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Three councilors of color face challengers in preliminary race

Election set for Tuesday in four districts

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Three councilors of color face challengers in preliminary race
District 5 Councilor Ricardo Arroyo COURTESY PHOTO; District 6 Councilor Kendra Lara BANNER FILE; District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson PHOTO: Jeremiah Robinson, Mayor’s Office

When voters in Roxbury and parts of the South End and Fenway go to the polls for the city’s Sept. 12 preliminary, there will be no shortage of choices in four City Council districts.

First-term District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson is facing off against four challengers — perennial candidates Althea Garrison and Roy Owens, anti-vaccine advocate and social media influencer Padma Scott, and Jerome King, whose LinkedIn page lists volunteer activities with the Salvation Army and the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center.

In addition to Fernandes Anderson, two other district councilors of color face an array of challengers.

District 5 Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who represents Hyde Park and parts of Roslindale, Mattapan and West Roxbury, is facing challenges from city workers Enrique Pepén, former Boston Police officer Jose Ruiz and city worker Jean-Claude Sanon.

District 6 Councilor Kendra Lara, whose district includes West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and part of Mission Hill, has competition from attorney Ben Weber and technology specialist William King.

The councilors facing challengers — along with at-large Councilor Julia Mejia — represent the left wing of a progressive-leaning, 13-member body. Over the last four years, the progressive faction has served as a counterweight to the body’s few conservative-leaning members: Council President Ed Flynn, who represents South Boston and parts of the South End, at-large Councilor Erin Murphy, and outgoing councilors Michael Flaherty and Frank Baker.

The conservative-leaning quartet has clashed with colleagues on issues ranging from redrawing Council district lines to police reforms. The progressive wing has led on issues such as banning police from using facial recognition technology, creating a task force to study reparations, and passing home rule petitions on issues that include shifting to an elected school committee, reintroducing rent control and imposing a real estate transfer tax.

The conservative-leaning councilors have advocated for increased hiring of police officers and the installation of metal detectors and return of uniformed police in schools, and pushed for law enforcement crackdowns in the Mass and Cass area. With a more moderate mayoral administration and a progressive-leaning council, however, many of the quartet’s priorities have stalled.

The split between the factions has bled into the district races. While Fernandes Anderson and Arroyo are backing Lara in her bid for reelection as District 6 councilor, Baker and Murphy hosted a fundraiser for King, one of her two opponents. In Arroyo’s District 5 race, Pepén has the backing of Mayor Michelle Wu, who has during her term in office embraced more moderate stands on police reform and opposed a fully elected school committee.

Complicating the races for some of the progressives is a series of ethical lapses that have generated headlines over the summer.

Lara is facing charges stemming from a car wreck in Jamaica Plain in which police allege she was driving without a license in a car with an expired registration. In June, Arroyo was fined by the State Ethics Commission for representing one of his brothers in a lawsuit against the city during his first few months in office. Fernandes Anderson also was fined by the Ethics Commission after she hired her sister and son to serve on her staff.

In Dorchester-based District 3, where incumbent Baker is not seeking reelection, seven candidates are competing: city worker John FitzGerald, consultant and community activist Jennifer Johnson, former schoolteacher Barry Lawton, attorney Matt Patton, schoolteacher Joel Richards, former City Council aide Ann Walsh and housing activist Rosalind Wornum.

FitzGerald, a deputy director of real estate operations at the Boston Planning and Development Agency, has secured backing from current and past Dorchester and South Boston elected officials including former Mayor Martin Walsh, Baker, former District 3 Councilor Maureen Feeney and Flynn. Since May, FitzGerald has raised $183,739 — more than any other Council candidate.

Voters heading to the polls on Sept. 12 will only be able to cast ballots in district races. Only in districts 3, 5, 6, and 7 are there three or more candidates — the threshold triggering a preliminary in a district race.

In the at-large race, there are eight candidates — not enough to require preliminary balloting. As is the case with the district races, the at-large contest features an ideological split between progressive-leaning incumbents Julia Mejia and Ruthzee Louijeune and conservative-leaning incumbent Murphy.

Among the five challengers vying for an at-large seat on the body, former city worker Henry Santana is tacking left and drawing support from progressive elected officials and activists. ironworker Bridget Nee-Walsh has pledged to follow in the footsteps of fellow South Boston native Michael Flaherty, who is vacating his seat on the council this year. Other candidates in the at-large race include veteran Roxbury political activist Clifton Braithwaite and anti-vaccine activists Shawn Nelson and Catherine Vitale.