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Candidates lining up for district races

Vacancies spark bumper crop of campaigns

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO

As Boston gets ready for City Council President Kim Janey’s transition to acting mayor, candidates continue to enter the race for City Council district seats. District 4, currently held by mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell, sees the most challengers, and Districts 3, 5 and 7 have new contenders as well.

District 4

With Andrea Campbell running for mayor, a slew of candidates have entered the race for the Dorchester-based seat she currently occupies. Well-known community members, including Leonard Lee and Trina Ruffin, are starting campaigns.

Lee is a state worker for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, with a history in public health. A Dorchester resident, he also is a member of the Boston Parks Commission. The 63-year-old mobilized his community recently to donate to him so that he could provide thousands of masks to MBTA workers, police and senior centers.

Also campaigning for District 4 is Joel Richards, another Dorchester resident and a Boston Public Schools teacher. He’s focused on equitable funding for education in all schools, which he has advocated for as a member of the Boston Teachers Union. He also wants to push investment in local businesses so that they can recover from the pandemic. As for district-specific concerns, housing affordability and tenants’ rights are two things he wants to address in District 4.

Nikkia Jean-Charles is the youngest to enter the race. The high school senior and local activist from Mattapan is known for protesting with other young people against the police budget and starting the Mattapan Community Fridge. During a virtual press conference announcing her campaign, Jean-Charles said she believes it’s time for her to bring change on a city level.

“I’m going to bring my new perspective, my new energy as a young Black woman, and I’m also making sure that the policies created by myself are made in honor of providing care and respect to residents of District 4,” she said.

Her platform is focused on transparency, food abundance and public peace. As a survivor of gun violence, Jean-Charles said she wanted to “center a campaign that surrounds survivors and how we can prevent harm from happening, especially at a young age.”

Ruffin, a community advocate and educator, plans to launch a platform within the next month. Ruffin started a mobile GED tutoring program in 2016 that has now expanded to HiSET tutoring and helps with naturalization forms and English language learning.

Ruffin explained her reasons for deciding to run.

“I want to be able to have other people experience things like employment opportunities and higher education and housing, because I’ve been skilled and trained and have exposure to those areas,” she told the Banner. “I felt that I couldn’t give people everything that they needed if I continued to stand in the back.”

Jacob Urena has detailed plans for District 4, with platforms on everything from public safety to immigration to housing. Urena has been a Mattapan resident for most of his life and was shaped by his upbringing in a single-parent, immigrant household.

His housing platform is focused on first-time homeownership as a way to increase economic mobility.

“The current system is unsustainable. We need to acknowledge the growing demand for the expansion of public housing … All residents should have access to first-time buyers’ training programs, financial planning, and low-interest loans,” he wrote on his campaign site.

Other known candidates for District 4 include Trevour Smith, William Dickerson III, Brian Worrell and Josette Williams.

Deeqo Jibril became the first Somali person to run for a Boston City Council seat in 2015, when she sought election in District 7. She now lives in on Harvard St. in District 4. While she raised $2,595 in January, Jibril has not responded to requests asking if she is running for District 4 or for an at-large council seat.

District 3 — Frank Baker

So far, only Stephen McBride has made a bid for Baker’s seat. McBride is running as a progressive candidate against an incumbent who hasn’t faced a significant challenger since 2015 during his 10-year term.

McBride is focused on climate justice, since much of District 3 is bounded by the coast and may bear consequences of climate change. He also mentions on his website that he wants to address the inequities in public health that are highlighted by the pandemic, and he supports the discontinuation of exams for secondary schools.

“Boston must lead the way in the fight by expanding green spaces, modernizing our transit system, and investing in sustainable infrastructure,” his site reads.

If elected, McBride would be the third openly gay city councilor.

District 5 — Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo’s only challenger is John White, who is running for the first time in 2021. The Roslindale resident is running to win votes in parts of Roslindale, Mattapan and Hyde Park.

A union laborer for 35 years and a gravedigger for the city, White told the Banner he is excited to enter the race to help his community.

“I think it’s the right time politically. With the divisiveness going on … Politics is always in the way of getting policy done. At this point in my life, I’d like to give back to the city and see if I can get something done for the people,” he said.

The issues White is most concerned about are employment, education, housing and healthcare.

“Progress has been made, but more can be done,” he said.

District 6 — Matt O’Malley

West Roxbury resident Mary Tamer and Jamaica Plain resident Kendra Hicks are the only two declared candidates in contention for the Jamaica Plain/West Roxbury district. O’Malley has led the district for 10 years and announced that he would not be running for reelection in 2021.

Hicks is steadily gaining support after beginning her campaign in September, announcing endorsements from District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia. In an interview with the Banner last October, Hicks said she attributed her early-campaign success to a desire for change in the district.

“[West Roxbury] also has a growing population of renters, a growing population of people of color, a growing population of progressives, that are often erased from being part of that community,” she said.

District 7 — Kim Janey

Angie Camacho and Santiago Rivera have launched campaigns for the District 7 seat currently held by City Council President Kim Janey.

Camacho told the Banner that District 7 needs someone with her level of experience in policymaking at a city level and service to the community. As a member of the Boston School Committee Selection Panel and the Boston Public Schools English Language Learners Task Force, she said, she works to respond to community needs when it comes to education. She also mentioned her work with the volunteer program at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).

“My work at ABCD is very closely tied to a lot of the city and state, because of federal funding,” Camacho said. “My community-based work, where I’ve been able to actually design programs to meet the needs of the community, and my actual city and federal contract experience [is where] I work with policymakers to respond to community needs.”