Felix Arroyo expected to join race for Boston mayor

Councilor plans statement today

Felix G. Arroyo, a two-term city councilor, could make history as the first Latino to run for mayor of Boston.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File
Felix G. Arroyo, a two-term city councilor, could make history as the first Latino to run for mayor of Boston.

Councilor at Large Felix G. ­Arroyo is expected to launch a bid for mayor of Boston on Tuesday, say two people close to the campaign, making him the first Latino candidate to run for the office in a city where race and politics have a complicated and combustible history.

Arroyo is scheduled to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the headquarters of Service Employees International Union Local 615, where he served as political director before winning a City Council seat. His campaign issued a press advisory for the event, saying he would disclose his plans for the mayor’s race.

The two people close to the campaign said Arroyo will officially join the race, making him the sixth major candidate vying to succeed Mayor Thomas M. Menino. More contenders are likely to emerge, but for now, Arroyo will be the only major candidate of color in a city in which blacks, Hispanics, and Asians constitute more than half the population.


“He has a real shot,” said Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of Oiste, a statewide political and civic organization for Latinos that is unaware of a previous Latino candidate for mayor. “It will be a very interesting moment for Boston and Boston voters.”

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Arroyo has citywide name recognition after two successful runs for City Council, including his 2011 reelection, when he ­received the second-most votes in the race for four at-large seats. He is the son of Felix D. Arroyo, the first Latino member of the City Council.

With his announcement at SEIU, the younger Arroyo will garner significant support from janitors, security guards, and some others in organized labor. It could help offset the relatively low, but growing, balance in his campaign account of roughly $95,000.

The candidates who have announced they are running for mayor include Councilors John R. Connolly and Rob ­Consalvo; Suffolk District Attor­ney Daniel F. Conley; Representative Martin J. Walsh; and Bill Walczak, a founder of Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester.

Two other people, Will Dorcena and Charles Clemons, have also said they are running but have raised little money. Several other people have publicly said they are considering a campaign, a few of them black and Latino.


Arroyo lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife, Jasmine. Like other city councilors, ­Arroyo’s bid for mayor means he cannot simultaneously run for his at-large seat.

Only white men have served as Boston’s mayor. When Menino took office in 1993, it was celebrated as a moment of ­diversity because he was of ­Italian heritage, not Irish.

When Arroyo was born in 1979 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston was 68 percent white, non-Hispanic, accord­ing to data from the city office of New Bostonians.

By 2010, the year he took ­office in the City Council, that figure had fallen to 47 percent, according to the US Census. ­Almost a quarter of residents identified themselves as black or African-American; 17.5 percent were Latino; and almost 9 percent were Asian.

“Arroyo is the only major candidate representing the new majority,” said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who added, “He has a real shot if, in fact, he can excite and bring together communities of color.”


While some people may be eager to add diversity to the mayor’s office, the electorate will not vote for a candidate solely because of race, said Joyce Ferriabough Bolling, a political consultant whose husband was the first African-American elected president of the City Council.

“You’ve got to bring something to the table,” she said. “And I absolutely think that ­Felix brings something to the table. The challenge for him certainly is the fund-raising and hoping that three or four other individuals of color don’t jump in the race.”

Arroyo lived in the South End until he was 2 years old, when his family moved to Hyde Park.

As a boy, he tagged along to City Hall with his father, who served as an education adviser and personnel director for Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. At age 20, Arroyo became director of constituent services for Chuck Turner, then a city councilor.

Arroyo took his own seat on the City Council in 2010 and quickly grabbed headlines. He joined with Councilor Michael P. Ross, who is also weighing a bid for mayor, and called on the city to consider canceling contracts with firms based in ­Arizona after that state enacted a strict new immigration law.

Arroyo and others pushed back successfully when the Menino administration tried to close several libraries.

Arroyo was also an early and vocal proponent of the firefighters’ union when it faced off in a bitter contract dispute with the Menino administration. He and other councilors, including Ross, helped mediate a breakthrough bargaining session. The secret session was held at the headquarters of SEIU Local 615 on West Street.

It was where Arroyo hosted his City Council campaign kickoff in June 2009.

On Tuesday, it is where he is expected to launch a historic bid for mayor.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at

Clarification: This story about Felix Arroyo’s candidacy for mayor should have noted that another Hispanic candidate, Diana Lam, announced a campaign for mayor in 1991, but withdrew three days later.