On a recent weeknight in Roxbury, about 400 people filled Hibernian Hall for a rally.

“I’m here supporting Charlotte Golar Richie, whom I think is the most qualified candidate of all of them,” said Bruce Bickerstaff, a barber in Mission Hill.

“The fact that she’s a woman does absolutely matter to me," Bickerstaff said. "I think that this is for Boston a seminal moment, not just because she’s a woman, because she’s a qualified woman. I think this is key in terms of empowerment.”

Gender and race come up at every event for Golar Richie, in part because she’s looking to fill a position that’s always been held by a white man. At the rally, MBTA employee Pablo Calderon addressed the race issue.

“A lot of folks would say to me, ‘Why are you not supporting a Latino candidate?'" he said."The reason I’m supporting Charlotte is because she’s the best candidate.”

But for some, and Golar Richie herself, it’s not about whether she’s a qualified woman or African-American, it’s whether she’s a qualified person.

Her background is in - and out of - politics. State representative, senior advisor to Gov. Deval Patrick, chief of housing for Mayor Thomas Menino. It's unclear whether she'll get Menino's endorsement, but he has mentioned that if she wins, it'll be "national news." At the rally, with her husband and two adult daughters nearby, Golar Richie appears poised while carefully reading from a script.

“I am the only candidate who has run a city agency, who has balanced a $100 million budget, managed 200 employees and delivered programs and services citywide, many that my team and I initiated,” she said.

Her current passion, and job, is working with high school dropouts, as a vice president for a national nonprofit. In her speech, Richie said the 57,000 students in the Boston Public Schools are her “first priority” and pledged to establish an office of youth affairs in city hall. She also outlined a public safety plan that focuses on more support for drug and alcohol addiction. And she was somewhat critical of the large community meeting in South Boston after a young, white woman was kidnapped, robbed, stabbed to death.

"It appears to have been an act of random violence," she said. "And it's as clear to me that people at the meeting were afraid and they wanted answers. The police handled the meeting really well. But it made me think that we want this treatment in every community, don't we?"

But even with the support of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and the national group Emily's List, Golar Richie has a few hurdles. She set a goal of raising $200,000 in the month of July, but hasn’t reached it yet. And she’s been criticized by political pundits for seeming guarded and lacking a clear message.

“I don’t think that she’s created enough of a buzz around her candidacy yet to alert progressives, alert minority voters that there is in fact a female candidate of color in the race,” said John Nucci, a former Boston School Committee member and city councilor. It’s not clear which voters Golar Richie will sway, and there’s no data on Boston voter turnout by gender or race. Nucci is predicting she’ll gain support after Labor Day, which is when he expects voters to really start paying attention to the race.

“At this point this is not about separating yourself from the pack," he said. "It’s too early to do that. I think you’re going to see candidates take much bolder stances after Labor Day … her candidacy has been walking the middle of the road throughout the whole summer.”

While Golar Richie is focusing on her vision to lead Boston, she's not afraid to add humor about her unique appearance in the race.

"I guess I can say that I'm the tallest candidate, and I can also say that I'm the only one wearing a skirt!" she said.

A reminder that in a crowded field, all 12 candidates find every way to set themselves apart.

Learn more about the Boston mayoral candidates here.