The two Democratic candidates vying for a senate seat representing one of the largest populations of Italian Americans in Massachusetts agree the City of Boston shouldn't have unilaterally renamed Columbus Day. But neither has a clear solution for how to solve a conflict that could become a headache for the next senator representing the North End, East Boston, Revere and surrounding towns.

With only a few weeks left in her term as acting mayor, Kim Janey signed an executive order Wednesday, Oct. 6, establishing the second Monday in October as "Indigenous Peoples Day," replacing Columbus Day, which traditionally celebrates Italian heritage, on the city's calendar. Boston joined dozens of municipalities that have already made the change to dump Columbus, the 15th-century Genoan explorer who began Spanish colonization of the Americas.

There was backlash from some in the Italian American community over what they saw as Janey's disregard for their traditional heritage celebration. The two Democrats vying to replace Joe Boncore in the Senate, East Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards and Revere financial analyst and school committee member Anthony D'Ambrosio, both say the community should have had more input before any change was made.

D'Ambrosio said in a statement to GBH News that Janey's move caused division and anger in Boston and throughout Massachusetts.

"This could have been done in a way that recognizes the plight of Indigenous people while not offending many Italian Americans," D'Ambrosio wrote.

"Community input is essential in making these decisions. A unifying effort would involve acknowledging the history of atrocities faced by Indigenous people and recognizing the countless proud Bostonians who celebrate their Italian American heritage," he added.

Edwards said Janey's order was a surprise to her and that the community needs to have a conversation led by the next mayor to figure out what comes next.

"We should absolutely honor and celebrate Indigenous people as a city. Boston will forever celebrate, honor, and acknowledge Italian Americans. With the right conversation, led by our new elected mayor, that recognizes the urgency of the moment we as a community will do both," Edwards wrote in a statement.

In a subsequent statement, Edwards said "we need an Indigenous People’s Day" to "acknowledge and address the historic, systemic and ongoing harms towards Indigenous people."

"We need to divorce Columbus from the celebration of Italian heritage. Period," Edwards added.

Heather Leavell, who co-founded Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day — a group supportive of the bill and Janey's move to rename the holiday — says tribal leaders have been asking for exactly what the candidates say they support: a community-focused conversation about renaming the day.

"Indigenous leaders have been asking for a community conversation around this, been asking political leaders and elected officials in Boston to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, as opposed to Columbus in Boston ... and they were not taken up on that request," Leavell said in an interview.

Those community conversations may not happen soon enough for the state Senate the candidates hope to join. A bill from Northampton Sen. Jo Comerford to establish a statewide Indigenous Peoples Day attracted dozens of supportive witnesses when it was heard this month before the Legislature's State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.

Comerford's bill calls for "appropriate exercises in the schools and otherwise, to acknowledge the history of genocide and discrimination against Indigenous peoples, and to recognize and celebrate the thriving cultures and continued resistance and resilience of Indigenous peoples and their tribal nations."

Both Edwards and D'Ambrosio declined interview requests from GBH News and wouldn't answer questions about whether they support or oppose Comerford's bill.

The special primary election for the Middlesex and Suffolk Senate seat is set for Dec. 14, with the general election on Jan. 11, 2022.