Many eyes are now on the District 4 City Council race. Last week attorney Andrea Joy Campbell finished first in the preliminary election for the seat held by veteran City Councilor Charles Yancey. She won handily beating him by 823 votes out of 3,422 cast.

Nobody should be surprised. Campbell has been door knocking for months now—introducing herself to the residents of the sprawling district, which includes Mattapan, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, and Dorchester. She’s slogged through the numerous meet and greets, and kept up a grueling schedule of sun up to sun down neighborhood walks.

Early on, she signaled that her campaign was no I-just- want- name- recognition-so–I-can-win–next-time. Nope, Campbell’s campaign is intentional and intense. She set up her headquarters in Mattapan staking her claim on Yancey’s turf. And most importantly, she’s been focused on raising money. She spent 7 times as much as Yancey in the preliminary election. And there’s more where that came from—as much of her funding is from out of state donors. This is significant because most candidates of color, especially women, struggle to raise campaign money. They get crushed not because they can’t go the distance, but because they can’t fund the distance.

Andrea Joy Campbell is a first time candidate, but has worked in the top political circles as a member of former Governor Duval Patrick’s legal team. Presumably that gave her an up close look at the winning strategy executed by Patrick whose entrée into politics was his run for Governor.

Charles Yancey has represented District 4 for three decades.
Nearly as long as the 33 year old Campbell is old. But I think it is short sighted to view this simply as a generational battle. True, Campbell has used social media—native to younger voters, to get her message out. But, she has also zeroed in on certain demographic and geographic changes. For example, District 4 is now home to a rising population of immigrants who have little or no history with Councilor Yancey. Plus, when Yancey first took office thirty years ago, Mattapan was arguably the heart of District 4. But, Yancey’s loyal base is not in parts of Roslindale and Jamaica Plain –areas added two years ago when the district was expanded.

But, predictions of a Campbell victory are premature. Yancey has a long history of showing up and speaking up on behalf of his constituents. He’s made his name by being almost omnipresent in the communities where his fiercest supporters come from. Those residents know phone calls will be answered, and potholes fixed. Now that Campbell has put him on notice, expect Yancey to demonstrate why he is known as the old lion of the council.

And they both must grapple with District 4’s well-documented low voter turnout. Who can motivate residents to the polls? On November 3rd voters will face an age old decision—is Charles Yancey’s record of representing the district worth giving him his 17th term in office? Or is challenger Andrea Joy Campbell’s new perspective, and pledge to do what she promises, worth giving her the seat? For political junkies this is a race worth watching, but more importantly this time around, the people of District 4 have a real choice. If they pay attention, no matter who loses, they win.