Special election guide: Know your city council candidates

Special election guide: Know your city council candidates

Preliminary election is Tuesday, September 24

Banner Staff


At-large councilors represent the entire city. There are 15 candidates running for the four at-large seats. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. The information on the candidates presented here was culled from the candidates’ web pages or, in the absence of a web page, from LinkedIn, news reports or other sources.

Domingos DaRosa

A father of four, Hyde Park resident Domingos DaRosa has called Boston home since 1978. Moving from the Cape Verde Islands as an infant, DaRosa grew up in Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park. After graduating from Madison Park High School and earning a degree from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, DaRosa has devoted himself to youth outreach and mentorship. He leads year-round programs in football, basketball, soccer, swimming, skiing retreats, ultimate frisbee and baseball. DaRosa has worked as a community organizer for SEIU Local 888. He now owns a property maintenance company.

Michel Denis

Michel Denis lives in Hyde Park. An immigrant from Haiti, Denis says if elected he would work to create more affordable housing in Boston.

Annissa Essaibi-George

Incumbent Annissa Essaibi-George is a daughter of immigrants and a proud first-generation American. Her dad, Ezzeddine, immigrated to the United States from Tunisia in 1972. Her mom, Barbara, was born in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Germany to Polish parents and came to the U.S. in the early 1950s.

Essaibi-George and her husband, Dorchester native Doug George, are the parents of four boys. Essaibi-George graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1991 where she first tasted political activism after being elected to the Boston Student Council and the Massachusetts State Student Council. In 1996, Essaibi-George earned her B.A. from Boston University in political science with a focus on international relations. She also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

A former BPS high school teacher, Essaibi-George is the owner of Stitch House in Dorchester, a retail shop that sells yarn and fabrics and offers classes in knitting, sewing, quilting and crochet.

Michael Flaherty

Born and raised in Boston, Flaherty developed a passion for public service watching his father serve as a Massachusetts State Representative. After graduating from BC High, Flaherty worked his way through Boston College and Boston University School of Law as a Local 25 Teamster. Following law school, Flaherty worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County.

In 1999, Flaherty ran for the Boston City Council, first serving from 2000-2008, with five years as council president. After unsuccessfully challenging Mayor Thomas Menino, Flaherty focused on his law practice. He returned to the council in 2013.

Priscilla Flint-Banks

Flint-Banks was born and raised in Boston and lives in Hyde Park with her husband, Larry Banks. A licensed minister, Flint-Banks has worked in banking and as a housing counselor and foreclosure specialist with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. She’s a founding member of the anti-violence group Mothers for Justice and Equality and a co-founder of the Black Economic Justice Institute.

Althea Garrison

A former clerk in the state comptroller’s office and former state representative, Garrison joined the council this year after former at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley left her seat to join Congress. Garrison, who had finished in 5th place in the 2017 race for the four at-large seats, took her place.

David Halbert

Halbert honed his political skills working a staff member for elected officials including Boston City Councilors John Tobin and Sam Yoon and Governor Deval Patrick. He has volunteered with civic groups including East Boston Main Streets and the Young Professionals Network of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. Halbert says his experience growing up the child of a single mother taught him the important role government plays in the lives of everyday people.

“Government provided a new career for my mom, one that brought us to Massachusetts,” he writes on his web page. “It gave my sisters and I educational opportunities from elementary school through college; and provided two of the three of us with careers in public service — just like our parents. It was a government program that provided a pathway to home ownership for my wife and me — a home that became the key asset allowing us to grow as a family and find a way to stay in Boston.”

Martin “Marty” Keogh

Keogh is a lifelong resident of Boston, growing up one of seven children in Mission Hill and Hyde Park. He earned a BA from Boston College while working a full-time job, and a law degree from Mass School of Law. Keogh has worked for the Boston School Committee and the Boston City Council from 1991-2001.

Keogh has lived in West Roxbury with his children Nolan and Penelope for many years and is very active in his community. Currently serving as the President of the West Roxbury Civic Improvement Association, Keogh has focused on engaging the neighborhood with public meetings on improving basic city services, traffic issues and monitoring neighborhood development. He is also a member of the Hyde Park and West Roxbury Historic Societies, helping homeowners discover the history of their property.

William King

Currently residing in Mattapan, King is a lifelong resident of Boston, raised in Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. King is a graduate of the Boston Public School system. Graduating in 2007 from TechBoston Academy, King studied social science at Quincy College. King worked for the Boston Public School system for six years as a technology specialist until becoming a technology manager for a local outdoors conservation nonprofit.

Herb Lozano

Lozano was born and raised in Dorchester. Lozano has served as the NAACP’s director of the Pipeline To Leadership program, a seven-week course in which youth encouraged voter registration, successfully registering over 2,000 new voters, organized anti-violence rallies and participated in the redistricting process. Lozano served as a legislative aide for Dorchester’s 5th Suffolk District.

Since 2015, Lozano pursued his passion in broadcast media as a host and producer of several local radio stations. He has developed on-air content for WZBR 1410AM, WRBB 104.9FM and PLAY Radio, an online platform based in Westwood. Most recently, Lozano held the position of program manager of the Bill Moran & Associates Community Mentoring Team; a mentorship program that trains and prepares individuals to enter IBEW Local 103 (Boston JATC) apprenticeship program.

Julia Mejia

Born in the Dominican Republic, Mejia arrived in the neighborhood of Dorchester when she was 5 years old. Raised by a single mother who was undocumented for most of her childhood, she began advocating at a young age on behalf of her mother and others who felt ignored and underserved by the very institutions that were supposed to serve them.

Mejia was the first in her family to graduate high school and college and first to purchase her own home in Boston. Mejia created and led a civic engagement group focused on voter registration, is the founder of a nonprofit education network and worked on national social justice campaigns as a producer for MTV. Mejia is a graduate of Dorchester High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Ida College. She lives in Dorchester with her daughter, Annalise and their little Shih-Tzu, Toby.

Erin Murphy

Murphy is a veteran BPS teacher and graduate of Emerge, a political organization that recruits, trains and provides a powerful network for women who want to run for office.

After raising awareness and more than $60,000 for recovery services to people struggling with addiction, she was honored with the James F. Gavin Award in 2015. In 2016, she received the Extraordinary Woman of Boston Award for her devotion to her community and in particular her passion to help individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness while supporting their families. She was recognized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as an Unsung Heroine in 2016 for always showing up to volunteer, no matter the cause, as long as it benefits the neighborhood.

Jeffrey Michael Ross

A graduate of Northeastern University Law School, Ross has worked as an advocate for immigrant communities and LGBTQ+ families. He works to help stabilize families that face the same working-class struggles as his own family and to make sure Boston progresses as a city so that all Bostonians have access to opportunity.

Over the years, Ross has been a supporter of working families, advocating for earned sick time and for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Ross is proud to support labor and the fight to eliminate stigmas of coalition-building and community organizing through worker rights to unionize.

Alejandra St. Guillen

Born and raised in Mission Hill, St. Guillen graduated from Boston Latin School and is a City Year alumnus. She began her career as a public school teacher in New York City and Boston. She then served as the Director of ¿Oiste?, a Latino civic & political organization where she promoted economic justice and electoral reform public policy initiatives directly impacting communities of color statewide.
Most recently, St. Guillen served as the director of the City of Boston’s office for Immigrant Advancement, where she spearheaded new initiatives, including the Boston #toimmigrantswithlove Public Art Project and the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund.

St. Guillen holds a B.A. in economics and African-American studies from Wesleyan University and a M.Ed. from City College. She currently resides in West Roxbury with her wife, Josiane, their son, Jose Alejandro and their two rescues, Eva Luna and Ella Luz.

Michelle Wu

Growing up as the oldest of four children, Wu received a scholarship to study at Harvard College, where she fell in love with Boston. As a college student, she spent most of her free time volunteering in Boston’s Chinatown, taking the Red Line back and forth across the Charles River. After graduation, she moved to the North End and started working as a consultant in Boston’s Financial District.

Wu was admitted to Harvard Law School and brought her family with her to Boston. While studying, she helped her mom access the world-class health care in Boston, sent one sister to college and became legal guardian for her youngest sister, who graduated from Boston Public Schools.

Wu also worked in community advocacy, providing legal advice to low-income small business owners at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain and representing survivors of domestic violence in immigration law cases at Boston Medical Center’s Medical-Legal Partnership.

When she was elected to the Boston City Council in November 2013 at the age of 28, Wu became the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council. Her legislative work has focused on access to opportunity for residents of all backgrounds. She lives in Roslindale with her husband Conor, her three year-old son Blaise and her newborn son Cass.


There are no contested races with more than two candidates in Districts 1 through 4. As such, those districts will not appear on preliminary election ballot. The following district races will appear on the preliminary ballot Sept. 24:

District 5

Incumbent Timothy McCarthy is not running for reelection, and there are eight contenders running for the open seat.

Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo was born in Hyde Park where he was raised by his parents Felix D. Arroyo, a former Boston City Councilor and the current Register of Probate for Suffolk County, and Elsa Montano, a retired Boston Public Schools teacher.

Before launching his campaign last year, he worked as a Public Defender at the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Arroyo attended the Boston Public Schools, holds a B.A. in History from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago.

Ricardo sits on the board of the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter and is a member of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, NAACP and Mijente.

He currently resides in Hyde Park.

Maria Esdale Farrell

Farrell is a lifelong Bostonian who grew up in Hyde Park. For the past five years, she has served on the staff of Councilor Timothy McCarthy, serving as his education advisor. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State University and has raised six children.

Cecily Graham

Graham was born and raised in Boston to a mother who was a small business owner and a father who was an MBTA employee. A lifelong Hyde Park resident, Graham attended the schools in and around the district as a Boston public school student. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and graduated from the school of Humanities and Fine Arts with a major in African diaspora studies and a minor in women’s studies.

After graduation she became a banker in Hyde Park. As a community organizer, she has worked on various campaigns working as an intern with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. She currently works as an elementary school teacher.

Yves Marie Jean

Jean is a poet who holds a BA in International Affairs from Bridgewater State University and a master’s degree in political science from Suffolk University.

Justin Murad

Justin Murad lives in Hyde Park with his wife Jessica. He is a cum laude graduate of Catholic Memorial High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University, where he studied applied legal studies. After nearly four years working for an insurance agency, Justin began working as a paralegal for the City of Boston in the Law Department. He works with lawyers and each city department with legal matters based on the knowledge he learned through his undergraduate studies.

Alkia Powell

Powell grew up on River Street in Mattapan and is now raising her 14-year-old daughter, Zoe, in Hyde Park. She graduated from the Boston Public Schools and put herself through Fisher College to earn a degree in business administration.

Powell’s professional career has focused on civic engagement in the Boston community, working first at UMass Boston’s Office of Government Relations and Public Affairs, then with the City of Boston, where she worked at the Mayor’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity, addressing discrimination and increasing fair access to housing within underserved hard-to-reach populations. She recently resigned from her most recent City of Boston position as Neighborhood Business Manager, where she supported small businesses in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

​She has volunteered and served on the boards of nonprofits including the Boston Branch of the NAACP, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, The Greater Boston YMCA, The Boston Police Department and VietAID Community Center.

Jean-Claude Sanon

Born in Haiti, Jean-Claude Sanon has been living in Boston since 1975, when he arrived at age 16. He graduated from Boston English High School and received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Newbury College. He started his business, Avant-Garde, in 2005, which provides interpretation and translation of immigration and legal matters. He is also a radio and television announcer.

Mimi Turchinetz

Born in Mattapan, Turchinetz is a 19-year resident and homeowner of Hyde Park. She is a founding member and president of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, which helped lead the development of the Residence at Fairmount Station, a 100 percent affordable 27-unit project that opened January 2019.

In 2001, she started the Boston Tax Help Coalition — a model of public/private partnerships between the community, business and government. The Coalition now has 25 free tax sites across the city providing residents with skills to take control of their finances. Since its inception, the Boston Tax Help Coalition brought back over $200 million in refunds and credits to our local economy and protected the elderly and low-income families from predatory financial practices.

District 7

Incumbent Kim Janey is facing two challengers.

Kim Janey

Janey grew up in the Highland Park section of Roxbury and spent much of her childhood at her great-grandmother’s house in the South End. She attended Boston Public Schools and then attended the Reading Public Schools through the METCO program. She was one of two black students in her graduating class. She later attended Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar.

Janey began her advocacy career organizing for early education and child care before joining Massachusetts Advocates for Children, where she led efforts to advocate for systemic policy reforms that would ensure equity and excellence in education for students in Boston Public Schools, with a special focus on eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps for children of color, immigrant children, students who are learning English, children with special needs and those living in poverty.

Janey was elected to the City Council after winning a 13-candidate race in 2017, and she is the first woman to represent District 7. She chairs the Council’s Committee on Small Business & Consumer Affairs and the Committee on Arts, Culture, & Special Events, and vice-chairs the Committee on Education and the Committee on Housing & Community Development. She also serves on the committees on Ways and Means; Public Safety and Criminal Justice; Civil Rights; Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery; and Jobs, Wages, and Workforce Development.

Valerie Hope Rust

Valerie Hope Rust is an attorney. She has no campaign website.

Roy Owens

Owens is a pastor who has frequently run for office over the past three decades.

District 8

District 8 Councilor Josh Zakim is not running for reelection, and five candidates are seeking election to the open seat.

Priscilla Kenzie Bok

Born and raised in Boston, Bok is an affordable housing expert and community leader. She is a vestry member at Trinity Church in Copley Square, a board member at the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) and the former chair of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee. She held a leadership role on the successful ballot initiative campaign to enact the Community Preservation Act in Boston in 2016 and helped draft the final CPA ordinance.

Most recently, Bok has been the senior advisor for policy and planning at the Boston Housing Authority, the city agency focused on the management, preservation and creation of low-income housing. She is also a lecturer at Harvard University, where she teaches a Justice in Housing course. Previously, she served as budget director for at-large Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. Kenzie earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude in 2011 and her Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University in 2016 as a Marshall Scholar. She currently lives in Beacon Hill.

Montez Haywood

Haywood is an attorney and a resident of the West End who has practiced law in courts across the state. He has spent the majority of his career as a prosecutor handling matters that range from first-degree murder trials to property crimes. He has also represented clients in Social Security, disability and workers’ compensation hearings.

He serves as faculty at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop. He is currently a member of the office of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Senior Trial Unit.

Kristen Mobilia

Mobilia has over 20 years of executive experience in finance, operations and human resources and has held leadership roles in Boston professional services firms, startups and non-profits. She is currently vice president of finance & human resources at a Boston area broadcast and video production firm. She earned her B.A. in economics and business from Colby College and her MBA from Northeastern University.

She has served as a leader and advocate for the city’s historic Fenway Victory Gardens as past president and board member. For 15 years, Kristen has played a role in city housing, serving as a trustee of the 74-unit Lincoln Halls Condo Association. She is an active member of numerous District 8 neighborhood organizations, where she has brought community members together, forming action committees and taking on issues related to public safety, transportation and environmental concerns.

Jennifer Nassour

Nassour grew up in Queens, New York and moved to Massachusetts after earning a J.D. from St. John’s Law School. A former head of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Nassour describes herself as a fiscal conservative and social progressive.

She most recently served as CEO of ReflectUS, a nonpartisan coalition of the nation’s leading women’s representation organizations working to increase the number of women in public office. She has also appeared on WGBH, WBUR, NECN, NBC in CommonWealth magazine and in other media outlets as a political commentator. She sits on the boards of MassINC, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, the UMass Women Into Leadership program and the Union Club of Boston.

Hélène Vincent

Vincent is a longtime activist for social and environmental justice, a champion of the LGBTQ+ community and an experienced mediator and negotiator. She was previously director of research and academic partnerships at EF Education First.

Vincent attended Brown University where she studied international political and economic development. While at Brown, she studied conflict resolution and mediation. The youngest president in the history of the Downtown Boston Rotary Club, Vincent partnered with local nonprofits across Boston to bring them volunteers and grant money. During her year as president, Vincent doubled club membership and service hours.

District 9

Councilor Mark Ciommo is not running for reelection. There are seven candidates for the open District 9 seat.

Jonathan L. Allen

Allen is an Allston-Brighton resident. He is the co-founder of The Leadership Brainery, a Boston-based nonprofit, created to empower underrepresented student leaders through community engagement, leadership development and preparation for advanced education.

Allen began preaching at age 11 and was ordained at age 20. As a first-generation college student, he became freshman and sophomore class president, junior senator and student body president of Grambling State University. After receiving his B.S. in business management, he worked to expand services for a pediatric day healthcare center for chronically ill children until departing to earn his Master of Theological Studies degree from Southern Methodist University | Perkins School of Theology.

Allen is a graduate of Boston University School of Law. He has participated in international arbitration and mediation competitions and served as the president of the Black Law Students Association. Allen lives in the Oak Square neighborhood of Brighton with his partner of seven years, Derrick Young Jr., a strategist and nonprofit executive.

Brandon Bowser

Bowser is a teacher in the Boston Public Schools and a longtime activist. He works with organizations such as the Allston Civic Association and Artist Impact.

After moving to Boston, he started volunteering with Food Not Bombs, providing free meals for more than 200 people a week and holding workshops and speaking engagements around the basic concept that “food is a right, and not a privilege.” In the Fall of 2011, Bowser spent much of his time in Dewey Square serving food to activists at Occupy Boston.

Liz Breadon

Breadon was born and grew up in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 and made Allston-Brighton her home. She worked on the campaign to secure the Presentation School building in Oak Square as a community resource, and together with neighborhood partners helped transform the building into the Presentation School Foundation Community Center. She also joined with neighbors in the fight to save the Faneuil branch of the Boston Public Library from closure — the campaign was a success and the library remains a vital part of the neighborhood.

Breadon works as a physical therapist and lives with her spouse Mary McCarthy. They are members of the Charles River Community Garden and the Brighton Garden Club.

Dan Daly

Daly is a lifelong resident of the Allston-Brighton area and has been active in his community from an early age. He and his 11 siblings are all first-generation Americans whose parents emigrated to Massachusetts from Ireland. Daly has worked more than 30 years as a union electrician. He serves on the Little League Board of Directors, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Scholarship Committee and serves as the president of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association.

Craig Cashman

Cashman grew up in the Allston/Brighton and attended St. Columbkille School. In 2014, after many years of declining enrollment in Allston Brighton Youth Hockey, Craig took over as president. Allston Brighton Youth Hockey is now a thriving program and still remains the most affordable in the greater Boston area.

In 2007, Cashman started working as a legislative aide for state Rep. Mike Moran. For the last 12 years, he has worked with residents of Allston Brighton on a host on neighborhood issues. Cashman has been the manager of the annual Allston Brighton Parade. He lives in Oak Square with his wife and two children.

Lee Nave

Nave grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and studied communications at Ottawa University in Kansas, volunteering on several student groups. At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, he pursued two master’s degree programs, in public administration and diplomacy and international relations.

He works at Citizens for Juvenile Justice, working with teachers, judges, lawyers, law enforcement, probation officers, social workers, parents and young people on systemic change. He lives with his wife, Najmia and cat, Oreo, on the Allston/ Brighton line along Commonwealth Avenue.

Amanda Gail Smart

Smart received her M.S. in human services from UMass Boston in 2017.  She has worked for Massachusetts Association for the Blind for ten years. Having suffered a traumatic brain injury at 17, Smart now works for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts as a legislative consultant.

She has published two children’s books and multiple articles relating to disability and perseverance.