District Four council candidate sees opening for a new voice

Andrea Campbell

Charles Yancey, the longest-serving member on the City Council, is facing a formidable challenge for his Fourth District seat from political newcomer Andrea Campbell.

Campbell, 32, recently sat down with the Reporter for her first interview with the media before her official campaign kick-off, which was held Wednesday evening at the Montserrat Aspirers Community Center on Washington Street. Though she has shied from media attention up to now, Campbell has been active in the district and throughout the city since last fall, meeting with local leaders and power brokers and attending a flurry of community events and city-wide meetings. And she has taken to Twitter to update followers via a “listening series.”

“I had a great time meeting residents at the Dorchester/Roxbury Labor Committee Meeting tonight as part of my #ListeningSeries #bospoli” she posted on April 2.

Campbell’s stated issues include establishing a better-unified District Four, which after 2011’s redrawing of district boundaries now includes pockets of Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park. She says she wants to share information to the community more effectively and focus on delivering constituent services.

And, yes, Campbell thinks Mattapan could use a new high school – and more.

“If there was a need that says we need three new high schools in District Four, then I would support that,” said Campbell. “We have this goal of having a grassroots campaign that often this district doesn’t see. They should be getting calls and mailers and hearing directly from the candidate,” said Campbell’s campaign manager Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, who is an alum of the Coakley gubernatorial effort. “When I first started, Andrea said, ‘I don’t just want to win; I want to win because more people came out.’ ”

Campbell’s challenge has gained notice in local political circles, in part due to Campbell’s general magnetism and her apparent penchant for fundraising. Since November 16, she has raised $34,000, according to filings with the Office of Campaigns and Political Finance, with donations coming from high-profile names including the philanthropic activist Barbara Lee.

Yancey’s high water mark for his campaign account going back to 2010 is just shy of $25,000, which he reached in June 2013; the war chest sat at $10,408 as of April 2.

Of course, there is more to winning a district council race than dollars. “I don’t have name recognition,” said first-time candidate Campbell. “I’m challenging the 32-year incumbent. I have to be visible to those constituencies that may not be engaged in the community meetings or involved in their own way.”

Campbell said Yancey was her first call when she decided to run; she was motivated, she said, by the death of her twin brother Andre three years ago. He had an extensive criminal history and died of natural causes at age 29 while in state custody as a pre-trial detainee.

When the twins were eight years old, their mother died while on the way to visit their father who was in prison at the time. He died when they were 19.They were supported by an aunt and uncle, who have lived in Mattapan and Dorchester for the last three decades.

Andrea and Andre were shuttled around to different schools for their early education while they were moving in and out of foster care. She graduated from Boston Latin School, received her bachelor’s in sociology from Princeton in 2004, and her law degree from UCLA Law School in 2009.

“When I’d leave college, I’d come back home to Mattapan on Groveland Street,” she said.

Campbell worked at a private law practice in New York City, but after her brother’s death, she returned to Boston and a position with the Metropolitan Planning Commission before being offered a job as deputy legal counsel for Gov. Deval Patrick in 2013. She left that role in 2014 to become a candidate.

“How can we go through these difficult and painful circumstances and have him going one way and me the other?” Campbell asked about the relationship between her and her brother. She attributes her side of the divergence to the positive influence of faith, mentoring programs, double-dutch competitions, and summer and after school jobs. For all that, she said, “Andre is the catalyst and motivation that keeps me going every day.”

Campbell shares her brother’s and her family’s story often in the course of the campaign. “Each and every kid should have a fair shot at making it. It’s about the community; it’s about bringing more into District Four; it’s about listening to residents to determine what that foundation should look like.”

This article has been updated to correct where Campbell attended high school. She attended Boston Latin School, not Boston Latin Academy.