City council hopefuls begin lining up

A number of potential candidates have announced bids to run for a seat on the City Council next year, a tantalizing target now that two sitting councillors— At-large Councillor Michelle Wu and District 4 Councillor Andrea Campbell— have announced mayoral campaigns. Both women will leave openings on the 13-member body and room for a competitive field of newcomers to grow.

Other at-large incumbent councillors — Annissa Essaibi George, Michael Flaherty, and Julia Mejia, who was elected in 2019 with a margin of one vote— are expected to seek re-election.

The first newcomer to declare his intent to run for citywide council is Alex Gray, currently a policy analyst at City Hall. The 36-year-old Democrat from Jamaica Plain hopes to become Boston’s first blind elected official.

“For me I think a lot about the fact that there’s a lot of people locally and nationally that feel unheard and that’s a hard feeling, and one that I know. The story of my life is about the power of what happens when people listen to you and take action,” Gray told the Reporter in a phone call. 

He began to lose his eyesight just before high school. “There was some pushback about whether a blind student could be in a traditional public school, and my family fought back against that and really changed my life and that’s really the motivating factor.” 

Gray previously served as an adviser to former Gov. Deval Patrick. 

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

“My lifelong home base in low-income communities now besieged by COVID-19 and longtime health and economic disparities inspires me to work with civic and community leaders to bring needed change to these neighborhoods,” Vance said in a statement. “While living in these communities and working downtown I’ve noticed that the economic growth and wealth hasn’t been distributed throughout the different communities of Boston and I’m really committed on ensuring true equity in all of the commutes that are struggling with this pandemic.” 

He added: “There is no Black male leadership on the committee. I think that is also another angle that should be addressed.” 

Jacob Ureña, a Mattapan resident and Cristo Rey Boston graduate, plans to run for Campbell’s open seat in District 4.

“I’m running because of my mother,” he said in a campaign video he released in October. “As a product of a single parent immigrant household, I was instilled with strong family values that stressed the importance of empathy, hard work, education, and civic duty.”

Another potential candidate is Ashawn Dabney-Small, an 18 year old who has said he plans to challenge incumbent Councillor Frank Baker. Dabney-Small, a member of the Massachusetts High School Young Dems and Democratic Socialists groups, worked on the Mayor’s Youth Council as the Youth Arts and Culture Director.