Chelsea and Charlestown. It’s a great district and I thank you all for sending me back.”
Ryan also gave a nod to the disruption of COVID-19, saying he kicked off his campaign in March during the Presidential Primary, and soon learned that things weren’t going to follow the normal re-election process.
“The first indication that there was going to be a COVID problem was when the Secretary of State said to be careful going to the polls and make sure to mask up and use hand sanitizer,” he said. “People brought their own pens. Everyone thought this was only going to be around for two weeks. The next thing you know I’m representing the City with the highest infection rate in the state. The greatest city in Massachusetts, and the greatest neighborhood in Massachusetts of course is right here in Charlestown. But the greatest City, Chelsea, came together and fed people, clothed people, and did whatever it took to take care of their neighbors.”
Ryan also thanked his family, including his wife, Kara, his son and campaign manager Myer Segal, and his daughters, Audrey and Ella.
Vidot said she thanked all of her campaign staff and her family for supporting her relentlessly during the campaign in both communities. She said though she didn’t come out ahead in her vote totals, she said her movement is just beginning.
On that point, she said she doesn’t believe her campaign really lost.
“Those who subscribe to entrenched power structures and have their own funny relationships with power believe that we lost last night,” she said. “Those of us that haven’t internalized the way that status quo power works recognize that what we did was shake things up. Last night, we loosened up the chains for others to move more freely and openly.
“When I look at the amount of young people that came out to vote, the number and diverse array of folks that showed up for me in this campaign, it is a testament to the change and the values that I represent,” she continued. “When I look back at this campaign and the movement that we have built together over the last three months, all I feel is immense pride for what we did together. I’m already receiving messages from others who are inspired by our campaign, so I’m not sure we really lost at all.”
Ryan will now return to the State House, and will be inaugurated into his next term in January, 2021.