Potemkin candidate

The strange case of Samiyah Diaz
By ADAM REILLY  |  May 18, 2006

This is the year to beat Dianne Wilkerson. And in theory, Samiyah Diaz is the sort of candidate who could actually do it.

Granted, Diaz is a Republican running in a heavily Democratic state-senate district. (The Second Suffolk includes Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Chinatown, Back Bay, the South End, and parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Beacon Hill.) But consider the other ways she matches up with Wilkerson, a seven-term incumbent who has weathered more than her share of missteps. Wilkerson is the only African-American in the Senate. Diaz would be the body’s only African-American (her mother is black, her father Hispanic) and its only Muslim. Wilkerson is a staunch gay-marriage supporter; Diaz promises that, if elected, she’ll work to repeal a state law that prohibits out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. Like Wilkerson before her, Diaz is a single mom. Like Wilkerson, she’s attractive and photogenic. But Diaz has youth on her side: she’s 28 years old, while Wilkerson is 51. And unlike Wilkerson, Diaz is baggage free.

Right now, though, the idea of Diaz’s candidacy is far more appealing than the reality. Last week — after Wilkerson’s bizarre failure to get the 300 signatures necessary for a spot on the Democratic-primary ballot forced her to run a sticker campaign to advance to the general election — Diaz held a press conference at the Omni Parker House downtown. She announced that she, too, would be running in the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate — an unorthodox move that could bring Wilkerson’s career to a truly embarrassing close. (If Diaz gets more write-in votes than Wilkerson, she’ll face herself in the general election.)

It was a perfect opportunity for Diaz to show skeptics that she’s legit. And she botched it. Diaz looked nervous throughout her brief speech; she faltered repeatedly and seemed strangely unprepared. (Answering a question from the South End News, she promised to weigh in on the BU-biolab and the Columbus Center development projects, but not until she could “talk to more people in the district and get their feedback.”) After Diaz’s handlers cut the Q&A short and whisked away the candidate, a sense of baffled disappointment filled the room: that’s Samiyah Diaz?

Here’s a charitable explanation for Diaz’s flat performance: she assumed she’d be running the longest of long-shot campaigns, and never thought that the race might actually prove to be — you know — winnable. “If I were her, I’d be frightened too,” says one State House insider. “All of a sudden, she went from being nobody to being somebody.”

Fair enough. Even so, Diaz’s nervousness suggests she’s out of her depth against Wilkerson — who, whatever her flaws, is one tough character. And Diaz’s reticence, with its strange blend of meekness and obstinacy, makes you wonder if she’s actually in charge of her own campaign.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: The First Annual Spotty Awards, Samiyah gets spooky. Plus, who on earth is John Kelleher?, Incumbency, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Dan Winslow, Mitt Romney, U.S. Government,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BULLY FOR BU!  |  March 12, 2010
    After six years at the Phoenix , I recently got my first pre-emptive libel threat. It came, most unexpectedly, from an investigative reporter. And beyond the fact that this struck me as a blatant attempt at intimidation, it demonstrated how tricky journalism's new, collaboration-driven future could be.
  •   STOP THE QUINN-SANITY!  |  March 03, 2010
    The year is still young, but when the time comes to look back at 2010's media lowlights, the embarrassing demise of Sally Quinn's Washington Post column, "The Party," will almost certainly rank near the top of the list.
  •   RIGHT CLICK  |  February 19, 2010
    Back in February 2007, a few months after a political neophyte named Deval Patrick cruised to victory in the Massachusetts governor's race with help from a political blog named Blue Mass Group (BMG) — which whipped up pro-Patrick sentiment while aggressively rebutting the governor-to-be's critics — I sized up a recent conservative entry in the local blogosphere.
  •   RANSOM NOTES  |  February 12, 2010
    While reporting from Afghanistan two years ago, David Rohde became, for the second time in his career, an unwilling participant rather than an observer. On October 29, 1995, Rohde had been arrested by Bosnian Serbs. And then in November 2008, Rohde and two Afghan colleagues were en route to an interview with a Taliban commander when they were kidnapped.
  •   POOR RECEPTION  |  February 08, 2010
    The right loves to rant against the "liberal-media elite," but there's one key media sector where the conservative id reigns supreme: talk radio.

 See all articles by: ADAM REILLY