Replacing Turner, Tito Jackson Wins City Council Spot

By Phillip Martin

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Mar. 16, 2011

District 7 City-Councilor-elect Tito Jackson waited to speak at a candidates' forum earlier this year. (Phillip Martin/WGBH)

BOSTON — Tito Jackson will replace Chuck Turner as the city councilor for Boston’s District 7.
 
Jackson, who served as a political director for Governor Deval Patrick, ran a spirited campaign against Cornell Mills, a former civilian homicide investigator and son of former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson.
 
The outcome was foreshadowed by the preliminary election last month, when Jackson won 67 percent of the vote. Tuesday night’s victory — with 82 percent of all votes cast — is seen as a validation of Jackson’s in-your-face campaign, energized by brightly lit billboards, a sound system attached to a truck, and his own theme song. 

Jackson led supporters of Gov. Deval Patrick's re-election campaign in cheers during last November's election. Jackson was Patrick's Political Director. (AP)

Jackson also engaged in old fashioned door-to-door campaigning in a district that includes parts of Roxbury, Dorchester and the South End. Although he was seen from the very beginning as the front-runner, Jackson said he took nothing for granted.
 
“I believed that the score is zero-zero-zero and that we have to go out and earn every single vote,” Jackson said.
 
Jackson had support from labor unions and city-and-state political power brokers, including the Governor’s wife, Diane Patrick. 
 
Jackson also received the blessing from Chuck Turner, who held the District 7 seat until his colleagues voted him out due to his conviction on federal corruption charges. He had been secretly filmed taking a bribe that prosecutors said amounted to $1,000.
 
But Turner was held dear by many of his constituents, and Jackson has expressed great respect for his predecessor.
 
“There’s big shoes to fill. Councilor Turner has dedicated his life over the past forty years to advocating for the folks of District Seven. And I’m going to continue to do that,” Jackson said. 
 
Jackson’s competitor, Cornell Mills, chose not to speak to reporters after the returns were in.  He ran what seemed to many like a quixotic campaign; based on his experience as a businessman and homicide investigator and on the legacy of his infamous mother, former Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who he proudly cited at every rally. 
 
Last week, Wilkerson began serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Her descent, from celebrated and effective politician to convicted felon, resulted from her acceptance of $23,500 in bribe payments, in the same sting operation that eventually got Turner.

Tito Jackson was long considered the front-runner in the special election to replace the city council seat formerly held by Chuck Turner. Supporters held signs for Jackson outside a candidates' forum earlier this year.

Jackson’s victory, says retired teacher Bob Marshall outside a Roxbury polling station, could help heal the psychic wounds inflicted on Boston's black communities.
 
“Because we’re in the process of still grieving from the loss of two very good legislators, Chuck Turner and Senator Wilkerson,” Marshall said. “So I think Tito can help bring us together. But it’s been tough.”
 
And it will likely get even tougher. This district saw a jump in homicides last year and has the highest rates of unemployment in the city.  
 
Tito Jackson says he will make it a point of not just representing the district, but of exhorting his constituents to take action on their own behalf. But first, he will have to overcome a level of despair that some believe was reflected in the turnout for the election itself. 
 
If this was a special election, as it is called, the vast majority of eligible voters didn’t see it that way. Only 8 percent of 41,000 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday — up one percent from the preliminary election.  
 
But Delores made it to the polls.
 
“Because that’s my civil duty to vote.  And I wanted to see someone there who will keep up the work of Chuck Turner,” Delores said.
 
She voted for Tito Jackson.
 
The adopted son of local community organizer Herb Jackson takes the oath of office on March 25th — the same day former Councilor Chuck Turner reports to federal prison. But that’s only a coincidence, said Jackson. “This is a new day,” he said.

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