Carlos Henriquez said this week he is definitely running for the District 7 City Council seat, adding that incumbent Chuck Turner has the right heart but the wrong tactics, and is distracted form his duties in the Council by the need to defend himself from federal corruption charges.
"I have no bad wishes for the man at all, but as a registered voter it is a distraction," said Henriquez Tuesday. "I'm more concerned about the 1,000 dropouts we might have this year than Chuck's federal chargesâ€¦ If we could get 1,000 people to rally at City Hall around the dropout rate or when a young person gets killed in Roxbury that would be great. But I think we've gotten in the habit of looking the other way now and taking these things for granted."
Turner listed several of his accomplishments this year as evidence of his ability to work with his fellow councillors and City Hall, including an initiative to reach out to 16 to 25 year olds that are out of school and out of work in the Grove Hall area, and ordinances on monitoring the stimulus money in the city and foreclosure relief that were passed unanimously. He also pointed to three hearings he has held so far this year and five scheduled for this month as evidence that he is not distracted from his job.
"If you use just hearing orders as a way to judge I think you'll see that I'm the most effective of any councillor," he said.
Henriquez cites his central planks as basic city services, the achievement gap in public schools and other youth issues such as teenage pregnancyâ€”which has a much higher incidence in Roxbury than other neighborhoods in the city. Henriquez worked in Councillor Michael Flaherty's office and is on the board at the Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative. In 2007 he took on Turner and was soundly beaten, receiving only 16 percent of the vote to Turner's 75 percent.
Despite Turner's apparent strength, more candidates are expected to join Henriquez in this year's contest, as a wave of civic participation among people of color crests following the election of President Barack Obama. The Turner-Henriquez match-up is seen by some as symbolic of the "sandpaper friction" that accompanies torch passing between civil rights-era black leaders who use protest and other outsider tactics, and younger candidates of color who are more apt to work hand in hand with elected officials across racial boundaries. Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, N.J., Gov. Deval Patrick and Obama are all symbols of this gradual sea change in African-American politics.
But rather than create friction, Turner said he welcomes Henriquez to the race.
"I welcome his candidacy two years ago and I welcome it this year," he said. "I think it's a healthy sign to see young people in the community put themselves out there as candidates. I don't think they'll be successful, because my constituents support me. But in four years, they'll definitely have an opportunity to be elected."