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Hicks wins District 6

Beats Tamer by nearly 3,000 votes

Isaiah Thompson
Hicks wins District 6
Kendra Hicks talks to voters at the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Jamaica Plain. BANNER PHOTO

Kendra Hicks, 31, candidate for Boston’s City Council District 6 — which encompasses Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Roslindale and parts of Egleston Square near Roxbury — declared victory Tuesday night in her bid to become the first person of color, male or female, to represent the district.

Speaking to supporters outside the Distraction Brewery in Roslindale, Hicks, who identifies as Afro-Latina and Black, said her candidacy represents a shift in representation and power in local governance.

“When we entered this race, we came out of the gate hot, to challenge a 10-year incumbent,” — outgoing city councilor Matt O’Malley — “[who] for most of the time had not been serving the needs of this district,” Hicks said.

“The history of this district and our neighborhoods has been one of resistance,” Hicks said. “That is the legacy that brought me up, it’s the legacy that raised me, it’s the legacy that has propelled me to do the work I’m doing today.”

Unofficial results from polling stations, which do not include mail-in and early voting ballots, showed Hicks with 13,907 votes and Mary Tamer with 10,974 votes.

Hicks’ election, coming at the same time as the victory of City Councilor Michelle Wu as the first woman of color and Asian American to become mayor of Boston, represents another sign of changing politics in Boston, a city notorious for divisive racial politics.

Until now, District 6 has been represented exclusively by people of Irish-American heritage.

Hicks, who ran as a Democratic Socialist (and who was endorsed by the Boston chapter of that organization) says her candidacy and victory are part of rapidly changing politics in Boston characterized, she says, by a shift in what Boston City Hall should and will mean for marginalized communities.

District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Hicks celebrate victory. ISAIAH THOMPSON PHOTO

“We focused on the issues that were important to the people in District 6 and we did the hard work,” she said. “We reached the voters where they were at and ultimately winning municipal elections is about organizing.”

Hicks faced an energetic and at times contentious battle with her opponent for the seat, Mary Tamer of West Roxbury, who faced criticism over a campaign mailer that featured a darkened image of Hicks. Hicks also took a hit from a Boston Globe article that detailed legal troubles Hicks had had in the past over rent payments. (Hicks did not dispute the claims but said she was struggling with rent at the time and has since resolved the issue.)

JP Progressives co-chair Annie Rousseau said the Tamer campaign’s attack ads targeting Hicks didn’t have much of an effect on Hicks’ support in Jamaica Plain. She pointed to the controversial flier the Tamer campaign distributed in which Hicks appeared darkened in black-and-white next to a color image of Tamer, who is light-skinned.

“Mary Tamer’s first flier really backfired,” she said. “People who hadn’t been paying attention to the race said they were voting for Kendra.”

Speaking with the Banner Tuesday night, Hicks said her campaign represents a refutation of old-school city politics.

“There’s an ongoing belief that our representatives should be a certain kind of way, look a certain kind of way, have certain kind of experiences,” Hicks said. “I think that everything I’ve been through … puts me closer to the issues that most of the people in our district face.”

“If me as a renter struggling with my rent disqualifies me from running for public office, what are we telling poor working-class people in the city of Boston? We’re telling them that only a certain kind of person has the right to be represented at City Hall? And what we showed today … is that that’s not true.”

As the apparent victor, Hicks told the Banner that she looks forward to engaging with the parts of her district that did not generally support her in this bid.

“Obviously we did much better in certain neighborhoods and not in others, and there’s a lot of community-building and trust-building that needs to happen,” said Hicks.

Hicks said her campaign started with a universe of 30,000 voters in District 6 and made six passes on that list, knocking doors and making phone calls to the voters. She herself has been canvassing doors four days a week, hitting between 50 and 60 doors a day.

“It’s a numbers game, and we knew we’re going to have to run a hard campaign when we decided to take on an incumbent,” she said, referring to O’Malley. “When he decided not to run, we knew it would be even more competitive.”

Yawu Miller contributed to this article.

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