Transgender Conservative Former Massachusetts State Rep Running As A Democrat

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Yes, Althea Garrison is running for public office once again this year.

The 82-year-old former Republican state representative and unenrolled city councilor holds the distinction of being the first openly transgender state representative in Massachusetts history. Now, the conservative wants the seat back.

This year, the Dorchester resident is one of three Democrats running for the party’s nomination in the Fifth Suffolk District, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. It’s the district that Garrison represented from 1993 to 1995. 

Garrison’s run comes as incumbent state Representative Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury) is not seeking re-election. Miranda is running for state Senate in the Second Suffolk District; it’s also an open seat as state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) chose to not seek re-election so she could run for governor. Chang-Diaz dropped out of the governor’s race in June.

The other two candidates running in this Fifth Suffolk primary are Boston Planning and Development Agency assistant director of diversity and equity Christopher Worrell; and the city of Boston’s former chief diversity officer, Danielson Tavares.

With no Republican running in the Fifth Suffolk District, the winner of the primary will most likely win the general election in November.

Garrison is a biological male but identifies as a woman. Garrison has frequently run for various offices since the 1960s. These runs have come as a Republican, Democrat, and independent.

Garrison’s lone outright victory came in 1992 — as a Republican.

Garrison ran for state representative in the Fifth Suffolk District and won in 1992, in part thanks to a mistake made by a Democratic candidate. Garrison defeated Democrat Irene Roman 54.9 percent to 45 percent in the general election.

In the primary campaign, Garrison successfully challenged some of the signatures that incumbent Democrat Nelson Merced used to get onto the primary ballot. That got him thrown off the primary ballot. Therefore, Garrison didn’t have to run against an incumbent.

Shortly after winning the election in 1992, Garrison was involuntarily outed as transgender by The Boston Herald. Garrison lost a re-election bid in 1994:  54.9 percent to 45.1 percent.

After that, Garrison continued to run for office, but wouldn’t serve in elected office for another 25 years. Garrison was a member of the Boston City Council in 2019 thanks to U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Hyde Park).

Pressley beat former U.S. Representative Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) in the 2018 Democratic primary in the state’s Seventh Congressional District and cruised to an unopposed victory in the November general election. She then resigned from the city council. The city council rules said that the person with the next highest vote total in the race would fill the term. In this case, it was Garrison, who despite having ideological differences with Pressley, campaigned for her for Congress, as WBUR reported. There were four seats available in the 2017 at-large city council race, and Garrison had come in fifth place.

Politically, Garrison is much different from Pressley. Garrison is pro-life, supports the police and deporting illegal immigrants, backed former President Donald Trump, and opposes further gun control measures in Massachusetts.

Garrison unsuccessfully sought re-election for city council in 2019. This time, she placed seventh among eight candidates. Garrison received 16,189 votes while the fourth-place finisher, councilor Julia Mejia, got 22,492 votes. The top four won seats on the council.

Garrison also unsuccessfully ran for city council last year, coming in eighth place out of eight candidates on the general election ballot.

The Fifth Suffolk District includes parts of Roxbury and Dorchester.

A Garrison campaign flyer posted on social media lays out some of the candidate’s priorities in this run for office.

They include permanently ending all coronavirus pandemic restrictions, supporting community policing efforts, introducing more civics and job training into public education, and improving Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority services, among others.

The primary is set for Tuesday, September 6. The winner of the primary will advance to the November 8 general election.

Garrison could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday this week. 


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