Hopefuls lining up for campaign to fill District 4 opening

With City Councillor Andrea J. Campbell having set her sights on the mayor’s office, a number of candidates have been doing the groundwork to fill her District 4 seat, which primarily includes sections of Dorchester and Mattapan, as well as parts of Roslindale and Jamaica Plain.

Jacob Urena, Josette Williams, Brian Worrell, Leonard M. Lee, Sr., William Dickerson III, Joel Richards, and Trevour Smith have all set up accounts with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, each naming the District 4 seat as their target. 

Last September, Campbell, who successfully challenged veteran Councillor Charles Yancey in 2015, announced her run for mayor, in the process leaving her seat open to others this year.

Williams, 52, is the only woman currently in the mix of hopefuls. She describes herself as “Brooklyn born, Chelsea raised, and Dorchester developed,” and adds, “I do not come from a political background.”

She is currently the program manager for Countdown to Kindergarten for the Boston Public Schools. As a single mother, Williams said, she raised her daughter “in a village of social capital. I did not get here alone.” 

If elected, she said, she wants to be a force for recovery in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. “We don’t want to go back to old structures,” she added, citing the wealth disparity across the city. 

Lee, 63, lives in Dorchester’s Melville Park neighborhood and has served on the Boston Parks Commission. He oversees the operation of Melnea Cass Recreation Complex, Roxbury Heritage State Park, and Dillaway Thomas House. He also has served as past executive director at a number of nonprofits, including Dorchester Neighborhood Service Center and the Roxbury YMCA. This campaign is his first, although he. has been politically active for decades.

“I get more done by not being a politician than being a politician,” Lee said. “I know city councillors who don’t do a third of what I do.”

He describes himself as a proud father of three, an urban beekeeper and a “person who cares about the community unconditionally.”

If elected, Lee said that combatting Covid-19 and increasing vaccine distribution would be his priorities. “That trickles down to everything: economics, public health, violence, all of it!”

“I’ll do two terms and I’m done,” he said last week. “My goal is to mentor young people who want that job.”

Urena, 23, is a commissioned minister in the Order of St. Martin de Porres, affiliated with the Evangelical Episcopal Church.

He told the Reporter that he hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the council while continuing much of the work of “breaking barriers” that Campbell has started.  He introduced himself as “a product of Mattapan,” and said “I believe it’s really time for City Hall to incorporate young voices. I’m running to represent the community that raised me. I’m not too much of a Sunday-type preacher,” he added, “but more of helping the community— fulfilling that type of need.”

If elected, Urena said, he would like to focus on addressing affordable housing and dismantling white supremacy— among other issues. “I’m not going to feel afraid to tackle things outside of D4,” he added. 

The 37-year-old Richards, who has spent seven years teaching in Boston Public Schools, and his wife Madeligne Tena are raising two sons in Dorchester. He describes himself as a “first-generation American born of two Jamaican immigrants and a union organizer.

“I’m running to bring the movement for justice in housing, the economy, and education to City Hall and to strengthen organizations that empower working-class communities.” Richards wrote in a statement on Feb. 7.

Worrell, a real estate broker and a lifelong resident of District 4 – “I am one of the people who never left,” he said in a statement to the Reporter – says he plans to make “bold changes” if elected.

“As an entrepreneur, I understand how to dream big and put in the infrastructure to face the challenges that are set before us,” he said. People in the district are calling for resources and opportunities they need and deserve in order to thrive. Survival is not enough anymore.”

Smith, 34, is the latest addition to the pool of District 4 campaigners. A math teacher at Boston Latin School, he is a recent arrival to the district, having moved to Dorchester from Brighton last August.

On Monday, Smith said he was considering a run for at-large council as an alternative to District 4. He said he is looking at the numbers and running his campaign like a math teacher. His years spent as a wrestling coach have also taught him to carefully measure his opponents, he added. 

Another potential candidate is former state Rep. Evandro Carvalho, who lives in the district and is said to be weighing a run— either district or at-large— this year.

The field continues to develop. To qualify for the ballot, candidates must collect 200 nomination signatures from voters in the district. The nomination process does not begin until April 13 and the final slate of candidates will not be published by city officials until June. 

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