Campbell says Boston is primed for change

On race, mayoral candidate has lived the problem

FOR ANDREA CAMPBELL, action is what distinguishes her platform and ideas from Mayor Marty Walsh.

Campbell, a Black District 4 city councilor, announced her run for the city’s top office on September 24. The 38-year-old Mattapan resident believes that the country and city are “in a unique moment” where people are seeking more than just a dialogue about race and systemic inequities.

“People are of course emailing, marching in the streets, demanding real change. And I think Boston needs new leadership that not only understands what they’re talking about — but has lived it,” she said on this week’s Codcast. “I’m running for mayor to be that leader.”

Campbell’s life story parallels the story of  many of her constituents. When she and her twin brother Andre were eight months old, their mother was killed in a car accident on her way to visit their father in prison. Campbell’s first eight years were spent bouncing between relatives and Boston foster homes, while her father served the remainder of his sentence.

A graduate of the Boston Public Schools who went on to attend Princeton University, Campbell’s life took a far different path than her twin brother, who cycled in and out of the criminal justice system and died almost a decade ago in jail while awaiting trial. Campbell  said her brother died “as a result of receiving inadequate medical care.”

“Frankly, his story would not be told if I didn’t [run for office], if I wasn’t blessed to have this platform,” she said. “So I asked one question when I originally ran for office, which is, how do two twins born and raised in this city have such different life outcomes.”

Campbell has been on the council since 2016, shortly after she delivered a stunning defeat of 32-year incumbent Charles Yancey in 2015 to win the District 4 seat representing Mattapan and parts of Dorchester. She was the first black woman to hold the position of city council president in 2018.

Campbell clashed with Walsh this summer over the city budget, which she voted against, saying his plan didn’t “resonate in every single neighborhood,” and go far enough to address racial inequities in the city. At-large councilor Michelle Wu, another candidate for mayor, also voted against passing the budget, which ultimately moved forward.

In the past few months, Campbell has zeroed in on criminal justice and policing, proposing a civilian review board to oversee accountability of police officers. And she has drawn attention to the fact that the black community is being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“People deem us to be successful in respect to our COVID-19 response. But the missing piece of the story is that communities of color are not doing as well,” she said.

For Campbell, challenging Walsh boils down to her ability to represent constituents facing many of the same problems she has faced and bringing a different background to discussions about race and racism. “I understand it. I’ve lived it,” she said. “And now I want to do something about it. And that’s a stark difference between the two of us.”