Challengers Prepare to Test Yancey and Feeney

Both of Dorchester's long-serving city councillors are facing prospective opponents in the fall, as Charles Yancey has drawn a challenger and Maureen Feeney may be in the crosshairs.

Jaha "Jay" Hughes, a landscaper from York Street in the Franklin Field area, said he is an Independent who will attempt to unseat Yancey, the 11-term councillor who survived a strong 2003 challenge.

Philip J. Carver, a state transportation official and aggressive Pope's Hill civic president, has taken steps toward challenging Feeney in the September Democratic primary. An outspoken critic of local development policies, Carver last year won honors from the Boston Business Journal for being one of the city's top young business types.

While Hughes is a relative unknown, Carver has cultivated a high profile, and last year established the Dorchester Neighborhood Issues Forum, a neighborhood-wide group that has met irregularly but hosted a development symposium in December. He said he is in the "exploratory stages" and refused to offer a timetable for his decision.

"I'm in the early stages right now, to sit down and talk with other folks before I make any decision," Carver said. Asked why he would run against Feeney, he replied, "I think, after 10 years, you know, a fresh perspective is warranted in a lot of different regards."

Feeney, a six-term councillor, said she was expecting Carver's challenge.

"It's called democracy," she said Tuesday.

"We all have to make decisions based on our own personal agendas, not on others'," she said. "Everything in life is about timing. If he thinks this is the right time for time for him to run, then he should run."

She said she plans to run regardless of how the rest of the field takes shape.

Feeney's career has keyed largely on constituent services while others in the statutorily weak council have focused on policy matters beyond city limits. Her popularity in the district, particularly with elderly voters and in her home precincts around Saint Brendan's Church, have fortified her from strong challengers in the past. She has endured several electoral challenges from constituents and run unsuccessfully for state Senate.

Hughes acknowledged that he is a political neophyte, but said his outsider status will help rather than hurt him.

"If it seems like I don't have a clue, then you know what? Exactly. And if I don't have a clue, then imagine how the average person feels," Hughes said. He said he would focus on preventing crime and establishing a school voucher program.

Yancey beat Ego Ezedi, a former aide to Congressman Michael Capuano who now works for the Boston University Medical Center, in a tense 2003 battle that starkly divided the heavily minority fourth council district.

Yancey said he doesn't know Hughes, but that he would regard the challenge seriously.

"I've been here now 22 years, and I've run unopposed only once, so this is not unusual," he said. "And that was in 1985, I believe, and I complained about it."

After a battle with leukemia last year, Yancey said he has been given "a clean bill of health," and that several biopsies have offered encouraging results. He continues to undergo treatment, he said.

"I'm actually in better shape now than I was before the illness," Yancey said.