Five hopefuls are running for the City Council’s Eighth District seat that has been represented by Councilor Michael P. Ross since 1999.
Ross’ announcement in April that he was throwing his hat into the mayor’s race opened the door to a slate of first-time council candidates in the district, which encompasses parts of the West End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Kenmore, Mission Hill, and Brigham Circle.
“This election is an opportunity for generational change in City Hall,” said candidate Michael Nichols, 30, of Fenway, who works as chief of staff for the City Council. “This is historic change we’re seeing in Boston, and I’m running out of a sense of generational responsibility.”
The candidates all agree that access to education — five of the district’s neighborhoods do not have their own elementary school — and affordable housing are the issues that resonate most strongly with voters.
Also in the running are two candidates with considerable name recognition throughout the district: Josh Zakim, a lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services and son of the late civil rights activist Leonard P. Zakim; and Gloria Murray, an outspoken advocate for affordable housing.
The fourth candidate, Thomas Dooley, is a real estate broker who has long been a harsh critic of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2012.
The fifth candidate, Angelica Addivinola, who is married to perennial municipal candidate Frank Addivinola, did not return requests for comment. It is unclear whether she is actively campaigning.
As someone who works in City Hall, Nichols said he sees firsthand how ripe the city leadership is for change. In his capacity as the council’s chief of staff, Nichols said he helps research and craft policy proposals for all of the councilors and council committees.
“I think I’m the only one with a full-bodied experience that comes from work in public service,” said Nichols, who earlier this month announced that he has been endorsed by 44 neighborhood leaders in the district.
Zakim, who lives in Back Bay, said he was compelled to run for public office after realizing how influential city and state lawmakers have been in enabling the work at Greater Boston Legal Services.
“It really gave me a great view of how important government can be,” said Zakim, who has been endorsed by the Ward 4 Democratic Committee and District 7 councilor Tito Jackson. “We need to continually be looking for innovative solutions.”
Zakim, 29, was not short on praise for the Menino and Ross, and stressed that it is important that the district have a forward-thinking, progressive voice on the council.
He said one major issue plaguing the city is its inability to retain young talent, which he attributes to a lack of affordable housing and need for improved public safety and transportation. Too many of the people he grew up and worked with throughout the years have left, he said.
“I love Boston,” he said. “I want to make sure that the generation of people growing up here are going to have the option to stay in the city.”
Murray also grew up in the district and has devoted much of her career and campaign messaging to championing affordable housing.
“There will be a new mayor and a new City Council,” Murray said. “I think it’s a new time in city politics and I’d like to be apart of that.”
Murray, 50, who lives in the Mission Main public housing development in Roxbury, is well known throughout the district as a community activist, specifically on housing issues.
She publishes the Mission Main newsletter, sits on the Tenants Task Force, and has done work for the Committee for Boston Public Housing and the Boston Housing Authority.
“I understand the issues that residents are undergoing, because I have lived the issues,” she said.
Murray said the expansion of university campuses has sent more students into parts of Mission Hill, which has driven up housing prices.
And while construction cranes can often be seen throughout the district, too much of what has been built is not affordable for most residents, she said.
“There is a lot of housing being built in Boston — but it’s luxury housing,” Murray said. “What we need to have is more mixed-income buildings and housing.”
All the candidates said turnout for the Tuesday preliminary election is unpredictable .
“It’s a good thing,” said Dooley, of Beacon Hill, who attempted to run for a City Council at-large seat two years ago but failed to make the ballot. “We absolutely have to encourage more contested elections like this one.”
During the last preliminary mayoral election, in 2009, about 4,800 people cast ballots in District 8. Turnout swelled to 7,494 for the final election, in which Ross was easily reelected.
Dooley had no qualms about declaring himself the only qualified candidate to replace Ross,.
Dooley, a Boston native, spent years living and working internationally before returning to Boston and starting Louisburg Properties, a real estate firm.
“I’m not politically correct, I’ll call things as I see them,” he said, before delving into a lengthy discussion of public safety, which he sees as his primary issue. “The current administration is tolerating a certain level of murder in the parts of Boston whe-re it doesn’t really matter to them politically. That’s a shame.”
Dooley said he believes his largely word-of-mouth campaign will be well received throughout the district. Zakim, Nichols, and Murray say campaign volunteers have spent every day this summer knocking on doors and making calls.
“We’re certainly not taking anything for granted,” Zakim said. “I don’t think anyone has ever seen an election like this in this city, so we don’t know how this is going to play out.”