Ten candidates to date; ex-Rep Henriquez eyes return to electoral precincts
The race to fill the City Council seat being vacated by Tito Jackson as he pursues the mayoral chair grows more packed by the day, with ten prospects already in the field, according to financial filings. Among the candidates, former state Rep. Carlos Henriquez is hoping to return to the political fold while others, mostly community organizers, are looking to bring their activism to bear on the municipal level.
District 7 covers Roxbury and sections of Dorchester, the South End, and the Fenway. Jackson, a Grove Hall resident who has held the Council seat since 2011, set off the free-for-all for the post when he announced his candidacy for mayor in January. With a filing deadline in May and a Sept. 26 primary, there is still an ample window of time for more candidates to join the fray.
The drumbeat of city service is the spine of any councillor’s work. Henriquez, who was ousted by his State House colleagues in 2014 after being convicted of two counts of assault and battery on a woman acquaintance – he continues to strenuously deny any wrongdoing – noted on Tuesday that his priorities have been shaped by concerns brought up organically by the community. Fears of gentrification and uncertainty about the best ways to support young people in underserved districts often rise to the top, he said.
Saying he plans to draw from his elected experience as well as community organizing roots to pull residents and officials into more constructive discussions, Henriquez added, “We need to build better partnerships between government and the community. I’d like to be that bridge.”
City Hall is familiar territory to him, Henriquez said. He was an aide in Michael Flaherty’s office, and later twice ran unsuccessfully for the District 7 seat when it was held by Chuck Turner. He then ran for and won the state representative post for the Fifth Suffolk District, serving from 2011 to 2014, when he was expelled.
Although he looked at again seeking state office, Henriquez decided against it during the last election season. The larger office staff size for a councillor will bolster resources to conduct outreach and connect with constituents, he said, and “it’s easier to build a consensus among 13, than with 160 districts and competing caucuses.”
There is room for improvement in the city’s approach to affordable housing, youth programming, and education, he said, asserting that each boils down to a need for increased engagement with stakeholders, and better intergovernmental communication. He cited a working partnership group between elected officials from communities of color as one of his accomplishments during his time as a representative.
On the school issue: “The missing piece is we need more parents involved,” Henriquez said. “I’d love to see a parent’s union. We have so many groups in silos that parents are usually the last ones to be informed. We need to bring everyone together around a common goal, and be honest about barriers to reaching that goal. Not pitting students against charters… all those end up becoming distractions to parents and students who ultimately want a high equality education.”
Henriquez says his core street team comprises people who have helped with his campaigns in the past. “Loyalty has been something I cherish,” he said. They are gearing up for a full-court press in the summer months as the campaign season gets underway.
As to other candidates: Kim Janey, a senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates For Children, is the best funded of the candidates as of March 15. According to Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) filings, she has raised a total of $15,925.
In a conversation with the Reporter on Wednesday, Janey said she sees the city council seat as a “natural progression of my activism on a neighborhood level,” noting 20 years of community organizing under her belt, and adding, “I have deep roots in my community. My family has deep roots in this community. I love this community, but we’re at a crossroads right now.”
Like Henriquez, Janey says displacement and the unequal benefits of a citywide development boom consume conversations on a local level. “There’s a lot of fear,” she said. She hopes to bring her education and activism background to bear on some of the systemic inequalities in the district.
Municipal government is also a space for effective response to the national political climate, she said, with myriad opportunities to be proactive on the local level.
The national conversation about immigration is an ever-present backdrop for Roxbury’s Deeqo Jibril, a social justice activist and childhood Somali refugee. Although a first-time candidate, Jibril has worked for the political campaigns of former Gov. Deval Patrick, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former state Sen. Jarrett Barrios. She is the founder and executive director of the Somali Community and Cultural Association and founder of the African-owned business site African Mall.
“I am a community activist and want to take my activism to a city level,” Jibril told the Reporter before he campaign launch Tuesday night. “I’ve been told the community wants to see someone that represents them.”
Jibril, who is Muslim, said many of her peers assumed that they could never launch a successful bid for office and view her candidacy as inspiration. She cited the president’s two attempted travel bans against seven Muslim-majority countries as a catalyst for her run.
“What the president is doing is un-American,” she said. “It’s not of value, and more than anything, we have to be more involved now, more engaged now. We cannot shy away. We, too, are part of this country.”
Also seeking the seat are some familiar faces. Charles Clemons Muhammad, co-founder of the TOUCH 106.1 radio station, ran for the position in 2015. He has also run for at-large city councillor, state representative, and mayor. Attorney Hassan Williams ran for the District 7 seat in 1999 and, later, for the state senate against Sonia Chang-Diaz. And Rufus Faulk, Boston Ten Point Coalition’s director of the Gang Mediation Initiative, has twice run for the Seventh Suffolk District House seat against Gloria Fox.
First-time candidates, as indicated by OCPF filings, include: Joao DePina, Ward 12 Democratic Committee treasurer and owner of At Your Time of Need Floral Designs; Angelina Camacho, program manager at Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (ABCD) and former Citywide Parents Council co-chair; Miguel Angel Chavez, a small business owner and political consultant.
And three political newcomers from Roxbury joined the growing ranks in March: James Jackson, Jose Junior Lopez, and Brian Keith, president of the Mount Pleasant Avenue, Vine and Forest Street Neighborhood Association.