Though she now represents Dorchester and Mattapan on the Council, City Councilor Andrea Campbell chose to kick off her mayoral campaign in the South End on Sept. 24, becoming the second confirmed, and likely third, candidate that will run for mayor of Boston in the 2021 City Election.
Campbell had long been rumored to be running for mayor, and she was pegged almost immediately in 2015 after first being elected for District 4 as a potential candidate someday.
That day was Thursday, as she kicked off her campaign with a video very early in the morning on Thursday, and then had her in-person event later that morning. She joins Councilor Michelle Wu, who announced earlier this month her intentions to run for mayor and has been canvassing the City in-person and online ever since. Mayor Martin Walsh is also expected to run for re-election, and has said he would likely make his campaign intentions known in January.
Standing in front of Grant Manor just one block from the corner of Mass Avenue and Washington Street, Campbell said she chose the location as it was her beginning in Boston – a nod to her powerful personal story of overcoming poverty that has been a key part of her political career since 2015.
“I came here today because my earliest memories start here behind 1850 Washington St. where I lived with my grandmother after my mother passed away in a car accident when I was only eight months old,” she said. “She died in a car accident going to see my father, who was incarcerated at the time.
“My father was incarcerated for the first eight years of my life,” she recalled. “For those first eight years my brothers and I lived here with my grandmother, and at times with other relatives or in foster care when my grandmother struggled with alcoholism…Growing up we were poor and I remember walking with my grandmother to Rosie’s Place to get a hot meal…My entire life has been molded and shaped by the City of Boston. Boston is where I was born and raised. Boston is where I went to school and where I started my legal career…Boston is where I started my public service working under Gov. Deval Patrick. Boston is where I fell in love, got married and had two beautiful boys while starting my family in Mattapan. Boston is also where I have proudly served the best district in Boston – District 4.
Campbell’s announcement was also bolstered by her personal story of rising up from public housing and the foster care system as a child to attend Princeton and become a lawyer and Council President. However, that story was also countered by the loss she said she has experienced in losing her mother to a car accident, having her father in prison for a lot of her life, and seeing her twin brother, Andre, in and out of jail frequently – dying while in custody awaiting trial eight years ago due to what Campbell said was “inadequate health care.”
She said she would be the leader who understands Boston from all angles and would fight to make it a more equitable city.
“I know the pride and the pain of being from the City of Boston,” she said. “But I also know what’s possible in Boston because by the Grace of God and the opportunities given to me, today I stand before you as a girl that grew up in public housing in the South End with a family torn apart by incarceration and loss – as the first black woman to be elected president of the City Council of Boston. Today I kick off my campaign to be the first black mayor and the first woman mayor of the City of Boston.”
She said she has the life experience and understanding to tackle issues of inequity, over-policing in some neighborhoods, inequality in the public schools and the lack of health care access the brought COVID-19 to bear more harshly in some parts of Boston and not others. She said she would be the leader that all residents are looking for to tackle those issues.
“Leadership that understand what equity truly means and looks like,” she said. “I am running for mayor to be that leader. I know a reputation of a world-class city with a growing economy and emerging industries and thriving neighborhoods means absolutely nothing if a child growing up in public housing in the South End or Roxbury or Franklin Field will never be able to access that opportunity.”
She also added that while many think Boston is different than other places, it may not be so different for certain residents – particularly in her district that encompasses Dorchester and Mattapan.
“I often hear in Boston we’re different; that in Boston we’re better than those places when it comes to police violence and blatant racism – and that our response to the pandemic has been an example for the rest of the country,” she said. “But while many Bostonians, we and I, take pride in the history of this city, Boston has not delivered on the promise of being the best. If you talk to the people in my district – largely a community of color –…they’ll tell you the fear of being stopped and being shot while black by police is just as real here as anywhere else…Plain and simple Boston does not work for everybody.”
Additionally, she touched on one of her pet issues for many years, and that is public education and the inequities from neighborhood to neighborhood. She said downtown schools are far better than those in her district, and that’s something that has existed far too long.
“Even today, the disparity in access to good public schools is shocking,” she said. “Families that live in downtown neighborhoods are 80 percent better chance of getting into a high-quality school. If you live in Mattapan where my husband and I are raising our children, you have a 5 percent chance.”
In questioning from the media, Campbell said she works well with Mayor Walsh – and has especially done so during COVID-19. However, she said she is running because there needs to be more action on inequities.
“For me, the mayor’s race is about eliminating inequity in the City,” she said. “It’s not just rhetoric, but it’s done with action. I’ll certainly be someone who takes action.”
Campbell also received heavy questioning from the media – in light of the Brionna Taylor Grand Jury decision in Kentucky last week – about policing issues. Campbell has been very active since being elected on policing issues, and provided the biggest push from the Council to get officers to wear body cameras.
She said she is not interested in abolishing the police, but she said the funding of the police needs to be questioned – that with the backdrop that she was one of the councilors that voted against the City Budget earlier this year.
“I don’t think defund means abolish our Police Department,” she said. “Defunding means to me taking away portions of the overtime budget that is over $70 million and investing it in people…”
Campbell also answered a question about the City’s Mass/Cass 2.0 plan. She said the plan has a lot of good solutions for the long-term, but lacks any short term solutions. Those solutions, she said, are coming from residents and residents should be listened to more often.
“I applaud the Task Force the mayor put together and the people who have been working on this issue,” she said. “The plan has long-term goals. Talking with residents, we need short term plans too…Those solutions are coming from residents. We need to take those suggestions and act on them.”
She finished by saying Boston is at a “crucial moment,” and she is running because she feels she is the home-grown leader that can attest to the past, and lead into the future.
“Boston is at a crucial moment this year,” she said. “We can and must confront our own history of exclusion, segregation and marginalization if we are to transform the city to truly serve all of our residents equally. To that we need new leadership. People are looking for a leadership that’s fearless for those that need it the most – people overlooked and undervalued by their government. They are looking for leadership that is intentional about eradicated systemic inequities and systemic racism.”
Southender Edna Smallwood said she lives in Grant Manor and has known Campbell and her family since “she was a little girl.”
“It is very exciting and historic, beyond historic,” she said. “I am going to say it publicly, I will vote for her 100 percent. I will do anything she asks me to do because she’s family. Her grandmother was on the board here when I served as president. Andrea is quiet, but vocal at the same time. She’s quiet, but believe me she carries a big stick.”
The City Election is still more than one year away, but several of the more talked-about candidates are beginning things early to get a jump on fundraising and to be ahead of any changes in the power structure if Joe Biden is elected U.S. President this fall.
Early this week, Campbell’s campaign reported raising $50,000 in the 24 hours after making her announcement.