Councillors, challengers get down to business of Campaign ’15

What most expected to be a sleepy 2015 election in District 3 may turn into a surprise fight for Dorchester City Councillor Frank Baker: a defense of his seat against a political newcomer, the veteran boxer Donnie Palmer.

Baker and Palmer are among the two dozen individuals who have filed intentions to run for the council with the city’s Election Department. Candidates have until May 11 to file and all 13 incumbents have pulled papers to run for reelection.

Some challengers, like Dorchester’s Annissa Essaibi George and Mattapan’s Andrea Campbell, who are seeking an at-large seat and Charles Yancey’s District 4 seat, respectively, have been laying their campaign groundwork since late last year, looking for advice – and maybe a donation – from local activists and powerbrokers.

In District 3, Palmer is waging a fight few but he saw coming. “I always knew I wanted to run for office. City Council is the first step,” Palmer told the Reporter. When asked what his ultimate goal is, he replied quickly, “Heavyweight champ of the world.”

A paraprofessional at a Dorchester elementary school, Palmer said the focus of his campaign will be the fight against Common Core, the controversial federal standardized testing in use at public schools. He wants to “be a strong voice for the community,” he said.

But do not expect the decorated boxer, who fought his way back from the brink of death after being shot last summer, to give up his sporting life. “You make time for the things you want to do in life,” he said.

Palmer, who goes by the nickname “Big Nasty,” called Baker a “great guy. He’s in my community, his family comes to box at my gym at Dorchester Boxing Club. But this is also a fight. It’s just like boxing. It’s a competition and I just want to win.”

In the opposite corner, the incumbent is ready. “I’m just going to continue to do my job. I think I’ve served the people of District 3 with integrity,” Baker said on Tuesday. “I do the best I can.” Cash on hand won’t hurt him, either. As of Monday, Baker had just shy of $40,000 in his war chest. As of yesterday, Palmer had not created a campaign committee with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

In the at-large race, Essaibi George is looking to dislodge one of the four incumbent councilors – Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, and Michelle Wu. And as of Tuesday, newcomers Bryan Fuller and Chrissanta Rudder of South Boston and Bentzion Chudnovskiy of the South End are also in the at-large mix. This spring, Fuller has been spotted on the civic association circuit, introducing himself to local activists.

The races for seats in Districts 5 and 7 have seen the return of a few veteran candidates, with Mattapan’s Jean-Claude Sanon pulling papers for a repeat battle again incumbent Tim McCarthy in District 5 seat, which includes parts of Mattapan and Hyde Park. Sanon was coy in talking with the Reporter on Tuesday about his campaign plans, divulging little but promising a kick-off on April 28.

In District 7, Althea Garrison has recovered from her November loss to state Rep. Evandro Carvalho while TOUCH 106.1 founder Charles Clemons is back after successfully filing a local ballot question to save the embattled radio station. Both will challenge City Councillor Tito Jackson for his seat.

While much is being made of the Yancey- Campbell face-off in District 4, Jovan Lacet and Terrance Williams have also tossed their hats into the race for the seat that includes parts of Mattapan, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park.

Next week, the Election Department will begin issuing the papers candidates will use to collect signatures to qualify them for the Sept. 8 preliminary ballot: District candidates need 200 certified signatures; at-large candidates need 1,500. The general election is November 3.