Rufus J. Faulk seemed quite at home one recent sunny afternoon as he strolled by Malcolm X Park in Roxbury, in the thick of the neighborhood where he grew up, and where he still lives and works as an organizer for at-risk youth. He shook hands with several at the basketball court and stopped to say hello to other passersby.
“You got my vote, you know that, right?” one man assured him.
Kim Janey, his opponent in the District 7 City Council race, is often not far away, setting up shop at the Dudley Café in Dudley Square. One recent morning, a young adult whom Janey counseled as a high school student stopped to give her a hug. A woman who knows Janey’s nephew offered to hang a sign outside her home. Janey took down her information.
In the final stretch before Tuesday’s election, the candidates for City Council are making their last push to connect with voters, with races in five of the city’s nine districts. There are also eight candidates seeking the four at-large seats, including the four incumbents.
Fliers have been mailed to residents. Calls have been made asking voters for their support. But with a lackluster mayoral race doing little to excite residents, candidates want one last handshake with voters before Election Day, one last chance to convey their messages.
“Those with the best organizations, the best volunteers will win the election on Tuesday,” said Michael McCormack, a former city councilor and consultant. “Now, it’s all about organization.”
The push is evident in the District Seven race to replace Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, and the stakes are high.
The struggles of residents across the city are magnified in the district, which stretches from Roxbury to the South End and includes parts of Dorchester.
It is home to some of the city’s poorest communities, mostly minorities; residents rank among the lowest in life expectancy; neighborhoods like Roxbury are fighting off gentrification and the displacement of residents; public education is a chronic concern; and the district bears a chunk of the city’s violence.
Faulk, 35, said he saw many friends succumb to the issues plaguing the district. He is now a program coordinator with the Boston TenPoint Coalition, an antiviolence group that addresses issues affecting at-risk youth. The father of a 3-year-old, he is also working toward his doctorate in law and policy at Northeastern University, saying that he hopes to incorporate academic knowledge with the street smarts he’s learned in the community, to better advocate for residents.
With the departure of Jackson, the only black man on the council, Faulk also wants to make sure a black man serves as a role model for district youth, he said. (A black man has represented District Seven since the council was divided into district seats in the early 1980s.)
“They don’t have a voice at City Hall; they’re forgotten groups in the neighborhoods of Boston,” Faulk said of neglected youth and minority groups.
He said he’s proud of his community work, but added, “There’s only so much you can do from the ground . . . I can do that at a larger scale as the District Seven city councilor.”
Janey, 52, was born to a well-known family in the same community, and said she learned at a young age from her working-class parents, both educators, to be an advocate — specifically for education and for families. It is a passion she learned, Janey said, when her parents fought for her to attend better schools, when she witnessed Boston’s busing crises, and it is a passion she brought to her work advocating for better opportunities for families. She is now senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
Janey, who had a daughter when she was a teenager, said she has seen the difficulties families face in navigating the education system and obtaining housing. Her work as an advocate has been helping them, as well as pushing for policy reform at the state level. Like Faulk, she said she could do more as a city councilor.
“What I’m most proud of is my work with students and families,” she said. “I do have a track record of advocacy . . . I’ve dedicated my entire life to education, for children and for families.”
In the preliminary election in September, which included 13 candidates, Janey won a quarter of the 6,129 votes — twice as many as Faulk — and she has far outspent any of her challengers. (She has spent approximately $54,000 and has about $22,000 left in her coffers, while Faulk spent most of the approximately $16,000 he has raised, according to online records).
Faulk has sought to portray himself as a true representative of the neighborhood, whose support comes from the constituency within the district: The majority of the other candidates in the election have supported him, as well as state Senator William Brownsberger, and the local state Representative, Chynah Tyler.
Janey pointed to her and her family’s history of advocacy in the neighborhood. She was endorsed by Somali community activist Deeqo Jibril, who placed third in the preliminary election, as well as by Attorney General Maura Healey and state Senators Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang-Diaz.
Janey rejected criticism by neighborhood opponents that her support comes from the political establishment, saying, “I’m established, but that doesn’t mean I’m part of any establishment.”
Citywide, the four incumbent at-large councilors appear to be front-runners for the four available seats. But locally, voters will have to decide closely contested district races:
■ In District One, which stretches from the North End to East Boston, housing and workers’ rights lawyer Lydia Edwards of East Boston is in a close contest against Stephen Passacantilli, of the North End, who comes from a well-known political family, in the contest to replace outgoing Councilor Salvatore LaMattina.
In the three-way preliminary election, Passacantilli defeated Edwards by 77 votes, though Edwards claimed the neutral neighborhood of Charlestown, which has become the battleground for the seat.
■ In District Two, which covers South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End, voters will choose between Ed Flynn, a probation officer and the South Boston son of the former mayor, and Michael Kelley, of Bay Village, an aide to the late mayor Thomas M. Menino.
In the seven-way preliminary election, Flynn claimed 56 percent of the 9,011 votes cast. Both candidates are seeking to replace Councilor Bill Linehan, who is stepping down.
■ Councilor Josh Zakim, who holds the District Eight seat, which stretches from the Back Bay to Mission Hill, is attempting to fend off a challenge from Kristen Mobilia, a community advocate from the Fenway. She has been Zakim’s only challenger this election.
■ Councilor Mark S. Ciommo, of District Nine, which includes Allston and Brighton, is fending off a challenge by Brandon David Bowser, a schoolteacher. Ciommo won 58 percent of the 3,535 votes cast in the three-way preliminary election.
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