Amid shuffle at City Hall, additional council bids emerge

A number of hopefuls have announced bids to run for a seat on the City Council next year, a tantalizing target following Mayor Walsh’s nomination to serve as Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labor and the decisions by two sitting councillors— At-large Councillor Michelle Wu and District 4 Councillor Andrea Campbell— to run for mayor this year.

A third councillor, Annissa Essaibi-George, is also weighing a mayoral campaign. 

If confirmed, Walsh will leave a vacancy in the mayor’s office that will, by statute, be filled on an interim basis by City Council President Kim Janey of Roxbury, making her the first Black person to serve as the city’s chief executive.

Other at-large incumbents – longtime councillor Michael Flaherty and first-termer Julia Mejia, who was elected in 2019 with a margin of one vote— are expected to seek re-election.

All of which could leave more than two openings on the 13-member body for potential newcomers to the scene.

Following is a look at candidates or individuals to keep an eye on: 

 Alex Gray, currently a policy analyst at City Hall who previously served as an adviser to former Gov. Deval Patrick, announced his bid for a citywide seat last November. The 36-year-old Democrat from Jamaica Plain, who is legally blind, reported raising $39,206 through Dec. 31.

“I’m feeling incredibly humbled and grateful to have the support of so many. I think that shows an unprecedented amount of support for a first-time council candidate and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Gray said in a phone call with the Reporter last week. 

“I think 2021 is the time that we can start to have those conversations and bring in those people that might have felt left out – communities of color, frontline workers, seniors, and, particularly for me, people with disabilities that I think really need to be at the table as we start to chart the course forward.”  

David Halbert, who ran citywide in the 2019 election and finished in eighth place in the November final after making the preliminary cut, has launched his second bid for a council seat.

“I have a great team that’s being formed around me and I’m just really excited about this race,” said Halbert, who lives in Dorchester. “The reason I got into it in the first place is because Boston is an incredible city and there are so many opportunities, but there’s also a lot of inequality,” Halbert told the Reporter last weekend. 

He had $31,446 in his campaign account reports as of Dec. 31, according to the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF).

Halbert, who also worked for former Gov. Deval Patrick, currently sits on the boards of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, East Boston Main Streets, and the East Boston Project Advisory Committee (PierPAC).  

“We need to have leadership that speaks to representation and the ability to understand how policies are created and affect our communities in different ways,” he said. “I think that I personally can speak to that as a Black man, and as someone who has worked in government for almost the entirety of my career.”

He notched an early endorsement on Tuesday morning from Alejandra St. Guillen, who ran in the 2019 cycle and finished fifth, missing out by one vote after a dramatic recount won by Mejia.

“I have known David for nearly 13 years and in that time, I have witnessed his deep commitment to community and family,” St. Guillen said in a statement. “He has served across government sectors and has always done so with a sense of greater purpose and devotion to our humanity - he sees the best in all of us. He is the leader we need in this moment and to prepare us for the uncertainty ahead.”

Another contender is Nick Vance, a Hyde Park resident who grew up in Dorchester and Mattapan. He has served as the political action co-chair for the Boston NAACP and is a former member of the Mayor’s Millennial Council (SPARK).

OCPF records show that Vance had about $3,000 in the bank at year’s end. He told the Reporter last week that “no matter how the race shakes out, it’s going to be history-making for the mayor and the council.

“Our campaign is going strong and I’m excited to be a part of this upcoming election year as a candidate for Boston City Council at-large. I am laser focused on the health and recovery of Boston’s neighborhoods as we come out of this pandemic.”

Domingos DaRosa, who ran unsuccessfully for a citywide seat in the last two election cycles, told the Reporter on Monday that his goal with a third campaign is “bringing voices of the unheard, and the folks who are not politically savvy into the conversation. National politics have gotten a lot of attention  but locally we need to do more and make sure that folk who come from a background similar to mine have an interest in politics, and are represented by someone who understands where they are coming from.”

DaRosa’s family moved to Boston from Cape Verde Island when he was an infant, and he grew up in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Hyde Park. He is a graduate of Madison Park High School and holds a degree from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. He has $3,595.56 cash on hand, according to OCPF reports. 

District Four

Fields are also forming for a few district seats, including Campbell’s seat in District 4, which she will vacate to run for mayor. Three men— Jacob Ureña, Joel Richards, and William Dickerson— have formed committees.

Said Ureña, a Mattapan resident and Cristo Rey Boston graduate, “At this point we are attempting to continue the momentum that we started when we announced in the fall. My intention is to shift the dynamic on the council and get residents involved in local politics,”  he told the Reporter. 

“One of the challenges that we’re facing is being able to connect and fundraise with the community during a pandemic. The financial component is difficult because of how involved the community can be when they are struggling with financial instability. So we’re trying to find that perfect balance.” 

Joel Richards, a Dorchester resident who has spent seven years teaching in Boston Public Schools, has also launched a campaign for the District 4 seat. 

“For the past five years, I have organized locally and supported my community in the areas of small-business sustainability, equitable education, and accessible housing. I believe that we all deserve better in District 4,” Richards wrote on his campaign website. 

“As a city councillor representing District 4, I will listen to your needs and be your advocate. Together we will build a stronger community where our families, friends, and neighbors have the resources to succeed.” 

District 7

Leon Rivera, born and raised in Dorchester and a graduate of West Roxbury High School, said he plans to run for Janey’s seat in District 7. Rivera told the Reporter that he got involved in politics at a young age when he met the late former District 7 City Councillor Chuck Turner. 

“He gave me the idea that if things are not going right in our neighborhoods, you can do something about it. Seeing the effects of the opioid epidemic in my neighborhood, and after conversing with so many elected officials and seeing the lack of response when it comes to quality of life issues in the city, I was inspired to run,” Rivera said. 

District 3

Frank Baker, who has represented Dorchester as the District 3 councillor since 2010, told the Reporter on Monday that he will be running for re-election.

“As we’re going through this period of transition my intention right now is to run for District 3,” he said in a phone call.  

So far, one potential District 3 challenger — Ashawn Dabney-Small— has registered a committee. It’s unclear if the 18 year old is still planning to run. He did not respond to the Reporter’s requests for comment this week.