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Del Rio is in, others considering runs for District 1 seat

Edwards’ Senate victory sparks interest in Eastie/North End/Charlestown seat

Avery Bleichfeld
Del Rio is in, others considering runs for District 1 seat
Tania Del Rio AVERY BLEICHFELD PHOTO

In the wake of City Councilor Lydia Edwards’ Dec. 14 victory in the special primary election for the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate District, Tania Del Rio, East Boston resident and YWCA Cambridge executive director, on Dec. 16 announced her bid for the District 1 council seat.

The seat, which Edwards first won in 2017 and was reelected to in November, represents East Boston, Charlestown and the North End. If Edwards leaves for the Senate, the city will hold a special election to fill the District 1 seat for the remainder of Edwards’ term, until the end of 2023.

For Del Rio, a veteran campaign volunteer but a first-time candidate, this moment is both terrifying and exhilarating.

In her campaign, she said, she plans to focus on big-picture issues like education and the environment, but also intends to keep an eye on general constituent services, which she sees as a key piece of the district councilor’s job.

“I don’t want to take any steps back in the policy work the city council as a whole has been working on, because it’s become a body that looks at the big problems and takes them on in a way that’s newer,” Del Rio said. “I don’t want to take any steps back on that, and I want to be involved in that work, but also the district councilor specifically is a job that needs to respond to people in the neighborhood, their specific concerns around the things I talked about.”

Del Rio said she believes her experience serving as the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement under the Walsh administration and now her work as executive director at the YWCA Cambridge will make her a strong candidate. She would also draw on her lived experience as a Boston Public Schools parent.

In addition to Del Rio’s announced campaign, others are considering bids of their own. For many potential candidates, maintaining basic constituent services would be a specific priority, in addition to action on housing and the environment.

Gabriela Coletta, who has previously worked with Edwards, said she is considering a run.

Coletta worked as campaign manager for Edwards’ 2017 City Council run and subsequently served as chief of staff for Edwards until July, when she left for a job at the New England Aquarium.

In a statement sent to the Banner, Coletta said, “I’m humbled by the amount of texts and calls I’m getting from my neighbors in the district that I’m so proud to call my home.”

Coletta said she is considering the council opportunity with friends and family and expects to have more to say soon.

Also considering a run is Stephen Passacantilli, who ran against Edwards in 2017 and lost by about 5% of the vote. Passacantilli — who has worked for the city in a number of positions, including in the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Office of Economic Development and the Transportation Department — now serves as a consultant with Ballard Partners, a bipartisan consulting and PR firm.

In an interview, Passacantilli said he would be a fool not to consider a run but said he is talking with his family before making a decision.

If he does run, Passacantilli said, there are big issues to tackle, but constituent services would be his bread and butter.

“I really believe that the district council’s function is to really be boots-on-the-ground and really delivering constituent services,” Passacantilli said. “Yes, affordable housing is a very big deal in Boston — it’s probably the biggest issue we have going on, but other than that I’m an urban mechanic.”

Jason Ruggiero, a community engagement manager for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), said he, too, is considering a run. Like Passacantilli, he said constituent services would be a main focus were he to run, citing his work at the BPDA.

“If I run, I would be running to ensure that municipal government is working for the people of the district, working for the residents,” Ruggiero said. “I’d be working to be available and present and responsive and proactive for the district. I think the city could do a better job at delivering basic city services.”

Outside of providing basic city services, Ruggiero said addressing the housing crisis and improving climate resilience would be main priorities for him if he ran.

East Boston faces significant environmental challenges, including rising sea levels, and all three neighborhoods in the district, with significant stretches of waterfront, have been included in the city’s Climate Ready Boston initiative to protect against the impacts of climate change.

According to reporting by Universal Hub, Sal LaMattina, who held the District 1 City Council seat before Edwards, was considering a run. But in a statement sent to the Banner Monday, LaMattina said that while he was humbled by friends and colleagues encouraging him to return to public service, he will not be running, opting instead to enjoy retirement and act as a resource to whoever takes the seat next.

“While the prospect of working again on behalf of the people of Boston would be exciting and rewarding, I have learned to value my retirement and enjoy the time I can spend with family and friends,” LaMattina said. “Therefore, after careful consideration, I will not be a candidate for the District 1 City Council seat. Moreover, I look forward to providing support and guidance to whomever is elected to succeed my friend, Senator-elect Lydia Edwards.”

Edwards secured victory in the Dec. 14 Democratic primary against Anthony D’Ambrosio, a member of the Revere School Committee, with almost 60% of the vote across Revere, Winthrop and parts of Boston and Cambridge — the four municipalities that fall partially or completely within the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate District — according to unofficial results.

The special general election is set for Jan. 11. With no Republicans on the ballot, Edwards is expected to win the State House seat.

At her victory party Dec. 14, Edwards said it took a lot to get here.

“I’m proud of that journey, I’m proud of who I am and how I got here, and I’m just so grateful to all of you,” Edwards said.

If Edwards moves on to the Senate and gives up her council seat, the city will have to hold a special election. According to the city charter, a preliminary election must be held on a Tuesday within 62 to 76 days following a City Council declaration. The general election would be held 28 days following.

Those considering a spot on the ballot said Edwards is leaving big shoes to fill.

Passacantilli said Boston has changed a lot over since 2017, but Edwards has done much to move the district forward.

“She is a relentless advocate; I will say that you don’t find people like her very often in this business,” Passacantilli said. “She’s unafraid. She did a really good job — she did a phenomenal job for the district over the last four years.”

Doug Chavez, who is working with the Del Rio campaign, said Edwards’ election in 2017 was historic, and that whoever takes over the seat will have their work cut out for them.

“She was a popular city councilor; she was an active voice on the council,” Chavez said. “Whoever steps into her shoes has got to be ready to keep going forward full steam ahead and continuing a lot of the work that she was doing.”

boston city council, Dania Del Rio, District 1, Gabriela Coletta, Jason Ruggiero, Lydia Edwards, Sal Lamattina, Stephen Passacantilli

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