Emerson senior mounts State House campaign


Zhuoli Zhang

Richard Fucillo stands in front of the State House.

By Camilo Fonseca, Editor-at-large

The contest to fill an open seat for the Massachusetts House of Representatives now includes an unusual face in state politics—an Emerson College senior.

Richard Fucillo, a 22-year old communications major, is running as an independent candidate for the state legislature’s 19th Suffolk District, held until recently by Rep. Robert DeLeo. A non-traditional candidate, Fucillo said that despite appearances, he is uniquely qualified to deal with the issues faced by his constituency.

“There’s a lot of issues that have been around for longer than I have been alive,” he said. “The people in government have done some things, of course—but, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of things that still need to be done, and [right now] they don’t seem like they’re going anywhere.”

Fucillo’s past experience in politics is largely extracurricular; he serves as Class of 2021 Vice President, and was the ex-president of the college’s Turning Point USA club.

If elected, he would be the youngest representative currently in the State House, and one of the youngest in Massachusetts—and national—history.

A native of Winthrop, Massachusetts, the largest town in his district, Fucillo said his family’s close ties to the community give him a stronger advantage than being backed by a political party.

“In a local election I don’t think party lines always matter,” Makar Kirikov, a senior visual and media arts major and Fucillo’s campaign manager, said. “The truth is, Richard has great connections to this community, and he’s an active member.”

At the polls on March 30, Fucillo will be listed as an unaffiliated candidate, having successfully collected the 150 signatures required for ballot access in about a week. As an independent, he is bypassing the typical party primary process, looking to become the first non-Democrat to represent the district in half a century.

A crowded field of candidates is arrayed against him. The Democratic primary, taking place March 2, consists of various players with histories in state politics—two former legislative aides, one former legislative counsel, and a party committeeman who was briefly endorsed by U.S. House Rep. Joe Kennedy III until recent sexual misconduct allegations came to light.

“A lot of these people who Richard is running against are really small-time career politicians,” Kirikov said. “A lot of them are just toeing the party line. That can be appropriate on a national level, but I don’t think that, in local elections, you should necessarily put ideology or political beliefs over the day-to-day needs [of your constituents].”

Kirikov said that, in contrast to other candidates funded by party bankrolls and corporate “bribes,” Fucillo’s campaign is largely fueled by private donations—many of them under $100.

“[Richard] isn’t going to answer to some big political entity somewhere in Washington,” he continued. “He has his private responsibilities to the people who elected him.”

Instead of focusing on national politics, Fucillo centered his platform around various issues of particular importance to Winthrop and the surrounding area. 

“One of the largest points of the campaign is education funding,” Kirikov said. “Because rather recently—at least more recently than the other candidates—Richard went through public education in the town of Winthrop. He knows the issues they’re facing [like] the very low retention rate of teachers.”

Fucillo said the high faculty turnover is the primary contributor to the below-average graduation rates in the local school system—87 percent over the last five years, per the Massachusetts Department of Education, as compared to the statewide 89.3 percent. His firsthand experience at Winthrop High School was a major influence in his vision for a strengthened public education system.

He has also emphasized the need to address the “exorbitant” local costs for water and broadband internet—which the Gen Z candidate believes should both be considered public utilities.

“Internet is no longer a luxury in our society,” he said. “Everybody needs to have access to fast, reliable internet.”

The Emerson senior is campaigning to open Winthrop’s internet market—which his campaign website characterizes as a “Comcast monopoly”—to other providers, with the aim of attaining a similar service and speed to that of the Boston metropolitan area.

Among Fucillo’s other priorities are first responders, local business, and the reformation of Family Court to promote shared custody—which he said was a personal issue for him.

“As a child of divorced parents, a lot of times children get put in the middle—which is an impossible situation,” he said. “Organizations like the National Parents Organization have been making efforts to reform Family Court, and I am fully, 100 percent behind that.”

The seat Fucillo is running for has sat vacant since December when six-term Rep. Robert DeLeo stepped down to take a teaching position at Northeastern University. The example set by DeLeo, who also served as Speaker of the House, was a major influence on Fucillo’s decision to enter the race.

“He represented our district for a long time, and he brought a lot of money to Winthrop,” Fucillo said. “He did a fantastic job providing for our community, and I hope to fill those shoes the best I can when elected.”

Only one independent has won election to the House in the past decade, Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol. Nevertheless, Fucillo pointed to voter turnout trends as improving his chances.

“This is a special election,” he said. “Only the people who are really, really interested are going to come out to vote.”

Fucillo hopes his candidacy can make younger people—a demographic he says is often ignored in local elections—show up to the polls in force

“One of my goals is to really hit social media hard and target people my age, and around five years older, three years younger,” the 22 year-old said. “If you can get them out to vote, that’s a huge voter base that is going to put a dent in this election.”

In the 2018 midterm elections, only 34 percent of Massachusetts voters aged 18-24 showed up to the polls. Still, he stressed he felt his youth and education were strengths.

“The thing that I pride myself most on is the fact that I’m a student,” he said. “I have the ability to learn as I go. Obviously a lot of this has been a learning curve, but I’m willing to admit [what] I don’t know and sit down with people who do.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of campaign manager Makar Kirikov. The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling. The Beacon regrets this error.