Members of a well-connected Latino family are putting their political clout behind Acting Mayor Kim Janey in this year’s mayoral election, a move that could help shore up her support among Latino voters, many of whom are undecided in the race.
Felix D. Arroyo, the Suffolk County register of probate, and his son City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo are endorsing Janey for mayor, saying she is the best candidate to lead this city. A formal event will be held Saturday in Hyde Park’s Cleary Square.
Janey has increased accountability and transparency in the Boston Police Department, helped the council create a participatory city budget process, and stood up for equity in all of the public schools, the younger Arroyo said.
“Kim has been a strong progressive partner in my work to address racial and systemic inequities [as councilor and mayor] and I know she shares my values,” Ricardo Arroyo said of Janey, who served with him on the council. “As our mayor she has met the moment and has shown a commitment to ensuring Boston is a city that works for everyone.”
The Arroyos’ support comes at a crucial juncture in the race, as campaigns return to traditional routines and candidates take their cases directly to voters’ front doors. Boston’s mayors have all been white men, and racial diversity in an office that has long eluded a person of color is now key issue in the contest, in which all five major candidates are people of color. Jon Santiago, the lone Latino in the race, ended his bid earlier this week.
“With Santiago dropping out, this puts Janey in a really strong position,” said Colette Phillips, who heads her own communications firm and is a longtime friend of the Arroyos. “They are the only family of color who have had three members elected to the Boston City Council.”
Of the four Latinos to be elected to the City Council, three are from the family: Felix D. Arroyo, who was the first Latino elected to the body; his son, Felix G. Arroyo, who was also the only Latino in the 2013 race for mayor; and Ricardo Arroyo, who is the first person of color to represent District 5 and is the only Latino to serve as a district councilor. (His father and brother were at-large councilors. City Councilor at Large Julia Mejia is the only Afro-Latina on the council. )
Felix D. Arroyo said that he met Janey more than 20 years ago, when he served on the Boston School Committee, and witnessed her advocacy for quality schools for all students. As the District 7 councilor and acting mayor, “Kim has continued to fight for justice and equity for all,” the elder Arroyo said. “She is the right person to lead our city, and I will be working hard to elect her to a full term.”
I proudly endorse @MayorKimJaney for Mayor & I'm excited to start campaigning for her. Today I told @Telemundo why I support Kim. I've known Kim for over twenty years and she has always led from her values of justice and equity for all. Boston deserves a Mayor like Kim.#bospoli pic.twitter.com/oAkYHQlWP9— Felix D. Arroyo (@FelixDArroyo) July 15, 2021
Janey said she was proud of the endorsements, adding that the Arroyo pair are “two of Boston’s great warriors on the front lines of the fight for justice and equity in our city.”
The Arroyos’ support is an indication of the high-stakes quest for the crucial Latino vote, “the crown jewel” in this election, as described by David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted a poll of likely voters last month.
Thirty-three percent of Hispanic voters are undecided, the largest percentage among demographic groups, the poll found. Hispanics, the poll said, represent nearly 15 percent of the electorate.
“That has not changed,” Paleologos said, describing the voting bloc as a “sweet plum” the “front-runners are going to want to sink their teeth into. . . . Janey securing the Arroyo endorsement takes a big bite out of that undecided [bloc].”
In the poll, Janey led with likely Hispanic voters by 18 percent, followed closely by mayoral competitors City Councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell, and Annissa Essaibi George.
Latino voters, their community crushed by the coronavirus and high unemployment as a result of the pandemic, have not been paying close attention to the race thus far, and are probably waiting until “the last minute” before deciding who to support, said Alberto Vasallo III, publisher of El Mundo Boston.
“It almost seems like the mayoral race is so far off, because they’ve got so many day-to-day stuff [to deal with], so it doesn’t surprise me that a great majority of Latino voters are undecided,” said Vasallo.
To win this group, he stressed, the candidates will need to deliver a “clear and concise” message to voters already juggling too much and who may have language barriers. And it helps, he added, to have backing of well-known influencers like the Arroyos whose support for a candidate has sway.
Wilnelia Rivera, who runs her own political consulting firm, said the Latino vote is critical to getting candidates to the finish line, and the Arroyos’ Boston legacy could play a role. But she cautioned that it will be interesting to see how the Janey campaign leverages the endorsement and translates it into actual votes.
“The Latino electorate is still a young electorate, not everyone has been here for 10, 15, 20, 30 years, so I think there also [has to be] a deeper understanding of who the Latino community is‚” Rivera said, noting the range of Boston residents from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
“They are not a monolith,” said Rivera, who is backing Wu in the campaign. “The Arroyo name in the South End, Dorchester, and Roxbury is a real legacy. But the real test is how does that translate to other parts of the city in places like East Boston and Mattapan.”
Phillips added that Felix D. Arroyo is aiming to replicate an effort he helped start nearly 40 years ago as one of the founding members of a citywide coalition of Black, Latino, and white progressives that catapulted the mayoral aspirations of former state representative Mel King.
King, who came up short, was the city’s first Black person to compete in a general election for mayor.
Meghan E. Irons can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.