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More Than 50 Signal Intentions To Run For Boston City Council Seats

In just the first two weeks since municipal nomination paper applications became available, 55 hopefuls have officially signaled their intent to run for a seat on the city council.

All four City Council At-Large incumbents — Michael Flaherty, Althea Garrison, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michelle Wu — are seeking re-election. This will be Garrison’s first run at being elected directly to the seat, as she placed fifth in 2017 and automatically replaced former councilor and now Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley in January.

The three longer-term at-large councilors have a financial advantage so far, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF). Flaherty sits on the largest war chest as of April 16, with $347,149, followed by Wu at $302,565 and Essaibi-George at $85,267.

Flaherty, of South Boston, was elected to the council in 1999. He left to run unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009, then was re-elected to his at-large seat in 2013.

Wu, of Roslindale, was elected in 2013. She was the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the council and council president, receiving the most at-large votes in the 2017 election.

Essaibi-George has been in office since 2015, following an unsuccessful earlier run for at-large.

A familiar electoral face back in office after more than 20 years, Garrison has sought elected office almost every year since her single term as a state representative for the Fifth Suffolk District in the early 1990s. She has an unusual financial log through OCPF, with no registered bank account or bank report since 2014, reporting zero dollars on hand. She has made the occasional out-of-pocket expenditure on political cards or signs or mailings, and posted some $98,453 in liabilities as of December 2018, meaning her campaign owes her that amount because she paid out of her own pocket for her varied runs, accepting campaign contributions when running for state, but not city office.

The four incumbents face a potential field of 18 challengers: Mary Frances Church, Domingos DaRosa, Michel Denis, Raymond R. Duran, Priscilla Flint-Blanks, William King, Sal Giarrantani, David Halbert, Martin Keogh, Herb Alexander Lozano, Julia Mejia, Roy Owens Sr., George John Rigas, Jeffrey Michael Ross, Alejandra Nicole St. Guillen, Taushawn Tinsley, Erin Murphy and Steven Wise.

At this stage, before nomination papers are filed, finances can be a guide to early viability. Ross has worked on campaigns, including those of Suzanne Bump, Pressley and Felix Arroyo. He also ran unsuccessfully for at-large councilor in 2013 and Suffolk register of deeds in 2016. He comes out at the top of the challenger pack with $69,414 in his campaign account, mostly stemming from a $75,000 transfer from his personal account in March 2018 when he filed a change of purpose to run for city council.

Among the first time candidates, St. Guillen, a former director of Boston’s Office of Immigrant Advancement and former director of ¿Oiste?, leads the pack with more than $44,754 in her account. Mejia, of Dorchester, founder and director of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Network (CPLAN), has $18,807 on hand. Halbert, of Mattapan, the deputy director of community affairs at the Middlesex County sheriff’s office, is sitting on $15,678. No other candidate has cracked $7,000 in an account.

Three sitting district councilors have already announced they are not running this year: District 5’s Tim McCarthy, who represents Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roslindale; District 8’s Josh Zakim, who represents Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the Fenway, Mission Hill and Bay Village; and District 9’s Mark Ciommo, who represents Allston-Brighton.

Potential contenders for the District 5 race include Ricardo Arroyo, who was among the first to announce his intentions to run, doing so before McCarthy bowed out. Endorsed by state Rep. Russell Holmes, he sits on a campaign account of $57,826.

Also in the race so far are Mimi Turchinetz, the activist city worker ($7,902); Jean-Claude Sanon, running for the seat a third time ($3,912); Maria Esdale Farrell, McCarthy’s former legislative aide ($1,347); the poet Yves Mary Jean ($10); City Hall staffer Alkia Mimi Powell, Hyde Park school teacher Cecily Leticia Graham; city of Boston paralegal Justin Matthew Murad, Hyde Park resident Michael James Murphy, and Michelle von Vogler of Roslindale, who announced her candidacy in a Facebook post that has since been deleted.

Six individuals have so far applied for nomination papers in District 8 and seven in District 9.

Incumbents Lydia Edwards in District 1, Ed Flynn in District 2 and Matt O’Malley in District 6 are without challenges so far.

Council President Andrea Campbell, who represents parts of Dorchester and Mattapan in District 4, may face a challenge from Jeff Durham, who has been active as a campaign manager for Jovan Lacet, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Dan Cullinane in the last two state election cycles.

Two other sitting councilors may have a contest on their hands. Councilor Frank Baker in District 3, which includes most of Dorchester and a portion of South Boston and the South End, has three potential opponents: Duran; Elciana Ogunjobi, who pulled papers for the First Suffolk special Senate election in 2018; and Pat Williams, of Fields Corner, who founded the event marketing company The Word Boston.

Baker, elected in 2011, sits on a campaign war chest of $50,922.

District 7 Councilor Kim Janey, representing Roxbury and parts of the South End, Dorchester and Fenway, is running her first re-election campaign. She holds $33,487 in her account. Possible opponents are Owens, attorney Valerie Hope Rust and Wise.

None of Baker’s or Janey’s potential opponents report any funds in their accounts if they exist or have filed with OCPF yet.

Three candidates are running for multiple council offices: Owens and Wise are seeking at-large and District 7 office, and Duran is seeking at-large and District 3 at this point.

Boston does not limit how many municipal offices a person can run for simultaneously, unlike the state. Candidates can run for a district, at-large and for mayor all at once if the election cycle allowed it.

A refiled bill limiting separate municipal runs to one per cycle made it through the council in February, with only Wu voting against it. It and an accompanying package of bills went to the mayor, who has signed a package of home rule petitions that included an early voting bill, the limited run bill, and a bill that would extend council terms to four years. The Legislature will now consider the package, though identical election bills have died there in the past.

Candidates have until May 13 to apply for nomination papers and have until May 21 to submit signatures for certification to make the ballot.

For the full election calendar, visit the city of Boston's website.

This story was originally published in the Dorchester Reporter. WBUR and the Dorchester Reporter have a partnership in which the news organizations share resources to collaborate on stories. 

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