Seven candidates are running for an open City Council seat representing Dorchester-based District 3, where incumbent Frank Baker is not seeking reelection.
John FitzGerald, Jennifer Johnson, Barry Lawton, Matthew Patton, Joel Richards, Ann Walsh, and Rosalind Wornum will compete in the preliminary election Sept. 12. The top two vote-getters will proceed to the Nov. 7 general election.
Among the candidates’ shared interests are the city’s affordable housing crisis, widely held health and safety concerns at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and access to public education.
FitzGerald, 41, is a longtime city official and the son of a former state representative. He currently works at the Boston Planning & Development Agency, overseeing all property owned by the agency. He named housing, public safety, education, and constituent services as top priorities, as well as the humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass.
FitzGerald, a Boston Public Schools parent who grew up in the city, said he’s focused on ensuring Boston continues to offer the opportunities that he enjoyed while growing up here.
“Every decision I make on that council will be around, ‘Will this help families be able to stay in the city?’” he said.
FitzGerald has earned a number of prominent endorsements, including from former Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh and Baker, the incumbent councilor seen as the body’s most conservative voice.
Johnson, who moved to Boston from Louisiana at the age of 20, told the Globe that her outsider’s perspective helps her notice the city’s problems. If elected, Johnson said, she would focus on addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis, health and safety concerns at Mass. and Cass, and inequities in public schools.
“There are some baseline services we should have in our schools,” Johnson said, citing libraries and access to music, sports, and arts. “All of our schools should offer these opportunities for our kids to go above and beyond.”
Johnson has spent the last decade working in housing, public safety, and business development as a small business owner, and president and vice president of the Meeting House Hill Civic Association, which facilitates development and public safety discussions between the public and city or police departments.
She has been endorsed by the Boston Ward 15 Democratic Committee.
Lawton is a 67-year-old Dorchester resident and former Boston Public Schools teacher. He plans to use his experience as an educator to bridge generational, cultural, and racial divides, he told the Globe in an emailed statement. Lawton said public safety issues are among his top concerns. His website also lists affordable housing and education as high-priority issues.
“I intend to maintain a long-term relationship with small businesses to ensure the city government is responsive to their concerns,” Lawton wrote. “I will establish a working and amiable relationship with fellow councilors and find common ground to advance a common agenda.”
Lawton has worked in community service and state and municipal government for 40 years as a press secretary, economic development consultant, and legislative assistant, among other roles. He has experience drafting legislation at the state and city level.
Patton listed public education, housing accessibility, and Mass. and Cass as the issues he is most focused on addressing. The 41-year-old Savin Hill resident works as an attorney focused on labor and employment law. He said his work in the legal field will translate directly to his work as city councilor, if elected.
“Many [of our residents] are concerned about the same issues my clients are: future opportunities for themselves and their children,” Patton told the Globe in an email statement. “I will bring the same determination that I bring to a courtroom and look forward to being a strong advocate for my neighbors to ensure everyone in our city has opportunities for a strong and bright future.”
Patton has been endorsed by John Barros, Boston’s former economic development chief, as well as Worcester Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray, and SEIU Local 888.
Richards, 39, is a Boston Public Schools teacher and pastor who lives in Fields Corner with his wife and children. An educator at Blackstone Elementary School and the father of two BPS students, Richards named education, traffic and public transportation, and housing as his priority issues.
“Everything I’m running on is 100 percent personal,” he said.
Richards ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2021, failing to advance to the general election from a crowded preliminary election field. He has been endorsed by the Boston Democratic Socialists of America.
Walsh, 51, hopes to increase accessibility across her district, she told the Globe in an email statement, including addressing gaps in education, housing affordability, neighborhood safety, public transit, and climate action. Walsh has been endorsed by former city councilor at-large John Connolly, who she worked for in City Hall.
Walsh has worked for three decades in education, youth development, and family engagement. Her most recent career endeavor was leading 1647, an education nonprofit that connects educators with students’ families. She founded the organization along with Connolly and led it for eight years.
Walsh is a mother of two daughters, ages 17 and 20, and her family lives in Dorchester.
Wornum, a Dorchester resident, told the Globe that education, senior services, mental health, housing, and community engagement are the topics she is most passionate about addressing if elected. She said that her mother experienced homelessness, and that she almost experienced homelessness as well.
“My situation of almost becoming homeless gave me the insight to support anyone, help them to get housing, to fight against getting kicked out of their homes, or help people to get support,” she said.
Wornum is a member of the Boston Neighborhood Trauma Team and the founder of Women On the Rise New England Inc., a nonprofit that aims to help women who have experienced trauma as a result of domestic violence. She has lived in Dorchester for almost four decades and raised four children there. Her experience as a mother, she said, is part of the reason mental health and community engagement are among her top issues.