Edwards Elected First Black Councilor for District 1

By Noor Adatia
BU News Service

Political newcomer Lydia Edwards of East Boston became District 1’s first black City Councilor Tuesday night, clinching the seat over Stephen Passacantilli, who came from a well-known, politically active North End family.

Edwards, who ran on a social justice platform, earned 600 more votes than her opponent and will represent some of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods, including the North End, Charlestown,and East Boston.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at Kelly’s Pub in East Boston for Edwards’ campaign party, which buzzed with music and cheers.

“Yes, we did it,” Edwards shouted as she stood on a chair to address the crowd, which chanted “Amen.” Her mother and other family members sat in the front row.

“We won tonight,” Edwards said. “And my heart is so full of joy because we won going high.”

In the preliminary election, Passacantilli had won first place over Edwards by just 77 votes. Edwards’ victory Tuesday speaks to a potential shift in Boston politics as voters steer away from the familiar and look towards change.

“It’s time for change. It’s time for new people, young people, educated people and to give them a chance,” said Charlestown resident and Edwards’ campaign volunteer Juanita Davis.

At his campaign party, Passacantilli expressed gratitude for his supporters and especially his family, who have stayed with him on his journey. But he made it clear he isn’t leaving politics anytime soon.

“I’m going go to City Hall. I’m going to be the first one there tomorrow morning, and if anyone in this room calls me and needs me to do something, I’m going to do just like I’ve always done,” he said to hundreds of supporters gathered at the North End’s Filippo Ristorante.

During the campaign, Edwards held several town hall-style meetings in several neighborhoods, during which she urged the city to reconsider its luxury housing plans which forcibly remove long-time residents from their homes.

Although she may be new to Boston’s political scene, Edwards, 42, is no stranger to civic service.

Edward’s legal work has gained attention from The Boston Globe, which named her “Bostonian of the Year” in 2015. Formerly a lawyer for the Greater Boston Legal Services, she has represented labor trafficking survivors, often immigrants and women of color, to fight unfair wages and abuse.

Edwards’ twin, Erika Edwards, said at a polling place in Charlestown earlier in the day that her sister’s background in law and her dedication to politics would let her advocate for many groups.

“I think she will add a very nuanced and creative voice to the City Council,” Erika Edwards said.

Edwards’ role as a community leader who embraces local development and transportation infrastructure attracted several voters.

“I felt like I really wanted to take off my time to support Lydia today,” North End resident Gillian Mason said. “She is a fierce candidate for working people.”

Edwards’ campaign manager Keith Clarke, a Boston University senior, said there hasn’t been much representation for the non-Italian population of the district in recent years.

“I think it’s a good time for a new perspective and some change for District One,” Clarke said.

Edwards fills a seat vacated by former councilor Sal LaMattina, who also was from East Boston.

“This campaign is a campaign of many hands of many colors of many languages,” she said. “And it took all of us and our many hands to show what a people’s campaign really looks like.”

Sarah Finkel, Sophia Brown and Sarah Cristine Burrola contributed to this report.

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