Special tot he Patriot-Bridge
Damali Vidot, former President of the Chelsea City Council, is running for the 2nd Suffolk State House District seat currently held by State Rep. Dan Ryan. The district covers a majority of the City of Chelsea and all of the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. Vidot is on her third term as a Chelsea City Councilor, and her move to unseat Dan Ryan, she says, has everything to do with the imperative to build a brighter future for communities like Chelsea and Charlestown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a future that will leave behind the failed policies of the past.
Districts like the 2nd Suffolk are amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The per capita infection rate in Chelsea as of Monday, May 4, for example, sat at 537 per 10,000 residents, and the death rate at 27 per 10,000. These numbers nearly double the rates of the next most afflicted city, Brockton, which faces 305 infections per 10,000 and 15 deaths per 10,000. These alarming rates prompted Councilor Vidot, along with other elected officials and community leaders, to advocate for increased support from Governor Baker. As a result, the Governor deployed the Massachusetts National Guard to Chelsea in mid-April to aid the community, where residents face serious food and housing insecurity. In comparison, Charlestown has some of the lowest infection rates in Boston, per the city’s Department of Public Health. Still, these reports can be deceiving, as only 534 persons have been tested, which is a considerably low number given that Charlestown is home to large numbers of front-line workers.
While moved to run for state representative by the damage this pandemic is inflicting on her hometown, Councilor Vidot says that this pandemic only highlights the long-term problems she has been fighting against since launching her political career in 2015. This pandemic has served as a magnifying glass to the social and economic inequities that leave workers and immigrants in the shadows, and black and brown communities disproportionately vulnerable during systemic failures. She added that “this district deserves a representative that has been at the forefront of the change that drastically uplifts and centers the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community,” talking about people who are food and housing insecure, who can’t afford quality healthcare, and/or whose rights at work are being trampled. Councilor Vidot closed by saying that “we cannot afford to go back to normal because ‘normal’ means that our communities go back to living in a world with high levels of air pollution that create more respiratory problems, further exacerbating fatalities as a result of world-changing events like the one we face today; or that they go to bed on an empty stomach, no longer living paycheck to paycheck, but rather food pantry to food pantry. We can and we must do better. This campaign for state representative will center the needs of the most affected, not just by COVID-19, but by the greed of employers, polluters, and unscrupulous landlords. A campaign that builds on the need to turn to each other not just during trying times but every time we see a neighbor in need.”
Vidot was raised in a union household, and grew up organizing with Chelsea’s most vulnerable youth. She first ran for office in 2015 along with a wave of newcomers that shocked the political establishment in Chelsea, a majority-minority city. Her tenure on the Chelsea City Council has been marked by her leadership on behalf of the residents of Chelsea around transportation, housing, and fairness. As council president, Vidot worked with the MBTA to address critical transit concerns and secured millions of dollars in transportation stabilization funds. Her transportation advocacy on the council happened alongside her housing affordability work that included regional housing affordability solutions.
John Valinch, a Charlestown resident, shared his thoughts: « Throughout Damali’s service as a mother, Chelsea City Councilor, community activist, friend, and artist, she has proven herself to be a passionate, dynamic, and hardworking advocate and ally to all of the communities she so proudly serves.” Referencing her work to pass wage theft ordinances and to clean up Chelsea’s air of jet fuel from planes coming in and out of Logan Airport, John added that “as a Charlestown resident who cares deeply about our public health, our shared environment, bright futures for our youth, creating a more equitable and inclusive Commonwealth, and protecting and advancing good jobs with dignity for all, I know that Damali Vidot is the right candidate to lead the 2nd Suffolk District as State Representative. In these times of great uncertainty and transformation we need a leader with her demonstrated commitment and unwavering integrity to be with us.”
Chelsea resident, Zaida Ismatul added that « Damali’s leadership continues to demonstrate a genuine care for the real issues affecting her constituents. Her knowledge, transparency, and advocacy is among some of the best I have witnessed in any political figure. She has earned my trust with her actions, not just her words.”
Damali Vidot topped the ticket in Chelsea for her re-election campaign in 2019 and is looking to unseat Rep. Daniel Ryan, who has served as the 2nd Suffolk’s representative since his election in 2014. The Democratic State Primary, which will decide the fate of this race, will be held on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, and the winner will be on the general election balloting that will happen on November 3.