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District 8 city council race rehashes special election matchup

Incumbent Sharon Durkan is defending her seat against challenger Montez Haywood, who Durkan beat in July’s special election

Candidates for District 8 City Council Montez Haywood (left) and Sharon Durkan.Globe Staff

Two candidates who went head to head in a special election over the summer to fill the District 8 Boston City Council seat are engaged in a rematch for a full term beginning next year.

Incumbent Sharon Durkan, a political organizer and fundraiser who has worked for Michelle Wu and Senator Edward J. Markey, is defending her seat against challenger Montez Haywood, a long-time prosecutor in the district attorney’s office. The two competed in July to fill the vacancy left by Kenzie Bok, whom Mayor Michelle Wu tapped to head up the Boston Housing Authority.

Durkan won every precinct in the special election and captured just under 70 percent of the vote, while Haywood received nearly 30 percent.

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The victor in the Nov. 7 general election will serve a full two-year term starting in January 2024 to represent the district, which stretches from Beacon Hill to Mission Hill.

Despite losing the last round by a double-digit margin, Haywood remains optimistic about the upcoming election and said he’s focused on grassroots campaigning in the hopes of getting people to the polls. Fewer than three thousand people cast ballots in July’s special election.

“An election was triggered in the middle of the summer on purpose to allow somebody to attempt to walk into a seat unopposed,” Haywood said. “I believe my opponent and Ms. Bok, and the mayor, quite frankly, were surprised someone was able to mount a challenge to their plan so quickly, and as a result I’m ever hopeful.”

At Mike's Donuts in Boston, from left, Weinograd ( his wife Maria owns the donut shop ) talks with Montez Haywood, a candidate for the District 8 City Council seat while campaigning.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Haywood knows he probably can’t raise more money than Durkan, who has the endorsements of heavy-hitters, including Wu, Markey, and several city councilors and state representatives.

According to campaign finance records, Haywood had less than $1,500 cash on hand in his campaign account at the end of last month, while Durkan had just under $43,000.

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But Haywood is nonetheless hoping to convince voters that electing him would “increase the professionalism” and drastically change the dynamic of the council, which has been rocked by turbulence and political division.

“Putting me on the city council will bring a sense of sobriety to the council,” said Haywood. “I will be someone who will show up every single day, work, and be well prepared to ensure that the neighborhood’s interests are in fact taken care of. ... I will be an independent voice for the neighborhood outside of the mayor’s office.”

But Durkan contends that having the support of the mayor is part of what makes her the best candidate to represent District 8.

“I’m the most experienced person for the job, and I also have the trust of elected local and civic leaders; I think that sets me apart,” Durkan said. “Relationships really do matter in politics. They’re the currency in which we get anything done.”

Durkan is also confident that her performance in the three months that she’s been District 8′s councilwoman will win over voters again in November. She said her priority after getting elected was to approach the job with a sense of urgency to address big and small issues that matter to voters, and look for ways to deliver for people immediately.

Durkan pointed to an audit she commissioned to survey all the missing bricks on Charles Street, and hearing orders she’s filed on stormwater and flooding, and another on mental health services for city workers.

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“Even before election day, I’ll have worked on two issues that I ran on and can be in two hearings on things that I think are really important,” Durkan said. “It’s just one example of how we’re just hitting the ground running.”

Sharon Durkan, District 8 councilwoman, canvasses in Beacon Hill after launching her campaign to run to get elected for a full term. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

While both candidates say their priority is constituent services, including keeping sidewalks and roads safe and accessible, they differ on a handful of issues.

While Haywood supports a fully elected school committee, Durkan has previously expressed support for a hybrid model. The issue split the council earlier this year after members voted to move to a fully elected body, which Wu ultimately vetoed.

Haywood also opposes a city proposal to add a Berkeley Street bike lane that would link Tremont Street in the South End to Beacon Street in the Back Bay. He said, based on research and reports he’s seen on urban safety planning, the city’s proposal would create choke points with more opportunities for cars, bikers, and pedestrians to collide.

“I‘m not saying I don’t like bikes, what I’m saying is I believe in science and the people who study this, and the scientists have said, ‘Don’t do this. This doesn’t work. This is not safe,’” said Haywood.

Durkan has not taken a public stance on the project, but said her priority is having a robust process of getting input from the public.

“Especially for streets in historic districts, we need to make sure that our streets work for everyone, work for drivers, work for bikers, and work for pedestrians,” said Durkan. “I’m already actively convening conversations with neighborhood leaders and with [the Boston Transportation Department], so that’s the kind of leadership that residents can expect to see from me, bringing everyone to the table.”

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Niki Griswold can be reached at niki.griswold@globe.com. Follow her @nikigriswold.