The night before Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo launched his mayoral bid Tuesday, he honed his speech in the bedroom of his Jamaica Plain condominium before an audience of one who knows firsthand what a mayor sounds like: His wife, Jasmine Acevedo.
Acevedo is the daughter of Hector Luis Acevedo, who served eight years as mayor of San Juan, in Puerto Rico. A second-grade teacher in the Boston public schools, Jasmine Acevedo says she leaves politics to her husband, a two-term city councilor who would be the first Latino in Boston history to appear on a ballot in a mayoral election.
“He gets my input and I appreciate that, but I always remind him, ‘I want [him] to go with [his] gut feeling,” she said Tuesday as she sat next to Arroyo an hour after he formally launched his campaign. “He has good instincts.”
Before deciding to run for mayor, Arroyo consulted his father-in-law and his father, Felix D. Arroyo, the first Latino member of the Boston City Council. Both men gave him essentially the same advice.
“Working hard and being passionate and true to yourself,” Arroyo said, paraphrasing the guidance of both men. “And if you feel like you have something to offer the city of Boston, then go for it.”
Arroyo went for it Tuesday morning at the downtown headquarters of Service Employees International Union Local 615. He entered a room to 50 supporters chanting “Sí Se Puede” in Spanish, which roughly translates to “Yes, we can.” Arroyo spoke without notes, brimming with a confidence and passion that at times almost choked him up with emotion.
“I am a son of Boston,” said Arroyo, who wore a dark suit and a purple tie. “I love my city. I love Boston. I believe in Boston because I know that by working together we can and we will move Boston forward.”
Referring to his work as political director at SEIU, Arroyo said that as mayor he would use the skills he learned as an organizer, “working for janitors, security guards, building service workers, people that are often overlooked.” He vowed to build a strong grass-roots campaign funded by small donors.
He has almost $100,000 in his campaign account, which is significantly less than some other candidates. But he asserted, “I will raise enough to win.”
He joined a growing field to succeed Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The declared candidates include Bill Walczak, a founder of Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester; Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley; Representative Martin J. Walsh; and Councilors Rob Consalvo and John R. Connolly.
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, including Councilor Michael P. Ross.
Consalvo said he deposited $16,500 in his campaign account in the 24 hours after he launched his bid last week, bringing his total to almost $92,000. His campaign held its first organizational meeting Monday, and more than 140 people from across the city attended, Consalvo said.
Other campaigns also began kicking into gear, but Arroyo headlined the day. No other candidate with Hispanic heritage has mounted a campaign for mayor.
In 1991, Diana Lam launched a bid for mayor, but backed out three days later following news accounts that she had failed to file state income taxes on time. A Globe story at the time described Lam as a native of Peru born to a Hispanic mother and a Chinese father.
In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Lam said she would describe Arroyo as the first Latino candidate for mayor in Boston. “I would say that, absolutely,” she said.
Arroyo downplayed any role his heritage will play in the race.
“To me it’s not about a New Boston or an Old Boston; I only know one Boston,” Arroyo told reporters.”
Arroyo’s parents hail from Puerto Rico. Arroyo’s mother, Elsa Montano, attended her son’s campaign kickoff. His father retired and moved to Uruguay but is eager to come back to Boston and campaign, according to his son.
In Boston neighborhoods where Spanish is spoken there was excitement.
“It’s a great source of pride for us when Hispanic candidates run for office,” said Reinelda “Chickie” Rivera, a longtime Hispanic activist in Boston, though she cautioned that she has not endorsed anyone because the field of candidates is not yet complete. “It’s nice that there’s a Puerto Rican running for such an important position.”
Magalis Troncoso, director of the Dominican Development Center in Jamaica Plain, said Arroyo’s run is a major step forward for one of Boston’s largest and youngest populations. Though Latinos are 17.5 percent of the population, they are the largest group in Boston’s public schools, about 40 percent. “We are growing, but we don’t have any visibility,” said Troncoso. “We’ve got to get involved in order to get the power that we need to keep moving forward and be part of this country.”