District 7 City Council candidate Carlos Henriquez (left) chats with poet and New Black Panther Party activists Jamarhl Crawford (center) and Marvin Venay during a fundraiser held earlier this month at the Ka Carlos restaurant on Hancock Street in Dorchester. A former aide to mayoral hopeful and City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, Henriquez is mounting his second bid to oust longtime incumbent Chuck Turner from his council seat. (Yawu Miller photo)
Earlier this month, several dozen smartly-dressed supporters converged at the Cape Verdean restaurant Ka Carlos during a fundraiser for District 7 City Council candidate Carlos Henriquez. The crowd was young and change was the operative word.
“He’s committed to being a catalyst for change,” said Alicia Canady, a program director for a Boston charity. “I think Chuck Turner has done a great service to the community for the last 10 years, but it’s time to pass the torch.”
Turner, the incumbent, and Henriquez are two of the five people whose names will appear on the ballot in this September’s preliminary election for the District 7 seat. Former state Rep. Althea Garrison, pastor Roy Owens and newspaper deliveryman David Wyatt are also vying for a spot on the ballot.
Henriquez grew up in the Dudley Street neighborhood of Roxbury, and says he was motivated to run by the conditions in his community — dirty streets, youth violence, drug dealing and prostitution. It was his experience working as an aide to City Councilor-at-Large Michael F. Flaherty that showed Henriquez just how different things could be in his community.
“That was when my eyes were opened to the disparity in services,” Henriquez said. “I had never before spent so much time in South Boston or West Roxbury. You see Department of Public Works people get out of their trucks and sweep the gutters with brooms.”
Working in Flaherty’s office, Henriquez says he was able to form relationships with people in city government that can help him get things done for the people of District 7, which includes Roxbury and parts of Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and the South End.
Carlos is the son of Julio and Sandra Henriquez — the former Boston Housing Authority CEO, who was recently named assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Barack Obama.
He says his relationships in the district could be helpful as well. He serves on the board of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and has worked with local activists to help stem prostitution on Blue Hill Avenue.
He has won converts among the young residents of the district, including poet and New Black Panther Party activist Jamarhl Crawford, who has shown equal measures of support for Henriquez and criticism of Turner on his Facebook page.
‘We can’t say our district is one of the most under-resourced and at the same time say our representative is doing a bang-up job,” Crawford said at the Ka Carlos fundraiser.
Others present at the fundraiser included political activist Marvin Venay, transit activist Bob Terrell, attorney Michael Curry and at-large council candidates Tomas Gonzalez and Andrew Kenneally. Some present were veterans of Henriquez’s last bid for the District 7 council seat in 2007.
“I became familiar with Carlos during the last election cycle,” said Wyndell Bishop, a buyer for Raytheon Company. “I think he did well, running against an incumbent.”
In 2007, Henriquez emerged in the final election with 18 percent of the vote — hardly a mandate for change. But that was a year before Turner was arrested on federal charges of accepting a bribe and lying to an FBI agent — charges that both Turner and the federal witness the FBI cited in its indictment have denied.
Turner, who has served as the District 7 representative on the City Council since 2000, says he plans to stay in office for four more years. When he talks about his record, his emphasis is on the change he has brought to the district and the council.
Speaking in his Dudley Square district office, he rattles off initiatives in which he has played a role in recent months: a home rule petition signed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino to change state laws to force banks to cut deals with homeowners facing foreclosure, an agreement with city departments mandating regular reports on employment generated by federal stimulus funds and a plan to coordinate services to people suffering trauma as a result of violence.
While Henriquez has publicly questioned whether or not Turner has been distracted by the federal bribery charges brought against him last November, Turner points to a busy docket of City Council hearings and community events as evidence of a work-filled schedule.
“When you’ve been set up and people are trying to destroy you, you have two choices,” Turner said. “One is to allow them to demoralize you; the other is to say, if they want to get me out of this office, what I’m doing must be of some benefit to the community. What it tells me is I have to work harder.”
Turner is widely seen as a tireless campaigner who runs a get-out-the-vote effort from his Dudley Square office even when he doesn’t have an opponent.
“Those of us who have been blessed by being elected have to make sure people appreciate the work we’re doing,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to hear from people whether there are things that you could be doing better.”
Henriquez will likely look to keep the debate in the race focused on what can be done better. He has, for the most part, avoided direct attacks on Turner. He attended a rally in support of Turner after his arrest on bribery charges in November.
Their last race was civil, and Henriquez says this time around he wants to keep it the same way for the District 7 seat.
“The campaign is not about what he’s not doing,” Henriquez said. “It’s about what I’ll do. I don’t see it as running against Chuck; I see at as I’m running for the District 7 seat.”
At the spare, sleek Web site of the young District 7 candidate's campaign, readers can learn a bit more about Carlos Henriquez's vision for the City Council district, how to learn more through a variety of social networking sites, how to donate to his campaign and more. More »
The nine-year incumbent and longtime community organizer touts his record of service on his Web site, also going into detail about the circumstances surrounding what he says was an unfounded and unjust arrest last November on federal corruption charges. More »
Faced with a choice between a well-connected political newcomer, a perennial candidate and a three-term incumbent, voters in District 7 chose the incumbent — City Councilor Chuck Turner — by a three-to-one margin. More »