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Lydia Edwards vies for city council seat

Housing official aims to represent the North End, East Boston, Charlestown

Jule Pattison-Gordon | 8/23/2017, 10:24 a.m.
Lydia Edwards brings with her a background of advocacy in areas such as domestic and immigrant workers’ rights and support ...
Lydia Edwards, a former lawyer and the city’s deputy director of the Office of Housing Stability, is now running for Boston City Council. She competes against two other candidates to represent East Boston, the North End and Charlestown. Courtesy of the Edwards Campaign

East Boston’s Lydia Edwards is hitting the streets as she campaigns for Boston City Council. Like most district candidates, she is laser-focused on door knocking and meeting residents face to face.

“All the funds in the world don’t account for, don’t equal the handshake and the look in the eye of a candidate to a constituent. I stand firmly by door knocking,” Edwards said in a recent Banner phone interview.

Edwards is one of three candidates competing to become District 1’s city councilor. She brings with her a background of advocacy in areas such as domestic and immigrant workers’ rights and support for residents facing housing crises. Now she looks to advocate for East Boston, Charlestown and the North End on the city council floor.

The candidate

Edwards is the current deputy director of the city’s Office of Housing Stability, where she is charged with advancing supports for Boston’s residents facing rental housing emergencies, such as evictions and landlord-tenant disputes. She will face off in the September 26 preliminary against East Boston’s Margaret Farmer, president of Jeffries Point Neighborhood Coalition for the past five years, as well as North End’s Stephen Passacantilli, the director of operations for the Boston Transportation Department as well as a former aide to the current District 1 councilor, Sal LaMattina, and to Mayor Martin Walsh. Voters will select between the top two candidates in the November 7 election.

Two earlier contenders withdrew candidacy in May: Michael Sinatra, who is LaMattina’s chief of staff; and Jack Kelly III, a policy advisor to City Councilor Bill Linehan.

This is not Edwards’ first look at political office. In 2016, she made an impression with her campaign to represent East Boston, the North End, Revere and Beacon Hill in the state Senate.

“She quickly made herself known by doing on-the-ground, old-fashioned campaigning,” said Mary Ellen Welch, a longtime East Boston community advocate.

Although Edwards was unsuccessful — she placed fourth out of seven candidates in the Democratic primary — many in East Boston took notice.

“Here’s a newcomer to the political scene and she showed so many people that she was good that she won East Boston,” Welch recounted. “She has a lot of talent, is extremely well-educated and stands strongly for a lot of good issues.”

Previously, Edwards was a public interest lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services, and she has been an advocate for immigrant and domestic worker rights, including helping write Massachusetts’ Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Over the years she has garnered recognition, including being named a 2017 “Game Changer” by the Boston Globe and receiving 2015 Bostonian of the Year honorable mention. Now after a year tackling housing issues in City Hall, she is back on the campaign trail.

The seat

District 1 comprises the North End — Boston’s Little Italy— as well as Charlestown and East Boston. Charlestown is primarily white and East Boston’s population is more than half Hispanic, according to Statistical Atlas. East Boston has traditionally been an Italian-American stronghold, and voters from that community have long dominated the politics there.