Home Youth activism Fred Fontaine is running as an independent for the House seat

Fred Fontaine is running as an independent for the House seat

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BROCKTON — Fred Fontaine has worn many hats in Brockton, from bus driver to business owner and advocate for his fellow Haitian-Americans to deputy director of the city’s Emergency Management Agency.

Now he aims to represent the town of Beacon Hill in Plymouth’s 11th Ward entirely in Brockton. Notably, Fontaine chose to present himself as an independent, sometimes referred to as unregistered. He will be on the ballot on November 8, facing the Democratic candidate.

“I’m running as an independent because it’s not a party that’s going to change things. It’s the people,” Fontaine said in an interview at one of his many companies, The Perfect Place Function Hall.

Two municipal councilors are vying for the Democratic wink: Shirley Asack and Rita Mendes.

Fontaine says too many young people leave Brockton after high school because they don’t see a future here.

“They just feel like there’s nothing in Brockton,” he said. “They run away.”

Fontaine said he is campaigning on three main issues: infrastructure, public safety and education.

Like almost all candidates to represent Brockton in Beacon Hill, Fontaine said he would be best at bringing money and resources home. Fontaine said he will leverage his personal connections, built over decades of activism and entrepreneurship. And he said he would invite power players to Brockton, show them around town and put a face to Brockton’s needs.

As an immigrant, Fontaine said he saw other immigrants comparing Brockton favorably to bad situations in their home country, leading them to settle for the status quo instead of pushing for better services and facilities. . Fontaine came to the United States from Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1981. He was 22 years old.

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Fontaine first settled in Cambridge, but has grown his businesses and relationships since moving to Brockton. If you’ve lived in Brockton for a long time, chances are you’ve been a customer of one of his businesses. They have included Celeb’s Cuts, FDJ Realty Trust, Fontaine Cleaners and perhaps most famously, The Perfect Place, a large reception hall.

In March 2021, he received the Black Excellence on the Hill Award from the state’s Black & Latino Legislative Caucus. He also organized what became an annual community cleanup: Keep Brockton Beautiful, which began when Jack Yunits was mayor.

Fontaine made an unsuccessful bid for city council in 2009 and has served in several city administrations. He founded South Shore Haitians United for Progress, a non-profit youth and adult development organization.

Fred Fontaine running for state representative for the 11th district of Plymouth (Brockton) at his restaurant The Perfect Place on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

How does it feel to be the only independent in the House?

Being independent in the House is tough, but can be rewarding, according to Rep. Susannah Whipps, who represents Franklin. Voters elected her twice as a Republican, but more recently elected her twice as an independent. As of this writing, she is the only unregistered member of the Chamber. The chamber has 126 Democrats, 28 Republicans and five vacancies.

“After a few terms, I felt like I evolved a bit. I didn’t want to belong to a party,” Whipps said in a phone interview. “I was choosing people over parties.”

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Not being part of either of the state’s political machines has its pros and cons, she said. The advantage is being able to support the bills of any of his colleagues in the House or to support any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.

“If you’re a Democrat, you can get in trouble,” said Whipps, who caucus with Democrats.

The disadvantages are significant.

Fred Fontaine, candidate for State Representative for Plymouth's 11th District (Brockton) holds pictures symbolizing running as an independent.  Left is a photo of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and, right, Timothy Cruz (R) Plymouth County Prosecutor, Senator Mike Brady (D) of the 2nd District of Plymouth and Bristol and Sheriff Joseph McDonald (R) County Plymouth.  Photo taken at Perfect Place Function Hall on Wednesday March 23, 2022.

“It’s lonely sometimes,” Whipps said.

But the biggest downside is the money. With no party affiliation, there is no money from the Democratic or Republican campaign contribution pipelines. And you have to buy your own mailing lists and voter data.

“Fundraising is a bit more difficult,” she said.

The Whipps district may be more fertile ground for independents than heavily Democratic Brockton. It represents 12 cities over 340 square miles.

“When you go out here in rural western Massachusetts, it’s not Democrat versus Republican. It’s west versus east, rural versus urban.”

Whipps said the Democratic establishment did not rule her out. For example, Dems gave him committee assignments despite his unsubscription.

“It hasn’t been the kiss of death, being an independent,” Whipps said.

An uphill battle?

Fontaine will face an uphill battle to win as an unregistered candidate at Brockton, according to Brian Frederick, director of political science at Bridgewater State University.

“Generally speaking, it’s very hard to win as an independent in Massachusetts politics,” Frederick said. “If you’re not listed as a Democrat or a Republican, the system is against you. The odds of coming out on top are very, very slim.”

Frederick has put Fontaine on long odds of winning the general election against the emerging Democrat from the primary. He said both Democratic candidates were strong.

There’s also the issue of how Fontaine would navigate Beacon Hill without belonging to either major party. If the House were more evenly divided, an independent might have more weight. But that’s not the case in the Massachusetts home right now.

Fred Fontaine running for state representative for the 11th district of Plymouth (Brockton) at his restaurant The Perfect Place on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

“Because the Democrats have no threat to their majority, they would be less likely to appease (an independent),” Frederick said.

And even if Fontaine wins Brockton’s 11th seat in Plymouth, the district’s partisan leanings could tempt Democratic leaders not to play with him.

“They probably feel like the next time a Democrat runs they’ll have a good chance of beating him, so why support him?” said Frederic.

None of the challenges above scare Fontaine. He has close contacts among Democrats and has served as a Democratic delegate on several occasions. He also woos people on both sides of the aisle. Case in point: In his Main Street reception hall, he not only posts pictures of himself with Joe Biden (from when Biden was running for president), but also with local Republicans such as the longtime prosecutor of Plymouth District Timothy Cruz and Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald.

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