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Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Tight competition in at-large race
At-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley greets supporters at Marcella Park.

On a sunny autumn Saturday, Roxbury residents gathered on the baseball diamond at Marcella Street for a ceremony dedicating the playground to Jermaine Goffigan, a 9-year-old boy killed by a stray bullet during a 1994 Halloween party at the nearby Academy Homes housing development.

On hand was Mayor Martin J. Walsh, state Rep. Chynah Tyler and at-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who was making one of many stops on a day filled with campaign activities. But for Pressley, this was an important one. She was here this day for Jermaine’s grandmother.

“Every year I visit with Mrs. Haskins and pray over the spot where Jermaine lost his life,” she told the Banner. “Every time I come it’s as if they’ve lost him that year.”

Pressley, who has made providing services for children and families facing trauma a hallmark of her City Council work, knows the challenges of dealing with the loss of a loved one well.

“Trauma is a barrier to learning,” she said. “It affects every family member.”

Pressley brought attention to the issue in 2010, holding a four-hour hearing during which 300 families testified at City Hall on the effects of trauma in their lives.

Pressley is campaigning for re-election on her record of working to expand the city’s response to trauma, as well as her work on the issue of displacement of low- and moderate-income tenants in Boston’s real estate market and on anti-violence initiatives.

Next week voters will cast ballots for mayor and district and at-large City Council candidates. While much of the news coverage has focused on hotly contested district races in Roxbury’s District 7 and the East Boston-Charlestown-North End District 1, the four incumbent at-large councilors are battling for dominance on the citywide ballot.

Pressley and the other at-large councilors — Michael Flaherty, Annissa Essaibi-George, and Michelle Wu — are facing challenges from perennial candidate Althea Garrison, business owner Domingos DaRosa, IT specialist William King and Pat Payaso, a clown formerly known as real estate developer Kevin McCrea.

The race clearly is lopsided, with the four incumbents among them reporting more than $600,000 cash on hand as of the Oct. 15 Office of Campaign and Public Finance filing deadline, while three of the four challengers reported less than $1,000 in their accounts. Payaso put $1 million of his own funds in his account, but has spent less than $500 on the race.

In the last municipal election cycle, Pressley continued a streak of first place finishes, garnering 31,783 votes citywide, closely followed by Michelle Wu, who had 28,908 votes.

This year, the competition for the number one seat may be more heated. Wu, who reported $208,017 on hand as of Oct. 15, has been campaigning in the predominantly black and Latino wards where Pressley has typically won the majority of the vote. On the Sept. 26 preliminary election day, Wu was stationed outside the Higginson-Lewis school, a Ward 12 polling location where four precincts vote, an indication she may be pushing to secure more votes in the predominantly black and Latino strongholds where Pressley has dominated in past elections.

Some in the black community say it’s important that Pressley maintain her dominance in the at-large race.

“I think it’s very important that we have a black woman at the top,” said community and political activist Sarah Ann Shaw. “Because she’s the person that she is, she stands up for issues that benefit not only people of color, but all people. That’s why she is the top vote-getter.”

Pressley, who had $58,317 in her account on Oct. 15, said she’s focused on getting re-elected.

“I want to earn the votes and the confidence of the voters to continue to do this work,” she said.