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Embattled Boston City Council incumbents Arroyo and Lara seek reelection Tuesday

Boston City Council candidates Enrique José Pepén, left, and incumbent Ricardo Arroyo on the campaign trail.Craig F. Walker and Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

As the clock ticked down to Boston’s preliminary election, embattled city councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Lara continued to fight for their political lives, making last-ditch efforts to convince voters they deserve to advance to the November general election despite the separate clouds of controversy overshadowing their council work of the past two years.

The preliminary municipal election on Tuesday marks the first time voters will have a formal chance to pass judgment not only on the political scandals and ethical lapses dogging Arroyo, who represents District 5, and Lara, of District 6, but also on the two-year term of the council more broadly, which has grabbed more headlines for infighting and chaos than policy.


Monday found the incumbents and challengers in those contests canvassing, door-knocking, and phone-banking ahead of Tuesday’s contests. Multiple candidates projected confidence ahead of Election Day, saying they felt “good,” “comfortable,” or that they had done all they could to secure a victory. In the council races that are contested, the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 7 general election.

Arroyo and Lara both face multiple challengers, as does a third city councilor — Tania Fernandes Anderson, whose record contains a high-profile ethical lapse.

District 5 City Council candidate Enrique José Pepén talked with a support during a campaign event at Adams Park in Roslindale on Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Arroyo’s two-year term has been marked by several scandals. In June, he admitted to a conflict of interest violation and paid a $3,000 penalty for continuing to represent his brother in a sexual harassment lawsuit after Arroyo became a member of the council. Earlier in the year, his name was in headlines because the bombshell ethics reports that prompted Rachael Rollins to resign as US attorney for Massachusetts centered on attempts by Rollins, whom Arroyo counts as a friend, to use her post to sway last year’s DA race in his favor. Arroyo has been steadfast that he did not do anything wrong.


Last year, during his unsuccessful race for Suffolk district attorney, it was revealed Arroyo was investigated twice for sexual assault allegations when he was a teenager. One of the women has since said Arroyo did not assault her, while the other said she stands by the allegations. Police in that case concluded that the allegations were unfounded. Arroyo, the 35-year-old scion of a well-known political family, maintains he did nothing wrong — that he was never charged with a crime, and that he has never committed sexual assault.

The Office of Bar Counsel, the state agency that probes attorney misconduct, is looking into allegations that he omitted the sexual assault investigations from his 2014 application to become a Massachusetts attorney. Recently, Arroyo said he viewed the investigation as an opportunity to defend himself and to be validated. ”What is true is on my side,” he said.

Enrique José Pepén, former executive director of neighborhood services in Boston and one of three challengers vying to unseat Arroyo, said voters want a councilor they can be proud of, someone who can perform the job with “no distractions.” His backers include Mayor Michelle Wu.

“Unfortunately, many people feel that . . . [with] the council in general, there’s too much going on, and the people who are hurting are the residents,” Pepén, 26, told The Boston Globe over the weekend at a campaign event.


Jean-Claude Sanon, another District 5 candidate who also campaigned near the Roslindale Farmers Market Saturday, said he is the only candidate with “no strings attached.”

“My only plan is to represent the people, and work for the people, and be a servant to the people,” said Sanon, 64, who runs a company that offers translation services, among other things, and has unsuccessfully run for City Council four times.

Jose Ruiz, a retired 29-year veteran of the Boston Police Department who has been endorsed by former mayor Martin. J. Walsh, is also trying to unseat Arroyo. .

If voters vet the race’s four candidates, “they are going to find that Jose Ruiz has the best resume and the best history,” he said in a phone interview.

Wielding umbrellas against sporadic downpours Sunday afternoon, Arroyo and state Representative Russell Holmes of Boston knocked on doors of prospective voters in Mattapan’s Wellington Hill.

Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, right, walked with State Representative Russell Holmes as he campaigned for reelection in Mattapan Sunday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Arroyo, in an interview, said he has been answering questions from reporters about the controversies for months, and voters can make their own decisions on those issues.

“How they want to judge me, I don’t hide from that . . . I ask them to judge me on the entirety of my record, and then I answer the questions as they pose them,” Arroyo said.

Pointing to the work he has done as a city councilor, he said: “I would not be putting myself under this kind of scrutiny if I didn’t believe that my record and the work that I do is valuable.”


For Lara, one of the council’s most outspoken progressives, surviving Tuesday’s vote means convincing voters her record on the council amounts to more than a June 30 car crash that led to criminal charges (to which she pleaded not guilty), and the revelation that she had been driving without a license for a decade. She is competing with IT director William King and labor attorney Benjamin Weber in the race for District 6, which covers Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Roslindale — spanning some of the city’s most progressive enclaves and some of its most conservative neighborhoods.

Lara got a notable boost Saturday, nabbing the endorsement of the Jamaica Plain Progressives, an influential group among like-minded voters in the neighborhood Lara has called home since her youth. Praising Lara’s policy work, the group said it is “choosing to trust in the regret she has expressed and that she will correct her mistakes with humility and hard work.”

In an interview with the Globe Saturday after she engaged in a short stint of door knocking, Lara said she believes her constituents are satisfied with her work on the council, even as she acknowledged the crash has hurt her reelection bid.

“Am I imperfect? Yes, but I’m also fit for office, and I think I’m the best choice for this district,” Lara said. “My hope is that my worst moment is not overshadowing the two years’ of work that I’ve done.”


She has apologized for the crash, which injured her 7-year-old son, and said she spoke by phone about a week and a half ago with the Jamaica Plain homeowner whose house she hit.

Police say Lara, 33, was driving at least twice the speed limit when she slammed an unregistered, uninsured car into the side of a Centre Street home.

On Thursday, she touted a report prepared by The Crash Lab, a crash reconstruction firm, that said data from the car’s black box indicated she was driving 27 miles per hour in the zone where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Lara said she hired The Crash Lab to prepare the report.

“I am obviously working like hell to keep my position on the City Council,” Lara said.

Her opponents are working, too.

King, of West Roxbury, who has drawn the support of councilors Frank Baker and Erin Murphy, said in recent phone interviews that he’s spent the past few days on a last-ditch get out the vote effort, including knocking on doors and calling voters.

The candidate said, if elected, he would boost constituent services and help end political infighting on the City Council.

“We’ve got to work together, we’ve got to find common ground because when we do, that’s when we will start delivering real results to our communities,” King said.

Lara’s other challenger, Weber, a labor attorney living in Jamaica Plain, said Monday he was “trying to reach out to as many people as I can,” in the immediate run-up to Tuesday’s election. He framed himself as a problem-solver for the council.

“I feel like I’ve been able to convey my message which is that I’m a person who raised their kids here in JP and cares deeply about their friends and neighbors,” said Weber.

Danny McDonald of Globe staff contributed to this report.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her @lauracrimaldi. John Hilliard can be reached at