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Early to rise

Yawu Miller | 4/15/2009, 5:31 a.m.
Felix G. Arroyo, one candidate in the crowded field of contenders vying for an at-large seat on the City Council (second from right), talks to supporters, including Kalila Barnett (right), executive director of Alternatives for Community and Environment, before canvassing Jamaica Plain on Saturday, April 11, 2009. Yawu Miller

His team is also getting a jumpstart, canvassing all of Jamaica Plain before many of his competitors in the council race have fully launched their campaigns. The field of at-large candidates includes Egobudike Ezedi, executive director of the Roxbury YMCA; Tomas Gonzalez, a former aide to Mayor Thomas M. Menino; and Andrew Kenneally, a former aide to City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty.

Others vying for at-large seats include Haitian American activist Jean Claude Sanon, Roxbury business consultant Scotland Willis, information technology professional Marty Hogan, former Nantucket selectman Doug Bennett, MBTA executive Robert Fortes and accountant Hiep Nguyen. Ayanna Pressley, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, is rumored to be considering a run, as is Tito Jackson, the information technology director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.

After the September preliminary balloting, the field will be whittled down to eight candidates vying against at-large incumbents Stephen Murphy and John Connolly for the four at-large seats. The other two current at-large councilors, Flaherty and Sam Yoon, have launched bids to unseat Menino as mayor.

Arroyo will likely rely on the same base of black, Latino, Asian and progressive white voters that propelled his father into office. Whether or not Arroyo can count on that voting bloc will depend heavily on whether voters in the city’s black, Latino and Asian communities turn out for the preliminary, as well as on Arroyo’s ability to stand out in a field that will include a number of other candidates of color.

In 2005, the last year in which there was a mayoral race, fourth-place at-large finisher Sam Yoon won his seat with 41,891 votes. Top vote-getter Flaherty came in with 49,220.

A competitive, four-way mayoral race between Menino, Flaherty, Yoon and Kevin McCrea may drive up turnout in the preliminary. Campaigning by the handful of other black and Latino candidates could also lead to increased turnout in communities that have historically voted in low numbers during preliminaries.

What could give Arroyo an edge is his track record of community activism and work on electoral campaigns. He is vice chairman of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and coaches two youth baseball teams, one in the Jamaica Plain Regan Youth League and another in the Red Sox Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) League.

Ultimately, Arroyo’s prospects in the race will hinge on his team and his ability to get his message out to the more than 100,000 likely voters in the city. That will require scores of volunteers, hard work and money.

While the challenges of running in a citywide election are daunting, Arroyo seems confident. As he directs volunteers to canvas in Jamaica Plain precincts, he demonstrates the savior-faire of a veteran campaigner, drawing on the experience he gleaned from working his father’s campaigns.

“Politics is temporary,” he said. “I watched my father win campaigns and I watched him lose. What is important is not only winning, but the principles and values that guide how you campaign and govern.”