Boston school teacher Joel Richards speaks to supporters at GrandTen Distilling in South Boston. BANNER PHOTO
Boston schoolteacher Joel Richards kicked off his campaign for the District 3 City Council seat Friday, promising to fight to make Boston a city where all of its residents can thrive.
“I don’t care if you’re in your middle class, if you have two or three degrees,” he said, speaking to an audience of about 60 supporters at GrandTen Distilling in South Boston. “This is a city where housing is not for all of us. This is a city where you could have stayed here and loved this city your whole life, but it will price you out.”
Richards, who in 2020 ran for the District 4 City Council seat currently held by Brian Worrell, lives in a Fields Corner precinct that last year was added into District 3, a district represented by Frank Baker since 2012. So far, Baker has not said whether he plans to run again. Education activist Latoya Gayle last week told the Dorchester Reporter she is mulling a run for the seat.
Richards announced in December and is so far the first out of the gate. According to campaign co-manager Yousif Abdallah, he has raised more than $20,000.
District 3 has been represented by Irish American councilors since the nine council districts were established in 1983. Dorchester’s demographics for decades were defined largely by a split between predominantly Black precincts west of Washington Street and predominantly white precincts to the east.
Baker, who grew up in Savin Hill and votes on the conservative end of the council’s political spectrum, is more representatives of the values of the traditionally working-class, Irish Catholic voting base there.
Ward 15 Democratic Committee Co-Chair Ed Cook said of Baker, “He represents what people call the Irish East — the coastline from Southie down to Lower Mills.”
While District 4 is still 90% people of color, the demographic makeup in District 3 has changed, as many working-class white residents have been displaced by rising housing costs. Further diluting the Irish Catholic vote, precincts in the Lower Mills and Neponset portions of the district were transferred to District 4 during last year’s redistricting process.
District 3 now includes 27,925 whites, 12,697 Blacks, 13,121 Latinos and 11,898 Asians, including the largest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the state.
Abdallah said he’s confident Richards can win in the newly redrawn district.
“A lot of the voters are new,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of demographic change in Dorchester, the South End and South Boston. This is a majority-people-of color-district.”
Cook, too, said the changes in the district are favorable to Richards.
“He’s a serious candidate,” he said. “He is now experienced, having run for the District 4 seat. He seems to have put together a good team. That bolsters his chances.”
The city’s Election Department has not yet set dates for filing. Candidates typically have until early May to submit a statement of candidacy, and until the second or third week in May to turn in nomination papers.
Aside from Richards, the only new candidates for Council seats who have filed with the state Office of Campaign and Public Finance are Jacob deBlecourt, who is running for the District 9 seat currently held by Liz Breadon, and William King, who is challenging Kendra Lara in District 6.