Voters in South Brookline’s Precinct 16 will choose their new state representative on May 2, when they vote on a Democratic nominee to represent the 10th Suffolk District in the State House.
The open seat in the district, which covers South Brookline, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Roslindale, follows former State Rep. Ed Coppinger stepping down after 12 years to head government affairs for the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
Three Democratic candidates are on the ballot: Bill MacGregor, Robert Orthman and Celia Segel. The special state election will officially take place on May 30, but there are no Republican candidates, so the Democratic primary is the race to watch.
Brookline native Bill MacGregor grew up attending the town’s public schools, and has family members who have worked for Brookline, including in the fire department, schools and public works department..
He says he worked on thousands of constituent cases, most of them in the 10th district, as chief of staff for former Boston City Councillor Matt O’Malley, whose district included Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury and parts of Roslindale..
MacGregor says he’s “been able to help a lot of people and work with a lot of people.”
Macgregor prides himself on his ability to build relationships, and plans to continue doing so in the State House. He jokes that many residents in the district have his phone number from one issue or another.
“I’m invested in this community. I was born and raised in this district, and I never left,” he said.
Part of his plan for relationship building includes potentially convening a new Brookline delegation.
“Now that the district has been redrawn, there’s a handful of state representatives that represent Brookline and I would love to do a monthly meeting checking in on what they’re hearing from their constituents and what their needs are so that we can fight for Brookine together,” he said.
With his experience working in government for 10 years, as well as working with the district’s former representative, Macgregor said he “can get started on day one.”
MacGregor, now a mortgage loan officer, has been endorsed by Coppinger, O’Malley and 14 labor unions.
Robert Orthman currently works as deputy general counsel at the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. He said his 12 years of experience as a practicing attorney means he knows “what it means to write laws and negotiate.”
Childcare expenses are an issue in the district, especially among young families living in South Brookline, he says.
“We have the most expensive childcare in the country, and that affects South Brookline, Boston, everywhere,” Orthman said.
Another key part of Orthman’s platform is transportation. He said he supports the MBTA Communities Act, which is significant for a district with multiple commuter rail stations.
“The MBTA Communities Act is a really important law to require towns that have MBTA access… to provide multi-family housing. They’ve traditionally had exclusionary zoning in those communities,” Orthman said.
The district will be without a representative until the end of May, meaning that South Brookline has no representation during the height of budget season in the House.. Orthman said he has the necessary “on-the-ground policy experience to immediately start on day one.”
“I understand the legislature, the legislative process, I know how to negotiate. That’s what I do professionally. And I combine that with a deep community understanding of both, having been an advocate for years. I’ll be a strong advocate and legislator,” Orthman said.
He has been endorsed by Boston City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, state rep. Samantha Montaño and the northeast chapter of the United Auto Workers union.
Celia Segel, who works for the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, has spent a large part of her career “trying to hold powerful interests accountable” and working to build relationships, she says.
As a “longtime advocate in the State House,” Segel said she can leverage different relationships on Beacon Hill and with various statewide organizations, helping her “to be an effective legislator on behalf of this district.”
The district’s constituents “deserve someone who can grow in this role and be an effective advocate on their behalf and not just play the role of constituent services — someone who can really drive policy at a state level that reflects the interest of this community,” Segel said, “That’s why I’m running, to be that person.”
As a current Jamaica Plain resident who grew up in Brookline, Segel said it’s unusual that she’s been able to raise her family here, close to her parents and extended family.
“Competing costs have been forcing people out of our neighborhoods, and I’m running on policies to improve affordability in our neighborhoods so that people can afford to stay here,” said Segel.
In the past, the majority of affordable housing investments were from federal and city funding rather than the state, according to Segel. “I think we’re missing a critical player in financing and creating incentives at the state level to build more affordable housing.”
Segel has been endorsed by Majority Leader State Sen. Cynthia Creem, former Congressman Barney Frank, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.