With two incumbents leaving, at-large race draws new names

Two new candidates – including a woman from Dorchester who sought one of four at-large seats on the Boston City Council in 2019 – emerged as potential contenders for citywide council this week.

Two incumbent city councillors— Michael Flaherty and Julia Mejia— are both expected to mount re-election campaigns to hold onto their citywide seats. But, with two at-large councillors, Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu, running for mayor, there is extra incentive for hopefuls to consider campaigning at that level.

Erin Murphy, who finished in sixth position in the last municipal election for at-large seats, told the Reporter on Tuesday that she is “strongly considering” a candidacy this year. “I do think we ran a very successful grassroots campaign and the momentum just grew,” she said. “I’m a much stronger candidate the second time around and I’ve made hundreds of calls over the last couple of weeks. I definitely know I can improve on last time.”

Murphy is a lifelong Dorchester resident who has worked for 24 years in the Boston Public School system. Speaking as a special education teacher, she says the council will need someone like her as the city emerges from the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, the council needs a schoolteacher and that expertise to help with the safe return of students and teachers,” she said. “There’s been a huge social, emotional impact.”

Murphy, who already has an account open with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), says she expects to make a final decision in the coming days.

Also seriously weighing a candidacy is Kelly Bates of Hyde Park, who filed a statement of organization with OCPF on Monday. Bates, 50, currently serves as president of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and holds a degree from Boston University Law School.

“Boston is in crisis: Covid-19 and addiction are ravaging our public health, families can no longer afford to remain in the city they love, and we desperately need a swift economic recovery that works for all,” said Bates in a statement to the Reporter.

If she decides to run, Bates said, she will focus on finding solutions to some of the city’s most urgent and multi-faceted issues, from addiction to education to climate change.

“I was born to a young interracial couple who married in 1963 before it was safe or even acceptable to do so. My Irish father, a local reporter, lived in the South End of Boston with my Black mother, a public schoolteacher,” Bates said.  Though she herself is a New York native, Bates said, “Boston always felt like home.” She moved to Boston at age 23 and has lived in neighborhoods across the city, which, she said, has given her a broad perspective. “I have deep, lived experiences” in many of them, she said.

Bates is the executive director of the Massachusetts State-Wide Women’s Legislative Network, a founding board member of Emerge Massachusetts, and a member of the Ward 18 Democratic Committee.

A new name to surface in the last month is Said Abdikarim, a refugee from Africa who settled in Boston as a teenager, attended Boston Public Schools, and sold newspapers at age 14 to send money home to his family in Africa. Another candidate who will likely be in the mix is former at-large councillor Althea Garrison, who told the Reporter last week that she will opt to run for council instead of mayor in 2021.

A number of other people have declared their intent to run citywide, including: Dorchester’s David Halbert, who ran in 2019 and finished eighth. Alex Gray, a Jamaica Plain resident and City Hall policy analyst; Hyde Park resident Nick Vance, who has been active in the NAACP; and Domingos DaRosa, a native of Cape Verde who grew up in Dorchester and Roxbury and ran for council unsuccessfully in 2017 and 2019.

Candidates for council at-large are required to get a minimum of 1,500 certified signatures from city voters to make the ballot. Nomination papers will be made available on April 13.

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