Voters choosing the candidate to succeed Andrea Campbell as the District Four city councilor will have to weigh the importance of political experience, Boston roots, and rent control.
Brian Worrell, a 38-year-old Dorchester real estate broker, has never run for public office. But he’s gained the backing of some key neighborhood organizers, and he was the top vote-getter in the nine-way preliminary election last month.
His opponent, Evandro Carvalho, is a 40-year-old Cape Verdean-born attorney and former prosecutor who’s peddled progressive criminal justice reforms as a state representative. He lost a crowded 2018 Democratic primary race for Suffolk district attorney, and in the City Council race, he’s secured endorsements from elected officials and some labor unions.
The winner will have to help address some of the biggest challenges facing the district, which mostly includes Dorchester and Mattapan, plus small slices of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale — climbing rents, violence, and racial inequities exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Do we want someone who has the experience, or a newcomer with a way of thinking outside the box?” said Rachel Idowu, a Mattapan resident who worked in the city’s law department for 20 years.
The district’s residents are primarily Black and Latino, and about one-third are foreign-born. Voter turnout in the preliminary election was slightly lower than the disappointing overall participation citywide; about 23 percent of the district’s 46,000 voters cast ballots.
Carvalho, a progressive Democrat who emigrated from Cape Verde at 15, did well in District Four’s sliver of progressive Jamaica Plain, and in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, home to a large Cape Verdean community.
Worrell, a small business owner whose parents emigrated from Jamaica and Barbados, and who has strong roots within the district’s Caribbean diaspora, received much of his support from the Ashmont, Codman Square, and Mattapan Heights neighborhoods.
Despite his own family’s immigration story, Worrell has promoted himself in his campaign materials as a Dorchester native and “the only lifelong resident of Boston running.” In an interview, Worrell said his deep roots in District Four make him better equipped to solve the area’s problems.
“It’s knowing the people, it’s knowing the issues and actually living those issues,” Worrell said. “My whole family’s lived those actual issues since the ‘60s.”
Carvalho points to his long record of government service — and 20 years in the district.
“I’ve been serving this community no matter where I’ve lived,” he said.
Carvalho graduated from Madison Park Vocational Technical High School and received degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Howard University School of Law. He now serves as the executive director of the city’s Human Rights Commission, an agency that helps address inequities facing Boston’s marginalized communities.
“Right now, we have a new mayor, we’re going to have five or six new city councilors, and we have a lot of momentum in the city,” Carvalho said. “We need people that have experience on the council to get things done.”
Worrell grew up on Dorchester’s Fuller Street, with a large extended family; he attended Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School as a METCO student and graduated from Northeastern University. Now, he owns Greater Investments Real Estate in Dorchester.
In his work as a real estate broker, Worrell said, he’s helped families build generational wealth; he’s also helped organize vaccination clinics, food deliveries, and other community services, especially during the pandemic.
“Our campaign is not just ideas of ‘I have experience,’ ” Worrell said. “It’s, ‘I have the action.’ ”
The candidates have some policy differences: Carvalho supports rent control; Worrell opposes it, and instead backs proposed 100 percent affordable housing units on District Four′s vacant lots. Carvalho said he’d work to increase the percentage of affordable housing units throughout the city to at least 20 percent.
Worrell supports a hybrid body of appointed and elected School Committee members, while Carvalho prefers a fully elected School Committee. Both candidates want the city to expand school programming, introduce vocational and technical skills to children at earlier ages, and pump more money into afterschool and youth employment programs.
After a campaign “Recharge Rally” at Bowdoin’s Restaurante Cesaria one recent Saturday, Carvalho knocked on doors along Olney Street, greeting voters in Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole, English, and limited Spanish.
One resident shared the trauma she and her 8-year-old daughter have struggled with since the April shooting death of her grandmother. Fourteen bullet holes from that tragedy punctured the house’s gray exterior.
She said no one from the city has checked in since her grandmother’s death. Because of the frequent violence on her street, she said, she “has the cops in her [smartphone] favorites.”
Carvalho took her number and said he’d contact some city workers to reach out to her, he said.
“I promise you I’ll be here to support you,” Carvalho said. “You can put me in your favorites.”
Though both candidates agree the city needs police reform that addresses violence in their district while not over-policing communities, Worrell, who has relatives in the Police Department, has been endorsed by the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. This could be a mixed blessing in the post-George Floyd era, and in a city where the police union has been wracked with scandal.
Carvalho says the union’s endorsement is telling: Although he served as a Suffolk assistant district attorney, prosecuting gun, assault, and drug distribution crimes, he also pushed progressive criminal justice reforms as a lawmaker, including repealing mandatory minimums and raising the age at which juveniles can be tried.
In the council race, Carvalho has proposed updating Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association contracts so that the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency and Civilian Review Board have more power to hold officers accountable.
“The choice is very clear,” he said. “Who’s for reform, or who’s for status quo?”
Worrell said that he’s also committed to police reform that accommodates the different issues affecting the district’s diverse neighborhoods and that he has built relationships with groups like the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
“I understand the importance of having open communication and dialogue with our Police Department to make sure that all areas of our community are protected,” Worrell said. He supports community-based policing models, such as a neighborhood task force that would bring together community stakeholders to address crime.
On a chilly Thursday evening recently, Worrell knocked on doors around Rev. Loesch Family Park. Introducing himself as a “kid from Dorchester,” he stressed the importance of voting and spoke about how he’d use his real estate experience to bring affordable housing to the area.
Tinaja Pearson, of Dorchester, told Worrell her landlord was trying to evict her family because she couldn’t afford rent. Her 10-day-old son, with her in a baby stroller, was her sixth child.
“Even though the hospitals help . . . with housing, they don’t have too many resources to help us,” Pearson said, noting that the RAFT program, which provides emergency rent relief amid the pandemic, “is taking way too long, and it leaves us in Section 8 left out.”
“I know a lot of people in [the real estate network],” Worrell said, handing her his business card. “Let’s connect and see if I can connect you to more resources.”