By Sarah Brink
Former federal housing attorney Miniard Culpepper announced his bid last week for the 2nd Suffolk State Senate seat that stretches from the South End of Boston to Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park.
The Roxbury lawyer vowed to use his office to expand affordable housing and homeownership opportunities, reduce crime and ensure the participation of marginalized communities in the transition to a green economy.
During a press conference in Grove Hall, the geographic center of the district, Culpepper said his experience as a housing lawyer and an activist minister convinced him it was time to bring his advocacy and skills to the job of state senator.
“I am a lawyer who follows the law and a minister who follows the Lord,” said the long-time pastor of the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Roxbury. “Now it’s time to become a lawmaker who works for the people of the 2nd Suffolk District.”
Culpepper joined a Democratic primary race that already includes two Jamaica Plain state legislators — Rep. Nika Elugardo and Rep. Liz Miranda. Former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who lost her 2nd Suffolk re-election bid while facing federal corruption charges, is also weighing a candidacy.
The Senate hopefuls are vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for governor.
Joined by several dozen supporters on a cold and blustery day, Culpepper pointed to his work building housing, feeding families, encouraging vaccines and fighting youth violence as the hallmarks of a career spent on the front lines of urban struggles.
“We love where we live,” he said. “By working together, we can lift the lives of those left behind – to house the homeless, shelter the sick, comfort the afflicted, feed the hungry and provide a better day for all. I believe that by working together we can create the beloved community Dr. King so eloquently spoke about.”
Former colleagues at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development and several local pastors, including the Rev. Gregory Groover of the Charles Street AME Church, praised his efforts to combat housing bias and bring federal resources to improve affordable housing.
Culpepper recently retired from HUD after spending 27 years as its New England regional counsel.
A graduate of Brandeis University, he received a law degree from Suffolk University and a theology degree from Howard University. He worked for U.S. Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Mich.), the one-time chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, on housing issues and played key voter education and turnout roles in the presidential campaigns of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
He also traveled the country with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren during her 2020 bid for the Democratic nomination and worked on the campaigns of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke and a host of state and local officials.
Housing, he said at the announcement, is the greatest challenge facing residents of the majority-Black district. But he also cited a resurgence in youth crime and called for re-deploying the strategies used in the 1990s to reduce violence and fear.
“They called it ‘The Boston Miracle,’” he said. “But we know it wasn’t a miracle. It was just common sense. It was a matter of getting everyone to work together – pastors and social workers, police and prosecutors, probation officers and school teachers, federal, state and city officials working in concert with a laser-like focus on keeping the peace.”
“There’s too much fear in our neighborhoods, too many of our friends and families hiding behind drawn shades and locked doors. We can do something about it. I know what happened back in the 90s because I was there, working out my own church as well as with the pastors of the Ten Point Coalition. And we created a model for the whole nation to follow.”
Culpepper said he would ensure full community participation in the hiring and contract opportunities arising from a recent federal $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to repair roads and bridges and build green infrastructure.
“That money, for the first time in history, has been linked to verifiable spending metrics to advance the goals of economic and social justice for marginalized communities,” he said. “But we need leaders who know how Washington works, who know how the State House works, who know how the tidal wave of funding is distributed and how to ensure that we get our fair share.”