Miranda wins five-way primary for Roxbury-based state Senate seat

Two-term state rep vows to be a voice for young people 'struggling to survive and thrive'

STATE REP. LIZ MIRANDA, the daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants, who grew up in a troubled Roxbury neighborhood and went on to Wellesley College, will move on from the Massachusetts House to the Senate after winning Tuesday’s five-way Democratic primary for the Roxbury-based Second Suffolk Senate seat.

Miranda, 42, who worked as a community organizer and was inspired to seek public office four years ago after her brother Michael was shot and killed in 2017, is poised to take the seat being vacated by Sonia Chang-Diaz, who gave up the post to run for governor. No Republican is vying for the seat in November. 

After addressing several hundred supporters at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Dorchester, Miranda said in an interview that her win is a victory for young people of color. 

“I think it represents that kids that are born and raised in the city have a fighting chance,” she said. “This win, for me, is for black kids, BIPOC kids, kids who grew up in places like Boston, struggling to survive and thrive, to know nothing is impossible.” 

Miranda outpaced a field that included a fellow lawmaker, state Rep. Nika Elugardo of Jamaica Plain, minister and retired housing official Miniard Culpepper, activist James Grant, and former state senate Dianne Wilkerson. 

According to unofficial tallies on the Boston Open Election Results Portal, Miranda had 34 percent of the vote, followed by Elugardo with 27 percent, Wilkerson with 21 percent, Culpepper with 15 percent, and Grant with 3 percent.  

The district includes large chunks of Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain.   

Miranda and Elugardo, who were both elected to the House in 2018, were able to use the power of their standing to mount strong campaigns. Wilkerson, a once-rising star who flamed out amid an escalating pattern of wrongdoing that ended in federal prison on corruption charges, was attempting a comeback 14 years after she voted out of the Senate seat. Culpepper, a pastor at the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Dorchester and former regional counsel to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, had strong ties in the district, but was unable to convert them into political might. 

“I try to be a different kind of leader,” said Miranda. “I get things done, but I’m also trying to bring folks closer to power.” She said she knows the experience of living in the community “when no one outreached to me.” 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Miranda will become the second Black woman in the 40-member Senate, joining East Boston’s Lydia Edwards, who was elected in January. She said she’ll bring a strong voice on issues of economic inequality.  

“I feel like this is a moment to go into the Massachusetts Senate from the blackest district in the state, and say, it’s time to bring equity to Blue Hill Avenue,” she said.