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Candidates vying for House vacancies

Seats will be contested in Boston, Chelsea

Anna Lamb
Candidates vying for House vacancies
Roberto Jiménez Rivera is running for the newly-redrawn 11th Suffolk District, which is based in Chelsea. COURTESY PHOTO

With the departure of several elected officials from legislative seats in Boston area districts and one challenger to an incumbent, political turnover in 2022 will likely include new blood in areas dominated by residents of color.

In the 11th Suffolk District representing Jamaica Plain, incumbent Liz Malia in October announced her retirement after 23 years in office. With redrawn boundaries as part of last year’s redistricting process, the new 11th Suffolk now represents Chelsea and parts of Everett — a majority Latino area.

Putting his hat in the ring so far to represent the new district is Roberto Jiménez Rivera, a Chelsea School Committee member.

“I was part of the Drawing Democracy Coalition that advocated for this district and for districts around Massachusetts that were ‘districts of opportunity’ and are really meant to help lift communities of color and working-class people across Massachusetts,” Jiménez Rivera said. “It’s just a huge opportunity for the people of Chelsea.”

Jiménez Rivera has a background in college admissions and education and has organizing experience with the Boston Teachers Union, where he has been an advocate for mental and public health resources in schools and better pipelines to secondary education. His first foray into politics was organizing with Ayanna Pressley’s congressional campaign in 2018.

Raised in his parents’ native Puerto Rico, he said he also looks to be a strong advocate for racial justice, and that he would be a valuable addition to the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus.

“Because of the pandemic and the kind of broader racial justice movement that we’ve seen after the murder of George Floyd, I think there is an appetite from voters and legislators to really push for broader racial justice measures. And I think it will be the best way to go about doing that work, to listen to the legislators of color,” he said.

Several other candidates potentially angling to represent the 11th Suffolk District have yet to make their formal announcements, including Chelsea City Councilor Judith Garcia, who a source said is likely to announce her run for the seat in February.

In the Roxbury-based 7th Suffolk District, activist Mark Martinez, who brings behind-the-scenes State House experience to the table, is challenging incumbent Chynah Tyler. Tyler, a third-term lawmaker, is currently serving as chair of the Black and Latino Caucus and vice chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Martinez is coming off a tenure as legal counsel and budget director to state Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, during which he co-founded BeaconBLOC, a “collective of State House staffers that came together to demand institutional changes designed to better recruit, retain and support staffers of color, and in particular Black staffers.”

Martinez said, “I spent the last three years working at the State House, so I know what happens in the building, and I know what doesn’t happen in the building,” adding that, if elected, he brings direct experience of creating equity and opportunity for diverse populations.

“I’ve got direct experience in the State House working urgently on those issues,” he said.

Martinez said he hopes to promote progressive housing, environmental justice and public safety policies.

If elected, he would be the only openly LGBTQ+ person of color serving in the legislature and the first non-binary person elected to the Massachusetts State House.

Additionally, two seats are open for potential newcomers, as Reps. Liz Miranda of the 5th Suffolk District and Nika Elugardo of the 15th Suffolk District put in their bids for the vacated state senate seat left open by Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for governor.

11th Suffolk District, 15th Suffolk District, 5th Suffolk district, 7th Suffolk District, Massachusetts Legislature