What you need to know about the Boston City Council elections

The Boston City Council meets on Oct. 25, 2023. (Steven Senne/AP)
The Boston City Council meets on Oct. 25, 2023. (Steven Senne/AP)

This fall’s general election for Boston City Council is slated to bring significant change to the 13-member body.

Residents will elect at least four new members in the Nov. 7 contest, with open races in Districts 3, 5 and 6, — covering swaths of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. One at-large seat is also up for grabs. The vote comes after two of the council’s most progressive members, Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Lara, lost in historic defeats in the September preliminary election. Two other more moderate longtime councilors, Michael Flaherty and Frank Baker, also are vacating their seats.

The council currently leans more progressive. But with a number of members vacating their seats, this election will decide if the council remains progressive or shifts to its more centrist wing.

How to vote

The deadline to register to vote in this election was Oct. 28. You can check the status of your registration here.

Early voting: Locations will be open at various times until Friday Nov. 3. (Unlike Election Day, you don't have to go to your assigned polling location.) Find an early voting location and its schedule here.

Vote by mail: If you've requested a mail-in ballot, make sure to fill it in and mail it as soon as possible because all ballots have to be received by the time polls close on Election Day, Nov. 7. Alternatively, you could drop your mail-in ballot at a dedicated drop-box in various locations in the city by 8 p.m. on Nov. 7. Find a drop box here. You cannot drop off your ballot at a polling location on Election Day.

  • Pro-tip: Double check that your mail-in vote has been counted by tracking your ballot on the state's website. If there's an issue, you could still vote in person on Election Day at your polling location.

Voting on Election Day: You could cast your ballot, as always, on Election Day at your designated polling location. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. that day.

The city has approved a new council district map for 2024, which means you may be voting for a councilor in a different district than the last election. Check this map to see what district you are voting in.

Also, Boston's elections are nonpartisan, meaning you will not see party affiliations on your ballot.

Here's what you need to know about the at-large and district races:

At-large race

Voters can select up to four at-large candidates.

Julia Mejia (incumbent)

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: Mejia has been a city councilor since 2020. Before that, she ran an advocacy group focused on equity in education. The first Afro-Latina member of the council, Mejia moved to Dorchester with her family from the Dominican Republic at the age of 5.

Where the candidate stands: Mejia is one of the more left-leaning members of the council. She supports bringing back rent control and has advocated for increasing the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy to require large housing projects to include at least 50% affordable housing. Mejia has also pushed for a fully elected school committee and more transparency from the Boston Police Department. If reelected, Mejia says she wants to focus on supporting Boston’s inaugural participatory budget process and “building infrastructure for decision-making models on the Council.”

Ruthzee Louijeune (incumbent)

Where the candidate lives: Hyde Park

What the candidate does: The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Louijeune has been a councilor since 2022. Before that, the native of Hyde Park and Mattapan was a lawyer focused on housing and voting rights, and was an aide on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in 2020.

Where the candidate stands: Louijeune says she cares deeply about addressing the city’s housing needs, “both in the rental market and the homeownership market.” While she supported Mayor Michelle Wu’s rent control ordinance, Louijuene has also focused on first-generation homeownership programs for communities that historically have been excluded and pressed for more affordable housing development on public land. On education, Louijeune wants to hire more social workers and guidance counselors to help BPS students and families navigate life during school and after graduation.

Erin Murphy (incumbent)

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: Murphy has been a city councilor since 2022. Before that, the Dorchester native worked in the Boston Public Schools as a teacher and special education coordinator for over 20 years.

Where the candidate stands: Murphy has developed a reputation as one of the more moderate members of an increasingly progressive council. The former teacher has focused on improving public schools, fighting the “scourge of addiction” and public safety “with an emphasis on community policing.” She has been at odds with the Wu administration on housing issues like rent control. On housing, she has supported efforts to build affordable units on city-owned vacant lots.

Henry Santana

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: Santana was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Boston as a child, growing up in public housing in Mission Hill. Prior to his campaign, he was the director of Mayor Michelle Wu’s ​​Office of Civic Organizing and an aide to former City Councilor Kenzie Bok.

Where the candidate stands: If elected, Santana says addressing the city’s shortage of affordable housing would be a “top priority.” He supports bringing back rent control in Boston, implementing a transfer fee on high-end property sales and expanding public housing. Santana also says he would push for green infrastructure in all new buildings, especially in city-owned properties. Santana says he wants to expand his recent work making city services and resources more accessible across all Boston neighborhoods, like the City Hall on the Go Truck.

Bridget Nee-Walsh

Where the candidate lives: South Boston

What the candidate does: Nee-Walsh is an ironworker and has been a member of the of the Local 7 Ironworkers Union for 17 years. She is also the owner of "Southie’s Own,” an Irish import shop in South Boston.

Where the candidate stands: Nee-Walsh says she's "extremely" concerned about the state of Boston Public Schools. She advocates for offering tutoring services and vocational programs to all BPS students. Nee-Walsh also calls for more "responsible redevelopment" to address the city's affordable housing crisis. If elected, Nee-Walsh says she would push to legalize the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units as of right. She also supports the city's Squares + Streets Initiative, which would update zoning in Boston's popular and transit-heavy neighborhood centers.

Catherine Vitale

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: According to her campaign website, Vitale lost her job working for a home health agency due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements. She went out to become an outspoken anti-vaccine activist, and was once arrested for allegedly pushing a police officer while protesting at a City Hall press conference. (Vitale denies that she pushed the officer and the charges were later dropped.)

Where the candidate stands: On the issues, Vitale is opposed to “overdevelopment” in Boston, as well as the expansion of bike and bus lanes. She supports a fully elected Boston School Committee.

Shawn Nelson

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: A Dorchester native and Marine Corps veteran, Nelson now works as a certified nursing assistant. Nelson’s website says he is running to represent Boston residents who feel “ignored and unrepresented” by the current government.

Where the candidate stands: As a fellow anti-vaccine activist, he is running on a similar platform as Vitale. He opposes bike lanes, supports a fully elected school committee and wants to create “youth programs designed to keep juveniles busy and off the streets” to combat violence.

Clifton Braithwaite

Where the candidate lives: Mattapan

What the candidate does: Braithwaite is a longtime community organizer who most recently worked on Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins’s campaign.

Where the candidate stands: Braithwaite says his own bid is “centered around strengthening our community through equality, justice, and transparency.” In an interview with the Boston Herald, he said he supports switching to a fully elected school committee and opposes the “road diet” being implemented in West Roxbury.

District races

Boston is using a new district map in this year's election. Voters can explore the new map and double check which district they're in on the city's website.

While voters in all districts can vote for the at-large city councilors, the council's nine district councilors are elected only by the voters in their district.

Residents of District 1 and 2 only have their current city councilor on the ballot. In District 1, Gabriela "Gigi" Coletta is the candidate; in District 2, it's Ed Flynn.

Here's a look first at the open races, and then the districts where the incumbent has a challenger:

District 3

Joel Richards

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: Richards is a Boston Public Schools teacher. The "proud son of Jamaican immigrants," Richards also founded the Dorchester Juneteenth celebration and works as a pastor at Charles River Church.

Where the candidate stands: Richards says he wants to increase the budget for Boston Public Schools. He backs a number of progressive policies, including Mayor Michelle Wu's rent control proposal, a return to an elected school committee, and lowering the voting age to 16 for municipal elections. Richards is endorsed by the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

John FitzGerald

Where the candidate lives: Dorchester

What the candidate does: FitzGerald is Deputy Director of Operations for the Boston Planning and Development Authority, and has worked at City Hall for almost two decades.

Where the candidate stands: FitzGerald supports zoning reform and allowing people to build additional dwelling units on their property. He does not support rent control or returning to an elected school committee. FitzGerald is backed by outgoing councilor Frank Baker and former Mayor Marty Walsh.

District 5

Enrique Pepén

Where the candidate lives: Roslindale

What the candidate does: Pepén is the former executive director at the city's Office of Neighborhood Services. He worked in constituent services in the offices of former councilor Tito Jackson and former Congressman Joe Kennedy III.

Where the candidate stands: A self-described progressive, Pepén wants to expand the city's fare-free bus pilot program, bring back rent control, and return to a fully elected school committee. Pepén is endorsed by Mayor Michelle Wu.

José Ruiz

Where the candidate lives: Hyde Park

What the candidate does: Ruiz is a retired Boston police officer. He's also former director of the Boston Red Sox Foundation's Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities Program.

Where the candidate stands: Ruiz says he wants to expand the city's first-time homebuyer program, but does not support rent control. Ruiz opposes an elected school committee, as well as lowering the municipal voting age. He is endorsed by former mayor Marty Walsh, and used to serve in the mayor's security detail.

District 6

Ben Weber

Where the candidate lives: Jamaica Plain

What the candidate does: Weber has worked as a labor attorney for nearly two decades. He's also a youth soccer coach and Boston Public Schools parent.

Where the candidate stands: Weber supports alternative response units to police. He supports Mayor Wu's rent control proposal and a hybrid school committee of elected and appointed members. Weber is endorsed by Mayor Wu and the Jamaica Plain Progressives.

William King

Where the candidate lives: West Roxbury

What the candidate does: King is the IT director of a local conservation non-profit.

Where the candidate stands: King told WBUR's The Common that he wants to expand vocational education in schools. He wants to strengthen community policing initiatives and does not support bringing back rent control. King is endorsed by Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden and the Boston firefighters union.

District 7

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson is being challenged by Althea Garrison. Fernandes Anderson is known as progressive on the council, often challenging Mayor Michelle Wu on issues like rent control and police funding. Garrison is a perennial candidate who has served as a state representative and a city councilor.

District 8

Councilor Sharon Durkan is running against Montez Haywood. It’s a rematch of July’s special election, where Durkan, a former Democratic political fundraiser, will fight to keep her seat against Haywood, a longtime prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

District 9

Councilor Liz Breadon is running against Jacob deBlecourt. Breadon was the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to Boston City Council and is seeking a third term. deBlecourt, a former aide to City Councilor Julia Mejia, is challenging Breadon from the left.

With additional reporting by WBUR's Irina Matchavariani and Amy Gorel.


Headshot of Nik DeCosta-Klipa

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.


Headshot of Walter Wuthmann

Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live