Updated at 5:47 p.m.
City Councilor Andrea Campbell announced her candidacy for mayor Thursday morning, emphasizing her roots as a Boston native and sharing a personal story to illustrate the inequities and racism she said she seeks to address.
Another councilor, Michelle Wu, has also announced her bid. Mayor Marty Walsh has not declared whether he will seek a third term in the election next year.
“The inequities in access to housing that is affordable, good jobs, health care, parks and green space, streets that are clean and neighborhoods that feel safe are far too familiar. I know the pride and pain of being from the city of Boston,” Campbell declared in front of Roxbury’s Grant Manor apartments, a public housing complex where she lived during early childhood.
“But I also know what is possible in Boston, because by the grace of God and the opportunities this city afforded me, I stand here today as a girl who grew up in public housing in Roxbury and the South End with a family torn apart by incarceration and loss who could be elected the first Black woman to serve as the president of the Boston City Council, and today, launch a campaign to be the first Black mayor and first woman mayor of the city of Boston,” Campbell said to cheers from a handful of socially-distanced staff and supporters behind her.
Campbell, 38, said she lived there in Roxbury through her mother’s death until her father was released from incarceration when she was 8 years old.
From then on, she rose through Boston schools — Blackstone Elementary, Harvard-Kent Elementary, Bradley Elementary, James P. Timilty Middle, and Boston Latin — to go on to Princeton and UCLA Law School before returning to begin her legal career working education cases for EdLaw Project, a Roxbury nonprofit.
But Campbell said even though she is an example of what the city is capable of, she is “not naïve to the fact that many young people do not have the same access and the same opportunities” she was afforded.
Campbell added that the city is facing a “crucial moment” brought on by the inequalities laid bare through the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color and the nation’s recent focus on policing in those communities.
“We can and must confront our own history of exclusion, segregation, marginalization, if we are to transform systems so that they truly serve all of our residents equitably. To [do] that, we need new leadership," she said.
Campbell, who joined the Council in 2016 after unseating long-time incumbent Charles Yancey, represents parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale.
In 2018, she became the Council’s president for a term.
An independent voice, her tenure has been punctuated by disagreement, and more recently, public criticism of Walsh on issues like his most recent budget proposal — which she referred to as a “business as usual” spending plan.
A day before Walsh unveiled the new police reform task force to examine certain aspects of Boston Police operations, Campbell called on the mayor to examine the department’s use of force policies and implement other reforms, like establishing a civilian review board and significantly reducing the overtime budget to reinvest the funds towards public health, poverty mitigation and violence prevention — a point she addressed when taking questions from reporters after her press conference.
“Let me be clear. I don’t think defunding means abolishing our police department,” said Campbell. “For me, [defunding] means taking away resources, starting with, for example, the overtime budget of the police department which is over $70 million, taking some of that money and investing it in programs that actually get at the root causes of violence.”
Campbell held the news conference just hours after releasing an early morning campaign announcement video featuring brief testimonies from a cast of supporters from various neighborhoods proclaiming their names in allegiance to Campbell’s candidacy — including Atiya Martin, who served as chief resilience officer under Walsh.
The video continues with one of Campbell’s middle school teachers praising her for navigating dual experiences in the city.
“For too long, Boston has been a tale of two cities. You have been fortunate enough to live in both parts,” says Beverly Williams, a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. “And the struggles you had in one and the successes that you had in another makes a perfect combination to be the leader of our city.”
Another supporter, Ama Edzie, says of Campbell: “I know she will fight for equal opportunities in education and stand up against institutions that perpetuate racism.”
Campbell’s announcement comes one week after Wu, who was born in Chicago, officially declared her intent to run.
On Wednesday night, Wu reflected on the potential race following an evening vigil in Franklin Park protesting the lack of murder or manslaughter charges against police officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY.
“I have tremendous respect for my colleague,” Wu told GBH News. “This race is about the people of Boston, the residents in every community and the struggles and the dreams that we are seeking to lift up and the bold, urgent leadership that we need to make changes that have been necessary for a long time.”
Both candidates have built up war chests in preparation for their bids. As of the most recent public filing, Wu has about $346,000 — a figure her campaign claims grew by $100,000 within two days of her official announcement. Campbell launches her candidacy with about $285,000 in the bank, according to the same filing period.
So far, the 2021 mayoral race is a two-woman competition.
Speculation abounds that if Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will nominate Walsh for a federal office.
If Walsh does enter the race, he’ll step in with the advantages of incumbency, $5.5 million in the bank and Boston voters’ wide approval of his handling of the pandemic, according to a recent GBH News/Mass INC poll.
In that survey, voters expressed an early preference for Walsh, with 46 percent declaring they’re likely to support him, 23 percent aligning with Wu and 4 percent choosing Campbell.
Campbell dismissed the early numbers in an interview with GBH News, saying if she paid attention to polls in her first Council race, the numbers would’ve discouraged her.
“The polls said I had no shot, and so, obviously the voters in this district thought differently,” she said.