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Boston Election Guide: Candidate overview

Mayoral and City Council races bring large field of contenders

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Boston Election Guide: Candidate overview
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The departure of former Mayor Martin Walsh in March set off a domino effect, leading to a bumper crop of candidates for the mayoral and City Council seats in Boston. Among those running for mayor are two district and two at-large councilors, whose newly open seats have drawn large and diverse fields of candidates.

This year’s mayoral race marks the first time in Boston’s history there are no white male major contenders for the seat, with four women of color and one Black man contending for the seat. (Two white male candidates routinely poll below 1% in the race.)

In the race for the at-large council seats, two of which are vacant, Black candidates are leading the pack in fundraising and boast formidable campaign organizations.

The following is a summary of the leading candidates for mayoral and at-large seats. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order for each race.

MAYORAL

John Barros

Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development, ran the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, served on the Boston School Committee and started a small business in Dorchester. A Roxbury native, Barros got his start in community organizing at age 14. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

Barros is running on his record of fostering job creation, supporting small businesses, building affordable housing and expanding economic opportunities for Boston’s residents. Barros lives in the Upham’s Corner section of Dorchester with his wife and four children.

Andrea Campbell

Campbell, currently the District 4 city councilor, grew up in Roxbury and the South End. Her father was incarcerated when she was born and her mother was killed in a car crash shortly thereafter. She grew up  in foster care and living with relatives for the first eight years of her life. She went on to graduate from Boston Latin School, Princeton University and University of California Los Angeles School of Law. She served as deputy legal counsel to former Governor Deval Patrick before running for the District 4 seat.

Campbell is running on a platform of bringing equity and reform to Boston and frequently cites her twin brother, who she says was denied the opportunities she was afforded in Boston’s school system, cycled in and out of the criminal justice system and died while awaiting trial.

Campbell lives in Mattapan with her husband and two children.

Annissa Essaibi George

Annissa Essaibi George grew up in the Savin Hill neighborhood of Dorchester. She graduated from Boston Technical High School (now the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science) and from Boston University before obtaining a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She worked as a social studies teacher at East Boston High School and founded the business Stitch House in Dorchester.

Essaibi George won an at-large seat on the City Council in the 2015 election. While on the City Council she championed issues including public education and mitigation of the impact of the opiate crisis on the Mass and Cass area. 

Kim Janey

As council president, Janey assumed the role of acting mayor after Walsh’s departure in March. Janey grew up in Roxbury and the South End. She lived in public housing after her family lost their brownstone in the South End as that neighborhood underwent gentrification.

She attended Smith College, working her way through, but left before graduating to attend to an elderly family member.

Prior to her election to the District 7 council seat in 2017, Janey worked with the educational advocacy group Mass Advocates for Children. Once in office, Janey continued her educational advocacy as well as holding hearings and sponsoring ordinances on issues including small business support and gentrification and displacement of Boston residents. Along with at-Large Councilor Michelle Wu, Janey has consistently polled in the top two during this year’s mayoral race.

Michelle Wu

Wu was elected to an at-large seat on the council in 2013, becoming the first Asian American woman elected to the council. Born in Chicago, Wu moved to Boston to attend Harvard University and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2012. She worked as constituency director for Elizabeth Warren’s successful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.

On the council, Wu has advocated for the dismantling of the Boston Planning and Development Agency and for eliminating fares on the MBTA. In 2018, she introduced an ordinance to regulate Airbnb in Boston, limiting the number of days property owners can rent out rooms or apartments on the platform.

AT-LARGE COUNCIL SEATS

There are 17 candidates who submitted nomination papers for the council’s four at-large seats. The preliminary balloting will narrow the field down to eight. Voters can select up to four at-large candidates on the ballot.

Said Abdikarim

Born in Somalia, Abdikarim fled the nation’s civil war 27 years ago after two of his brothers were killed, settling in Boston. He grew up in public housing, attended Boston Public Schools and has worked for firms including Apple, Fidelity Investments and AT&T.

Among the priorities Abdikarim lists on his campaign webpage are strengthening standardized testing in Boston’s schools, promoting STEM education and increasing affordable housing options for local families.

Kelly Bates

A New York native, Bates has had years of experience in local nonprofits and foundations and most recently served as executive director of the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

She lists as priorities using zoning reform, housing production and rent control to bring down housing costs; providing low-interest loans and grants to restaurants and other businesses affected by the pandemic; providing more community representation on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal; and expanding and enforcing the Boston Residents Jobs Policy.

James Reginald Colimon

Colimon left Haiti as a teenager to join his parents in the U.S. 35 years ago. He has worked in the administrations of mayors Thomas Menino and Martin Walsh, for whom he served for three years as a liaison to the City Council.

Colimon advocates expanding vocational and career training for Boston school students, expanding access to high-speed internet, providing financial literacy to Boston students and instituting programs that address the root causes of domestic violence.

Domingos DaRosa

DaRosa moved to Boston from Cape Verde in 1978 and grew up in Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park. He graduated from Madison Park High School and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. He owns a landscaping business and volunteers leading youth programs in football, basketball and soccer.

DaRosa has worked to help mitigate the effects of the population of opioid users in the Mass and Cass area, leading efforts to clean up needles from parks and playgrounds.

Michael Flaherty

Flaherty was born and raised in South Boston, graduated from Boston College High School, and earned degrees from Boston College and Boston University School of Law. After serving in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Flaherty was elected to the City Council in 1999, serving from 2000 to 2008, when he challenged then-Mayor Thomas Menino.

Flaherty was re-elected to the City Council in 2013. During his tenure, he has led efforts to pass the Community Preservation Act, a measure that provides funding for affordable housing, historical preservation and open space in the city. He has advocated for changes to the city’s inclusionary development policy and worked to regulate short-term rentals, such as those offered by Airbnb.

Althea Garrison

Garrison has been running for various city and state offices since the early 1980s. In 1992, she successfully challenged incumbent state Rep. Nelson Merced’s nomination papers, noting that his campaign had not marked them with the word Democrat to disclose his party affiliation. With Merced off the ballot, Garrison won the Democratic primary and general election that year, serving one two-year term before losing to Charlotte Golar Ritchie in the 1995 election.

In the 2016 city council election, she placed 5th in the at-large race, and in 2017 was seated on the council when Ayanna Pressley left her at-large seat to serve in Congress. In 2018 Garrison was voted out again.

Alexander Gray

Gray grew up in Quincy and graduated from Suffolk University Law School. He has worked for the Massachusetts Shelter Alliance, Massachusetts Housing and as an advisor to former Gov. Deval Patrick and former Mayor Martin Walsh.

Gray highlights his lived experience as a blind person and is running on a platform of equitable pandemic recovery, expanding affordable housing opportunities, expanding job opportunities with living wages and providing necessary resources to students and teachers in Boston’s schools.

David Halbert

Born in Ohio, Halbert attended Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and settled in East Boston before moving to Dorchester. He served as an aide to former councilors John Tobin and Sam Yoon as well as in the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick. He has a master’s in public administration from Northeastern University.

He advocates smart growth — building new housing that doesn’t facilitate displacement of the city’s current residents — and supports rent control. He calls for universal pre-K and a hybrid elected/appointed School Committee. He supports shifting resources from the Boston Police Department to mental health professionals and social workers.

Ruthzee Louijeune

Louijeune grew up in Mattapan and attended Boston Latin School, Columbia University and Harvard Law School. She served as senior legal counsel to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Senate and presidential campaigns. She volunteers as an attorney with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance.

Louijeune advocates increasing opportunities for Boston residents to buy homes and making more land available for the construction of affordable units. She calls for increased funding for Boston’s public schools, increased support for mental health services and advocates for a fare-free MBTA.

Julia Mejia

Born in the Dominican Republic, Mejia grew up in Dorchester with a single mother and was the first in her family to graduate high school and college. Before running for the council in the 2019 race, she headed the Collaborative Parent Action Network, a group that organized Boston parents around educational advocacy.

During her first term in office, she has focused on providing resources to families affected by the COVID pandemic, providing resources for small business owners such as barbers and hairdressers who have lost business during the pandemic and legislation to bring greater transparency to city government.

Carla Monteiro

Monteiro grew up in Boston, the daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants. After graduating high school, she had a son and worked her way through Quincy College, earning an associate degree, and bought a triple-decker where she and her parents live. She is currently employed as a social worker.

She advocates a return of the city’s rent control and condo conversion laws. She calls for more nurses and social workers in Boston’s schools and smaller class sizes. She advocates ending all information-sharing between the Boston Police Department and the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and shutting down the controversial gang database.

Erin Murphy

Murphy was born and raised in Dorchester, where she raised three children and still lives. She is a veteran Boston Public Schools teacher and special education coordinator.

She says she would advocate for quality schools in every neighborhood, trauma training for teachers and staff, increased access to recovery services for people suffering from opioid addiction and community policing strategies.

Bridget Nee-Walsh

Nee-Walsh grew up in Boston. Her mother was a union official who worked in the city’s Assessing Department. Her father worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier. She says her union-oriented family taught her the value of hard work. Nee-Walsh has for the last 15 years been a Local 7 iron worker.

Nee-Walsh said she supports tutoring to help students who have been affected by the pandemic and the expansion of vocational programs in the schools. She says she supports “responsible development” of new housing that doesn’t displace existing families, and union jobs in the construction industry.

Roy Owens Sr.

Owens has run for various electoral positions over the past few decades and briefly considered a bid for mayor before jumping into the at-large city council race. On a website he launched for a 2022 run for Congress, he says he opposes new liquor licenses for Boston restaurants and the conversion of affordable apartments into luxury housing.

Donnie Palmer Jr.

Boston native Donnie Palmer is an Army veteran, special education teacher, youth mentor and prizefighter. He advocates increasing affordable housing to 30% of all units in Boston, up from the current 20%. He advocates for students to be educated closer to home in order to foster parent participation and says he would work with the police department to help create sports programs for local youth.

Jonathan Spillane

Spillane was born and raised in Hyde Park. He graduated from Boston Latin School, Boston College and Suffolk Law School. After working in residential real estate sales and financing, he went to work for the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, working on the preservation and development of affordable housing. Most recently, he worked on the staff of District 8 Councilor Kenzie Bok.

Spillane says the city is spending too much money on its school system while not investing enough on improving outcomes for students. He advocates expanding pre-K options for families and constructing new school buildings. He says he would prioritize construction of affordable housing and that he would work to make sure reforms to the police department are fully enacted.

Nick Vance

Nick Vance was raised in Mattapan and graduated from South Carolina State University. He has worked as a teen director at the Roxbury Boys and Girls Club and a regional recruitment manager for City Year. He is currently working on a doctorate in law and policy from Northeastern University.

He advocates adjusting the city’s affordability guidelines to better reflect the incomes of residents and the expansion of first-time homebuyer programs. His platform calls for the expansion of pre-K seats and says he will consult with teachers around issues such as class sizes. He says he supports community policing and would work to repair relations between police officers and the communities they patrol.

DISTRICT RACES

Six of the nine city council districts have competitive races. The following are candidates running for those contested seats.

DISTRICT 3

In District 3, which includes the eastern portion of Dorchester from Neponset to South Boston, incumbent Frank Baker is facing a challenge from Stephen McBride.

Frank Baker

Baker grew up in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, where he currently resides. He graduated from Don Bosco Technical High School and worked in the city’s Printing Department from 1987 until 2010. He was elected in 2011.

Baker is the chair of the Jobs, Wages and Workforce Development Committee and the Special Committee on Charter Reform. During his 10 years in office, Baker has focused on constituent services. He has spoken out against rent control and the regulation of the short-term rental industry.

Stephen McBride

McBride moved to Boston 13 years ago to attend Northeastern University. He advocates universal pre-K and supports investing in the city’s Community Hub Schools model, which calls for schools to function as community centers. He advocates re-opening the Long Island shelter to provide services for people facing addiction and homelessness as well as the decentralization of the types of services concentrated in the Mass and Cass area. He supports the construction of affordable housing in the city.

DISTRICT 4

With current District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell running for mayor, nine candidates are vying for the seat she leaves vacant. The district includes Mattapan and the western part of Dorchester.

Evandro Carvalho

Carvalho was born in Cape Verde and grew up in Dorchester. He graduated from Madison Park High School, UMass Amherst and Howard University School of Law. He worked as an assistant district attorney before he was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, representing the 15th Suffolk District until 2018, when he left to enter the race for Suffolk County District Attorney.

Carvalho is running on a platform of economic empowerment, expanding homeownership, quality job training and financial literacy. He says he would like to continue working at the city level on the police reforms he fought for while in the Legislature.

William Edward Dickerson III

Dickerson was raised in Boston and has worked as a legislative aide on the City Council and a community service liaison for the Boston Police Department. He is currently employed in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development as part of the Boston Residents Job Policy program.

If elected, Dickerson says he would convene mental health professionals to develop a strategy for distribution of mental health services, make public safety a priority and provide incentives for small businesses to strengthen the local economy.

Deeqo Jibril

Jibril was born in Somalia and grew up in Boston. She founded the Somali Community and Cultural Association to help give Somali residents resources. She has worked as a case manager for ABCD, helping families facing homelessness to secure stable housing. She also worked at Children’s Services of Roxbury, helping connect families with mental health services.

Her priorities include increasing access to affordable housing and homeownership, fostering the creation of well-paying jobs in the district, increasing the quality of the city’s public education system and providing youth with greater opportunities.

Leonard Lee

Lee is a lifelong Dorchester resident and has worked as a director of the Division of Violence and Injury Prevention for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, an executive director for the ABCD Dorchester Neighborhood Services Center and executive director for the Roxbury YMCA, among other positions.

He says neighborhood associations should join forces to conduct youth outreach and push for youth employment and gun buy-back programs and encourage police officers to engage with young people. He says he would advocate for students and teachers to make sure federal pandemic relief funds are used on their behalf. He says he would advocate for police officers to undergo bias training and would push to require them to live in the city of Boston.

Joel Richards

Richards has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools for the last 13 years. He also works as an itinerant pastor.

He says he would advocate for increased and equitable funding for all schools, fight for housing affordability and increased homeownership for residents, support a local version of the Green New Deal moving the city toward carbon neutrality and provide increased support for local small businesses.

Troy Smith

Smith is an ordained minister and highlights his more than 20 years of experience helping to feed the homeless, working with young people and working with the health care and criminal justice systems.

He says his priorities would include affordable housing, small business resources and funding, healthy food choices, criminal justice reform and employment training.

Jacob Ureña

Ureña grew up in Mattapan and is an ordained minister. He has for the last five years worked in the nonprofit sector on issues including substance abuse, homelessness, youth development and civic engagement.

Among the issues he supports are increased funding for public schools, instituting statutory limits on police use of violent tactics and expanding affordable housing options for Boston residents.

Josette Williams

Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Chelsea, Massachusetts before settling in Dorchester. She has worked as an early childhood educator for the last 30 years.

She says that if elected she would work to bring district residents together to work on common issues, advocate for an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic and work on issues including early education, mental health services and improving housing options in the district.

Brian Worrell

Worrell was born in Boston to parents from the Caribbean. He owns a real estate business and says his work in the field has given him experience with the city’s zoning and permitting processes and with lenders and banks.

Among the issues he says he would work on are expanding affordable housing opportunities, including home-buying for those who make too much to qualify for affordable units but not enough to afford to live in the city; universal pre-K; and re-directing 911 calls for mental health emergencies to trained public health officials.

DISTRICT 5

District 5 includes Hyde Park and parts of Roslindale and Mattapan. Incumbent Ricardo Arroyo is facing a challenge from John White.

Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo was elected to the District 5 seat in 2019. He grew up in Hyde Park, attended Boston Public Schools, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and obtained a law degree from Loyola University Chicago. He worked as a public defender in Essex County and Suffolk County.

On the council, Arroyo has worked on issues including criminal justice reform, redistricting and declaring racism a public health epidemic. He has filed an ordinance that would expand mail-in voting for all elections and a home rule petition that would return the School Committee to an elected structure.

John White

White is 1978 graduate of Hyde Park High School, has worked as a union laborer and currently works as a gravedigger. He lives in Roslindale.

He told The Scope Boston his key priorities are housing, public safety, jobs, health insurance and pensions.

DISTRICT 6

Jamaica Plain resident Kendra Hicks launched a campaign for the Jamaica Plain/West Roxbury district last year. After incumbent Matt O’Malley announced he would not seek re-election, Mary Tamer, Kelly Ransom and Winnie Eke joined the race. (Ransom has since suspended her campaign.)

Winnie Eke

Eke immigrated to Boston from Nigeria 34 years ago and has lived in West Roxbury for nearly 30 years. She holds a Ph.D. in public policy and master’s degrees in health and education administration.

She told The Scope Boston that education is her highest priority. She says she would support an income-based voucher system for the MBTA and says she would work on providing relief to small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic.

Kendra Hicks

Hicks is a first-generation daughter of a Dominican immigrant. She grew up in Jamaica Plain, working with Spontaneous Celebrations and the Hyde Square Task Force. As a first-year student in high school, she founded the activist group Beantown Society. For the last five years, she has been director of radical philanthropy at the Boston-based organization Resist.

Hicks’ platform includes increased and equitable funding for Boston’s schools, protection for people struggling with housing costs, including rent control and anti-displacement zones and increased transparency and accountability for local law enforcement.

Mary Tamer

Tamer grew up in West Roxbury, is a former Boston School Committee member and a past president of the League of Women Voters of Boston. She is a graduate of Boston Latin School and the University of Southern New Hampshire. She has a master’s in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She worked as director of strategic projects for the Boston Charter Alliance and currently is research director for SchoolFacts Boston.

Tamer says her top priorities would be an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic, making sure that every child in Boston has access to a high-quality public education and combating climate change.

DISTRICT 7

The District 7 seat became an open race when City Councilor Kim Janey, now acting mayor, announced she would not seek re-election to the seat. There are now eight candidates in the race. The district includes most of Roxbury and portions of the South End, the Fenway and Jamaica Plain.

Tania Fernandes Anderson

Anderson was born in Cape Verde and grew up in Roxbury and graduated from the O’Bryant School of Math and Science. She worked her way through college as a single mom. She became a parent advocate with the Boston Public Schools, a program manager for a women’s shelter and a child social worker. She most recently served as director of the Upham’s Corner Main Streets district.

Her priorities include an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic, advocating for expanded mental health services and decentralization of the addiction services clustered in the Mass and Cass area.

Brandy Brooks

Brooks grew up in Georgia, graduated from Cornell University and obtained a master’s in planning and policy from Tufts University. She has worked on public health issues including suicide prevention and youth violence prevention while working at the state Department of Public Health. She also obtained two additional degrees: a master’s in law and policy from Northeastern University and a doctorate in education from UMass Lowell.

Her priorities include working to eliminate abuse of police power, environmental justice issues and expanding interagency cooperation to better provide services.

Angelina Camacho

Camacho grew up in Boston, the child of Honduran immigrants. She works for the Boston Public Health Commission as director of a community health education center and previously served as a special projects coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.

She says she would use her experience in public health to advocate for an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic. Her priorities include affordable housing options, improving job and professional development options for Boston residents, and advocating for Boston school students.

Joao DePina

DePina was born in Cape Verde, attended English High School and studied to be a pharmacy technician at Newbury College. He has an associate degree in biological science from Roxbury Community College and is the owner of J.D. Florist.

He says if elected, he would focus on providing constituent services and work on issues affecting the district including economic development and small business assistance, increasing the minimum wage and reforming the police department.

Marisa Luse

Luse has lived in District 7 all her life. After losing her brother to gun violence in 2006, she organized the Take Back Our Neighborhoods Peace March and Rally and began working at the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to help other families with the aftermath of gun violence. She is on leave from her job as campus engagement and collaborations manager at Northeastern University.

Luse’s platform includes working to promote civic engagement in District 7, advocating for community-led development processes and expanding access to affordable housing.

Roy Owens Sr.

In addition to running for an at-large seat (see entry under ‘at-large’ heading), Owens’ name will appear on the ballot for the District 7 race.

Santiago Leon Rivera

Rivera got his start in community organizing as a teenager, when he reached out to the late District 7 Councilor Chuck Turner about traffic safety on Magnolia Street, where he lives. Turner helped River advocate for a stop sign and a safer crosswalk on the street.

Rivera says he would bring law enforcement and mental health professionals together to work on helping residents in crisis, advocate for decentralizing addiction services clustered in the district and fight for clean drinking water in Boston’s schools and other public health improvements.

Lorraine Payne Wheeler

Wheeler was born in Boston, earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 1980 and a J.D. from Suffolk University in 2003. She is a founder of the Roxbury Path Forward neighborhood association and is a member of the Roxbury Strategic Masterplan Oversight Committee.

She told the Dorchester Reporter she supports affordable home ownership as a way to bring stability to the district. She supports giving neighborhood residents greater say in what’s developed in the district and says she would support more funding for social work resources within the Boston Police Department.

DISTRICT 9

District 9 includes Allston and Brighton. Incumbent Liz Breadon faces challengers Michael Bianchi and Eric Porter.

Michael Bianchi

Bianchi initially announced a run for mayor before pivoting to the District 9 race. He told Universal Hub the city’s budget is being mismanaged and that he wants to bring art and vocational classes back to Boston’s schools.

Liz Breadon

Breadon was elected to the District 9 seat in 2019. A native of Ireland, she has lived in Allston for the last 25 years. On the council, she has advocated for affordable housing, sustainable development, climate resiliency and fair labor practices, among other issues.

Eric Porter

Porter’s website is https://ericforboston.com/about-eric/

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