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    Candidates for Boston City Council get feisty at forum

    This year’s City Council election has been mostly quiet, with few people running or paying attention.

    But the auditorium at the Dudley Square branch library was jammed Thursday evening, as seven of the eight candidates vying to represent two of the city’s predominantly minority communities squared off.

    Councilor Charles Yancey, whose district includes Mattapan and Dorchester, and Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents Roxbury, are the only incumbents who drew enough challengers to force an appearance on Tuesday’s ballot.


    The candidates implored residents to go to the polls -- even though voting in the preliminary contest will be held one day after Labor Day and on the first day that public school classrooms reopen.

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    The forum -- held by the Black Economic Justice Institute Inc. -- was an opportunity down the stretch for incumbents to face their challengers.

    And the gloves came off.

    “I am not the go-along-just-to-get-along councilor,’’ declared Yancey, responding to a barrage of attacks lobbed indirectly at him during the two-hour event.

    Andrea Campbell, the fund-raising powerhouse and Mattapan attorney challenging Yancey, said she had to remind people in District 4 of the importance of their councilor, a clear shot at Yancey.


    If elected, Campbell said she will not make promises she can’t keep, won’t show up in the community just to take pictures or be seen, and will be accessible and available to constituents.

    Campbell also took issue with a suggestion from one of the candidates who said Boston’s black political leadership is thwarted because African-American incumbents often have to fend off challengers instead of focusing on more pressing issues. Many of the white incumbents are running unopposed.

    “This isn’t a black person challenging a black person,’’ Campbell shot back. “This is a qualified person challenging an incumbent.”

    Another Yancey challenger, Terrance Williams, took on Campbell, who has been criticized for scant grass-roots community and political experience.

    “You need to ask, ‘What has this person done for the community?’ ’’ said Williams, a deputy sheriff. “I have been fighting this fight [for over 20 years]. I didn’t just begin fighting because I was running for office.”


    Campbell, noting her work for a nonprofit and in the prison system, said she has long been an advocate.

    Yancey’s retort to his challengers: “My name is Charles Yancey. I’m the son of Roxbury. I have a real record.”

    Yancey highlighted his community work before being elected and his efforts on the council, including a steadfast quest for a new high school.

    In the other race, Jackson, running to represent Roxbury for a third term, said jobs and economic development are key issues, and he pledged to continue his advocacy for residents.

    “We have 1.7 million square feet of land in Roxbury, and they want it,” Jackson said, referring to developers.

    But if they have a plan and we don’t, then we are at a disadvantage,’’ Jackson said, urging a collective resolve aimed at empowering residents who feel squeezed by development.

    One of Jackson’s opponents, Haywood Fennell, a writer, cited a litany of woes facing Roxbury, saying he will turn the neighborhood around.

    “You got to be out in the street and talk to the people,’’ he said. “You got to know what’s going on in the street. I think the incumbent . . . he doesn’t talk to our people. But I’ll be there.”

    Charles Clemons, who ran for mayor in the last election, blasted the low turnout in the black community during the 2013 election and urged residents to be part of the solution.

    He promised to reopen a Roxbury district office and give 10 percent of his paycheck back to his community.

    “Every week, I will identify an individual, every week I will identify a family, every week I will identify a business or an organization,’’ he said.

    The forum also featured Kevin A. Dwire, the sole white man competing in District 7. When the moderator read a question about rebuilding Boston’s black political power, Dwire rose to answer.

    “He don’t know,” someone yelled, as Dwire stood up. The crowd erupted in laughter.

    Dwire, a member of the Socialist Workers Party, highlighted issues involving economic and social injustice, noting the fight against police brutality led by young people in the Black Lives Matter movement.

    “It comes out of the struggles that are happening today; it comes out from people who come from nowhere . . . who have always made their mark when the bosses least suspect it,’’ Dwire said.

    Roy Owens, a perennial candidate, railed against liquor licenses awarded in the district’s neighborhoods. He made claims that churches are being asked to close on Sundays to make way for “rock and roll.”

    Althea Garrrison, another perennial candidate, was not at Thursday’s event.

    Meghan E. Irons can be reached at