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Voter guide: Candidates and referenda on the November ballot

Anna Lamb
Voter guide: Candidates and referenda on the November ballot

After months of knocking on doors, holding rallies and attempting to get their messages out, it’s now time for those efforts to be put to the test for candidates on Boston’s 2021 ballot. Here’s a summary of everything voters can expect to see as they head to the polls on Nov. 2.

Candidates are listed in order of the results of the Sept. 14 preliminary election.


This year’s mayoral race has already made history as the first time in Boston’s history that there were no white male major contenders for the seat. Beating out both Black female candidates —acting Mayor Kim Janey and District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell — two women running as women of color remain in competition for the mayor’s office.

Michelle Wu

Wu was elected to an at-large seat on the council in 2013, becoming the first Asian American woman elected to the council. Born in Chicago, Wu moved to Boston to attend Harvard University and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2012. She worked as constituency director for Elizabeth Warren’s successful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.

On the council, Wu has advocated for the dismantling of the Boston Planning and Development Agency and for eliminating fares on the MBTA. In 2018, she introduced an ordinance to regulate Airbnb in Boston, limiting the number of days property owners can rent out rooms or apartments on the platform. She has garnered criticism from her opponent for making grandiose promises and pushing progressive ideals such as rent control.

Wu has continued to rack up endorsements since the preliminary, including from many elected officials of color. The ranks of her supporters include U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, acting Mayor Kim Janey, Register of Probate Felix D. Arroyo and state Rep. Liz Miranda.

Annissa Essaibi George

Annissa Essaibi George grew up in the Savin Hill neighborhood of Dorchester. She graduated from Boston Technical High School (now the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science) and from Boston University before obtaining a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She worked as a social studies teacher at East Boston High School and founded the business Stitch House in Dorchester.

Essaibi George won an at-large seat on the City Council in the 2015 election. While on the City Council, she has championed issues including public education and mitigation of the impact of the opioid crisis on the Mass and Cass area — an issue that remains central to her mayoral campaign.

Essaibi George relied on moderate and conservative-voting Bostonians to make it past the preliminary, with much of her support coming from the traditionally white voter-rich strongholds in South Boston, West Roxbury, the Neponset section of Dorchester and the Orient Heights section of East Boston. She has continued to appeal to right-of-center voters by garnering support from police and vocally supporting development. She has positioned herself as the action candidate in the race, promoting her tagline, “the teacher and the mother and the mayor to get it done.”


The preliminary election narrowed the field of candidates from 17 to eight. Voters can select up to four at-large candidates on the ballot.

Michael Flaherty

Flaherty was born and raised in South Boston, graduated from Boston College High School, and earned degrees from Boston College and Boston University School of Law. After serving in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Flaherty was elected to the City Council in 1999, serving from 2000 to 2008, when he challenged then-Mayor Thomas Menino.

Flaherty was re-elected to the City Council in 2013. During his tenure, he has led efforts to pass the Community Preservation Act, a measure that provides funding for affordable housing, historical preservation and open space in the city. He has advocated for changes to the city’s inclusionary development policy and worked to regulate short-term rentals, such as those offered by Airbnb.

Julia Mejia

Born in the Dominican Republic, Mejia grew up in Dorchester with a single mother and was the first in her family to graduate high school and college. Before running for the Council in the 2019 race, she headed the Collaborative Parent Action Network, a group that organized Boston parents around educational advocacy.

During her first term in office, she has focused on providing resources to families affected by the COVID pandemic, providing resources for small business owners such as barbers and hairdressers who have lost business during the pandemic, and legislation to bring greater transparency to city government.

Ruthzee Louijeune

Louijeune grew up in Mattapan and attended Boston Latin School, Columbia University and Harvard Law School. She served as senior legal counsel to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Senate and presidential campaigns. She volunteers as an attorney with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance.

Louijeune advocates increasing opportunities for Boston residents to buy homes and making more land available for the construction of affordable units. She calls for increased funding for Boston’s public schools, increased support for mental health services and a fare-free MBTA.

Erin Murphy

Murphy was born and raised in Dorchester, where she raised three children and still lives. She is a veteran Boston Public Schools teacher and special education coordinator.

She says she would advocate for quality schools in every neighborhood, trauma training for teachers and staff, increased access to recovery services for people suffering from opioid addiction and community policing strategies.

Carla Monteiro

Monteiro grew up in Boston, the daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants. After graduating high school, she had a son and worked her way through Quincy College, earning an associate degree, and bought a triple-decker where she and her parents live. She is currently employed as a social worker.

She advocates a return of the city’s rent control and condo conversion laws. She calls for more nurses and social workers in Boston’s schools and smaller class sizes. She advocates ending all information-sharing between the Boston Police Department and the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and shutting down the controversial gang database.

David Halbert

Born in Ohio, Halbert attended Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and settled in East Boston before moving to Dorchester. He served as an aide to former City Councilors John Tobin and Sam Yoon as well as in the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick. He has a master’s in public administration from Northeastern University.

He advocates smart growth — building new housing that doesn’t facilitate displacement of the city’s current residents — and supports rent control. He calls for universal pre-K and a hybrid elected/appointed School Committee. He supports shifting resources from the Boston Police Department to mental health professionals and social workers.

Althea Garrison

Garrison has been running for various city and state offices since the early 1980s. In 1992, she successfully challenged incumbent state Rep. Nelson Merced’s nomination papers, noting that his campaign had not marked them with the word Democrat to disclose his party affiliation. With Merced off the ballot, Garrison won the Democratic primary and general election that year, serving one two-year term before losing to Charlotte Golar Ritchie in the 1995 election.

In the 2016 City Council election, she placed fifth in the at-large race, and in 2017 was seated on the council when Ayanna Pressley left her at-large seat to serve in Congress. In 2018 Garrison was voted out again.

Bridget Nee-Walsh

Nee-Walsh grew up in Boston. Her mother was a union official who worked in the city’s Assessing Department. Her father worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier. She says her union-oriented family taught her the value of hard work. Nee-Walsh has for the last 15 years been a Local 7 ironworker.

Nee-Walsh said she supports tutoring to help students who have been affected by the pandemic and the expansion of vocational programs in the schools. She says she supports “responsible development” of new housing that doesn’t displace existing families and union jobs in the construction industry.


Six of the nine city council districts have competitive races. The following are candidates running for those contested seats.


In District 3, which includes the eastern portion of Dorchester from Neponset to South Boston, incumbent Frank Baker is facing a challenge from Stephen McBride.

Frank Baker

Baker grew up in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, where he currently resides. He graduated from Don Bosco Technical High School and worked in the city’s Printing Department from 1987 until 2010. He was elected to the Council in 2011.

Baker is the chair of the Jobs, Wages and Workforce Development Committee and the Special Committee on Charter Reform. During his 10 years in office, Baker has focused on constituent services. He has spoken out against rent control and the regulation of the short-term rental industry. Recently, he has been vocal on the need for immediate city intervention in the ongoing health crisis at Mass and Cass, including involuntary hospitalizations and civil commitments.

Stephen McBride

McBride moved to Boston 13 years ago to attend Northeastern University. He advocates universal pre-K and supports investing in the city’s Community Hub Schools model, which calls for schools to function as community centers. He advocates re-opening the Long Island shelter to provide services for people facing addiction and homelessness as well as the decentralization of the types of services concentrated in the Mass and Cass area. He supports the construction of affordable housing in the city.


Following District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell vacating the seat to run for mayor, nine candidates put their names in the ring for the seat. Now the field is down to just two for the district includes Mattapan and the western part of Dorchester.

Brian Worrell

Worrell owns a real estate business and says his work in the field has given him experience with the city’s zoning and permitting processes and with lenders and banks.

Born in Boston to parents from the Caribbean, he has carried strong support from the diaspora in the district. Among the issues he says he would work on are expanding affordable housing opportunities, including home-buying for those who make too much to qualify for affordable units but not enough to afford to live in the city; universal pre-K and a hub school model; and more cops, while redirecting 911 calls for mental health emergencies to trained public health officials.

On the issue of public safety, Worrell has positioned himself as the more pro-police candidate, garnering support from Boston’s police union.

Evandro Carvalho

Carvalho was born in Cape Verde and grew up in Dorchester. He graduated from Madison Park High School, UMass Amherst and Howard University School of Law. He worked as an assistant district attorney before he was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, representing the 15th Suffolk District until 2018, when he left to enter the race for Suffolk County District Attorney.

Carvalho is running on a platform of economic empowerment, expanding homeownership, quality job training and financial literacy. He says he would like to continue working at the city level on the police reforms he fought for while in the Legislature.

Carvalho considers himself a progressive.


District 5 includes Hyde Park and parts of Roslindale and Mattapan. Incumbent Ricardo Arroyo is facing a challenge from John White.

Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo was elected to the District 5 seat in 2019. He grew up in Hyde Park, attended Boston Public Schools, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and obtained a law degree from Loyola University Chicago. He worked as a public defender in Essex County and Suffolk County.

On the Council, Arroyo has worked on issues including criminal justice reform, redistricting and declaring racism a public health epidemic. He has filed an ordinance that would expand mail-in voting for all elections and a home rule petition that would return the School Committee to an elected structure.

John White

White is 1978 graduate of Hyde Park High School, has worked as a union laborer and currently works as a gravedigger. He lives in Roslindale.

He told The Scope Boston his key priorities are housing, public safety, jobs, health insurance and pensions.


Jamaica Plain resident Kendra Hicks launched a campaign for the Jamaica Plain/West Roxbury district last year to challenge incumbent Matt O’Malley. After O’Malley announced he would not seek re-election, Mary Tamer, Kelly Ransom and Winnie Eke joined the race. Now just Hicks and Tamer remain.

The race encountered scandal earlier this month as a flier containing a darkened image of Hicks was deemed racist by the Hicks campaign and its supporters.

Kendra Hicks

Hicks is the daughter of a Dominican immigrant. She grew up in Jamaica Plain, working with Spontaneous Celebrations and the Hyde Square Task Force. As a first-year student in high school, she founded the activist group Beantown Society. For the last five years, she has been director of radical philanthropy at the Boston-based organization Resist.

Hicks’ platform includes increased and equitable funding for Boston’s schools, protection for people struggling with housing costs, including rent control and anti-displacement zones, and increased transparency and accountability for local law enforcement. If elected, she would be the first woman of color and first Jamaica Plain resident elected to represent the District 6.

Mary Tamer

Tamer grew up in West Roxbury, is a former Boston School Committee member and a past president of the League of Women Voters of Boston. She is a graduate of Boston Latin School and the University of Southern New Hampshire. She has a master’s in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She worked as director of strategic projects for the Boston Charter Alliance and currently is research director for SchoolFacts Boston.

Tamer says her top priorities would be an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic, making sure that every child in Boston has access to a high-quality public education and combating climate change.


The District 7 seat became an open race when City Councilor Kim Janey, now acting mayor, announced she would not seek re-election to the seat. The preliminary race was crowded, with eight candidates vying for the seat. The district includes most of Roxbury and portions of the South End, the Fenway and Jamaica Plain.

Tania Fernandes Anderson

Anderson was born in Cape Verde, grew up in Roxbury and graduated from the O’Bryant School of Math and Science. She worked her way through college as a single mom. She became a parent advocate with the Boston Public Schools, a program manager for a women’s shelter and a child social worker. She most recently served as director of the Uphams Corner Main Streets district.

Her priorities include an equitable recovery from the COVID pandemic, advocating for expanded mental health services and decentralization of the addiction services clustered in the Mass and Cass area.

If elected, Anderson stands to be the first Muslim American, as well as the first person born in an African country (Cape Verde) to serve on the Boston City Council.

Roy Owens Sr.

Owens has run for various electoral positions over the past few decades and briefly considered a bid for mayor before jumping into both the at-large and district city council races this year. Owens did not make it past the preliminary in the at-large race and was closely trailed in the D7 race by Angie Camacho. On a website he launched for a 2022 run for Congress, he says he opposes new liquor licenses for Boston restaurants and the conversion of affordable apartments into luxury housing.

A conservative, Owens espouses right-wing ideals and Christian family values to an extreme. He advocates for faith-based initiative programs and has expressed some controversial ideology, including referring to the COVID-19 vaccine as “experimental” and making a derogatory statement equating Anderson’s Muslim faith with Sharia law.


District 9 includes Allston and Brighton. Incumbent Liz Breadon faces challenger Michael Bianchi

Liz Breadon

Breadon was elected to the District 9 seat in 2019. A native of Ireland, she has lived in Allston for the last 25 years. On the council, she has advocated for affordable housing, sustainable development, climate resiliency and fair labor practices, among other issues.

Michael Bianchi

Bianchi initially announced a run for mayor before pivoting to the District 9 race. He told Universal Hub the city’s budget is being mismanaged and that he wants to bring art and vocational classes back to Boston’s schools.


Question 1

Ballot Question 1 would amend the city charter to change the city budget process. If the ballot measure passes, it will reform the budget process in two ways. Firstly, it would give the council budget amendment power, instead of its current power only to vote yes or no to the entire budget. The council would not be able to exceed the overall total of the mayor’s budget. Secondly, it would create an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting to facilitate citizen voting on how funds should be spent.

The question will appear with full language of the charter amendment asking to approve the charter change, yes or no.

Question 2

“Should a high voltage, electrical substation be built at 400 Condor Street in East Boston, along Chelsea Creek, near homes, parks, playgrounds, jet fuel storage, and in a flood risk area rather than in a nearby alternative safe and secure location such as non-residential Massport land at Logan Airport?”

The question is nonbinding.

Question 3

“Should the current appointed school committee structure be changed to a school committee elected by the residents of Boston?”

Question 3 is nonbinding and accompanied by a home-rule petition in the City Council.