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At-large bid has Ezedi back on city pol scene

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
At-large bid has Ezedi back on city pol scene
Egobudike Ezedi (left) greets motorists on Blue Hill Avenue in Grove Hall during a campaign kickoff event held Saturday, May 2, 2009. Six years after making a serious bid for City Councilor Charles C. Yancey’s District 4 seat, Ezedi is back on the Boston political scene, this time seeking to stand out in a crowded field of at-large council candidates. (Photo: Yawu Miller)

Author: Yawu MillerEgobudike Ezedi (left) greets motorists on Blue Hill Avenue in Grove Hall during a campaign kickoff event held Saturday, May 2, 2009. Six years after making a serious bid for City Councilor Charles C. Yancey’s District 4 seat, Ezedi is back on the Boston political scene, this time seeking to stand out in a crowded field of at-large council candidates.

At 10 a.m., Egobudike Ezedi’s campaign kickoff starts off with eight volunteers setting up tables and hand-lettering signs, while the candidate and attorney Eddie Jenkins work the median strip on Blue Hill Avenue.

“How you doing, black man?” Ezedi says, greeting a passerby. “My name is Ego Ezedi. I’m running for City Council. You have four votes. I’m asking for one of them.”

Ezedi keeps the energy up as more volunteers arrive. He works the traffic, asking for votes and sending the drivers on their way with a broad smile and a “God bless you.”

The point of today’s exercise — collecting signatures of people registered to vote in Boston — is the first hurdle that could winnow the field of 21 candidates for the four at-large seats on the Boston City Council. Each candidate has to produce 1,500 valid signatures to make the ballot.

Ezedi, the son of a Nigerian father and African American mother, is one of 12 black, Latino or Asian candidates seeking an at-large seat. His status as a minister at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan may give him an edge over many of his competitors.

A well-connected campaign committee could also give Ezedi a boost. In addition to Eddie Jenkins, chairman of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, Ezedi’s committee includes Peter Welch, former special advisor to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, former Transportation Secretary Richard Taylor and politically connected developer James Keefe.

Ezedi’s connections may be paying off. He says he’s raised $45,000 in the first three weeks of his campaign.

This is not his first foray into electoral politics. Six years ago, Ezedi left his job as an aide to U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano to mount a campaign for the District 4 City Council seat, which was then — and is still now — occupied by City Councilor Charles C. Yancey.

In that bid, Yancey’s supporters cast Ezedi as the pawn of the mayor, who openly backed his campaign. While Ezedi won the vote in the district’s predominantly white precincts, he lost big on the black side.

And in this year’s election, the black vote is considered a key component to political success. That was made clear when Mayor Thomas M. Menino kicked off his re-election campaign last month at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury’s Dudley Square. The lineup at the launch included a number of black public figures, including state Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Marie St. Fleur and Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.

For his part, Ezedi says he’s gained more experience since his first council bid back in 2003. For a year and a half after his run, he served as a community liaison for Boston University’s biosafety level 4 laboratory — a project he now opposes.

“I’m concerned about the outstanding issues of safety around the project,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons I ended up getting laid off. I asked to be laid off.”

Ezedi’s next job was as executive director of the Roxbury YMCA. Now on leave from that job, Ezedi says he’s learned to put the needs of the community ahead of City Hall politics.

“All in all, what I’ve made clear is I’m going to do what’s right by the community,” he says. “When it stops being right for the community, that’s when I’m leaving. That’s always been my barometer.”

When he speaks in Grove Hall, Ezedi makes the community his campaign theme, pledging to “always put the community first.” His pastoral skills are in evidence as he repeats key themes in his speech.

By 11 a.m., there are 25 volunteers, and the Ezedi campaign is ready to arm them with clipboards stacked with nomination papers. Ezedi launches into his stump speech, pledging to put the people first, to work on creating jobs, safe streets and reforming the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information laws.

“It’s about the people — it’s not about the politicians,” Ezedi says, repeating the statement for emphasis. “I understand the needs of youth and families in this city.”

Ezedi’s polished delivery, his army of volunteers — he says he has more than 100 — and his political connections could put him at the front of the pack in the at-large race, along with Ayanna Pressley, former aide to Sen. John Kerry, labor organizer Felix G. Arroyo, Andrew Kenneally, former aide to City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, and former Boston University Director of Community Outreach Tomas Gonzalez.

But before the campaign gets underway, Ezedi reminds his team, they need the signatures.

“Know that every signature we collect gets us closer to where we need to be,” he says.