2021 Election Watch: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, and Ohio Primaries
It’s been a while but we’re back with more 2021 primary elections! On September 14, 24 RFS candidates are on the ballot in CT, MA, MT, and OH. These elections are some of our most closely watched, with many of these candidates set to make history. Here are a notable few:
- Justin Bibb is running in a tough race for Mayor of Cleveland, working to usher in a new progressive wave as the youngest mayor in the city’s history.
- In Medford, MA David Robert Todisco is set to become the city’s first and only openly queer councilmember.
- Environmental activist Ayat Amin is running for Cleveland City Council to pass a local New Green Deal. If elected, she will be the first Arab American on council.
- Disability activist and lawyer Alex Gray is set to become Boston’s first-ever blind city councilor and if elected in 2021 he would be the only blind city councilor serving in America
New Haven City Council, Ward 7
Alder Eli Sabin is a lifelong New Havener and community advocate who’s running for a second term on the Board of Alders, New Haven’s city council. The youngest person ever elected to the Board of Alders, Alder Sabin (now 21) is focused on building a New Haven where every resident has an affordable place to live, feels safe in every neighborhood, and has access to the good schools and job opportunities they need to support their families.
In his next term on the Board of Alders, Alder Sabin will continue the work he’s already done to create more affordable housing, fight gun violence, build safe streets for people who walk and bike, and invest in education and job training programs for New Haven’s youth. As an alder and as the Director of the Connecticut state legislature’s Progressive Caucus, Alder Sabin is committed to building and leading local and regional coalitions around progressive priorities including affordable housing reform, educational equity, and tax fairness.
Stratford Planning Commission
Anthony Owusu Afriyie is a recent college graduate, who just completed 10 months of national service with AmeriCorps NCCC during the pandemic. Anthony is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Ghana, West Africa. He believes that being a public servant is about the improvement of people’s lives and lutimately establishing a fair and just society, where all peoples have a fair shot at life. His professional, academic, and volunteer experience in government and nonprofits has given him the ability to actuate his community’s needs. He’s running to represent the 5th District, one of Connecticut’s most diverse towns. Post pandemic he seeks to advocate to advance the town of Stratford against its economic, educational, social, and systemic challenges.
Boston City Council, At-Large
Alex is a Democrat running to become Boston’s first-ever blind city councilor and if elected in 2021 he would be the only blind city councilor serving in America. He is an attorney who currently serves as an advisor to Mayor Martin Walsh and the city of Boston and formerly was an advisor to Governor Deval Patrick. He helped to start Boston’s first-ever Tuition Free Community College Plan under Walsh and helped to launch the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line under Patrick. Gray will focus on ensuring an equitable recovery from COVID-19 for Boston, creating more affordable and physically accessible housing options, expanding educational opportunities, and fighting for good jobs that both pay living wages and provide benefits.
Gray is a graduate of Boston College and Suffolk University Law School. He lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife, Lauren. He is on the Board of the Friends of the Jamaica Plain Library and is an active member of the Boston Bar Association serving on their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Section.
Somerville City Council, Ward 7
Becca is running to represent Ward Seven on the Somerville City Council because the climate, housing and food security crises worsened by the pandemic require transformative governance. As an organizer, a democratic socialist, and a food justice advocate, Becca has the experience necessary to build with working people to enact change.
Becca works as a campaign manager at the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, where she has successfully won more than $20 million for food security programs and works to pass legislation to make our food system more sustainable and equitable for all.
Somerville City Council, At-Large
Charlotte (she/her) is a queer, fourth-generation resident, renter and community organizer running for City Council, At-Large. She is running to make sure community voices can shape a Somerville that works for all of us.
Charlotte has organized shoulder-to-shoulder with frontline communities, workers, and neighbors to take on the crises of our time from police brutality to climate change. At 23 years old, Charlotte became the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a statewide coalition of parents, teachers, and students fighting for more equitable public schools and colleges. Together, they won more than $1.5 billion dollars in state funding for K-12 schools across Massachusetts, leaving an unprecedented impact on a generation of students.
She is currently organizing with neighbors who have experienced violence at the hands of the police to defund SPD. Somerville has directed more funding toward expanding policing instead of addressing systemic racism and economic inequity for decades.
Charlotte has fought for an investment in public services that are accessible, life-affirming, and work toward structural change. Charlotte knows we can do things differently. Somerville residents can have more affordable housing, invest in our schools, make public transportation free, and create good union jobs in the process. Charlotte knows that bringing people together to fight for solutions can be truly transformative, not just for ourselves but for our communities.
Salem City Council, Ward 1
Chris Malstrom is an activist, food service professional and farmer who has been proud to call Salem’s Ward 1 their home with their partner and dog the past 8 years. Chris grew up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to New England to study at Boston University to pursue their dream of becoming a restaurateur, graduating in 2011 and spending the next decade in all areas of the restaurant industry from prep cook to general manager. Chris’ time in the industry gave them firsthand experience of the minimum wage grind and fed their desire to speak up and act on behalf of low-wage workers whose voices often go unheard. Couple that with an escalating climate crisis and Chris found the perfect formula to turn them into an activist.
Chris has spent the past few years engaging more broadly within political activism, volunteering for Swing Left, acting as Salem co-captain for the Ed Markey campaign, and participating within the Salem Democratic City Committee (SDCC). Chris’ leadership through this was recognized last year when the membership of the SDCC elected them Chair.
Chris’ leadership style has remained consistent through the years: tell them what you need to thrive and they will work tirelessly to get it. They are bringing to this race a deep sense of urgency for environmental action to protect the residents of Salem; and their experiences in hard-working, low-wage work throughout various restaurants have given them a deep drive to fight for the working class.
Boston City Council, At-Large
David Halbert knows that Boston is an incredible city full of opportunity, but those opportunities are not shared by everyone. Having dedicated his over 15 year career to progressive causes and public service, David understands that the best kind of government is one that empowers more voices to be at the table. As a Black man in Boston, David knows that those of us who have been looked around, looked past, and looked through know the difference between true representation versus tokenism — and will accept nothing less.
When David thinks about the future, he thinks about the kind of Boston he works every day to create for his daughters. By focusing on housing justice, educational justice, & economic opportunity, and understanding how these issues intersect with so many other policy concerns, David knows we can create the kind of progressive, innovative, & values-led solutions that will put Boston on a path towards being a truly equitable city for all. No matter the issue, David’s commitment to racial equity & social justice, combined with his deep understanding of how government works, or often doesn’t, make him ready to partner with you, listen to you, and advocate for you, to make Boston truly a city for everyone.
David lives in Dorchester with his wife, Lauren, and their two daughters. He is the first At-Large candidate to announce rejecting corporate PAC, fossil fuel, and police union money. If elected, David would be the first Black man directly elected citywide since 1981.
David Robert Todisco
Medford City Council, At-Large
David is a proud product of Medford public schools and a fifth generation Medford resident. After receiving his bachelor’s degree at UMass Lowell and Masters in Public Administration at American University, he served Massachusetts at the federal level for nearly three years. After witnessing the hardships Medford has faced during the pandemic, he wants to give back to the city that has given him so much. He believes we can move the City of Medford forward with pragmatic policies that work for every resident.
Springfield City Council, At-Large
A public high school teacher by trade, James has watched the COVID-19 bring his community new challenges, while exposing deeply-rooted issues that have deprived Springfield of its full potential for generations. James is committed to making sure that all of Springfield has a voice as it not only recovers from this crisis, but rebuilds stronger than ever.
With years of governing experience under his belt — ranging from economic development, housing, public health, sustainability and environmental preservation, and public safety — James is ready to face the challenges facing Springfield head-on from day one.
James holds an M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and has spent his entire teaching career in Springfield, where he lives with his wife (Jessi — also a teacher), their two dogs (Sansa and Archer), and their soon-to-be daughter (Arya Rose).
Boston City Council, District 4
Joel Richards is a Boston public school teacher, a first-generation American, and a proud union organizer. In his 15 years as a public school teacher, Joel has fought for smaller class sizes, increased funding, more teachers of color, and a safe learning environment for all. He has also had the honor to serve as Regional Representative for the Boston Teachers Union and a chair of Boston Black Lives Matter at School.
Joel is running for City Council to get more for District 4, which comprises Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. He and his wife currently live in Dorchester, where they are raising their two sons.
Somerville City Council, Ward 7
Judy is running for City Council because she believes Somerville deserves a city councilor with both the lived and professional experience to take bold action on our common challenges from day one. Judy is a Latina and Jewish woman and the proud daughter of immigrants. She has helped lead Somerville through the Covid-19 crisis as the head of the Immigrant Services Unit, bringing much-needed resources to her immigrant neighbors under the city’s emergency response team. She is also a small business owner who built her own leadership development company after recruiting, training, and supporting thousands of women to run for office while she was with the nonprofit Emerge. Judy also consults mission-driven organizations on how to lead through a lens of inclusion, equity, and justice. She authored the Mayor’s Food Access Agenda for the City of Boston following a strategic planning process, and developed a long-term leadership development plan centered on equity for the largest progressive organization in Florida. As City Councilor, she will fight for more affordable housing, an accessible and livable city, and an equitable Covid-19 recovery plan.
Medford City Council, At-Large
Justin Tseng is a first-generation Taiwanese American, a proud product of the Medford Public Schools, and the former chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project. From serving as the Student Representative to the School Committee, to negotiating school improvements on the Site Council, to advocating for mental health investments at the national level, Justin always worked to uplift marginalized voices and make Medford work for everyone.
As a member of Site Council at Medford High School, Justin collaborated with community stakeholders to pass two school improvement plans addressing the vaping epidemic, needed infrastructure repairs, and a review of school policies that laid the groundwork for more transparent policies.
At Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Justin worked on several policy commissions, addressing national security concerns, gun violence and trauma in education, and rising tuition costs. Last year, Justin served as the Chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project, America’s premier youth public opinion research group where he advocated for young Americans on the national stage.
Justin is running for Medford City Council to energize Medford with a bold, progressive vision and a commitment to justice. He will prioritize 1) building an affordable Medford by protecting tenant rights and expanding affordable housing, 2) strengthening schools by reversing cuts to education funding and eliminating regressive student fees, 3) protecting our environment and investing in the local economy by passing a Medford Green New Deal, and 4) fostering an inclusive Medford where people are heard by the city government regardless of their backgrounds.
Boston City Council, District 6
Kendra is a first-generation Afro-Dominicana. Raised by a working-class immigrant family in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, she is intimately familiar with what can happen when our policies don’t prioritize our most vulnerable communities. Kendra believes in public schools that are diverse and resource rich, finding different ways of preventing, responding to, and healing from violence, affordable, safe, and stable homes, free and accessible public transit, putting people over profit, democratizing workspaces, guaranteeing sustainable livelihoods and environmental protections that keep Boston’s most vulnerable communities healthy and resilient in the face of climate change.
“The only way to confront all these systemic issues is with solutions that go upstream, to the heart of the problems.” — KH
Springfield City Council, Ward 3
Lezlie is a native of Springfield, where he was raised by a single mother who worked nights to provide for their family. She taught him the values of responsibility, hard work, and leadership that continue to drive him today. He is a graduate of Springfield Public Schools and Westfield State University.
Committed to serving Springfield, Lezlie is currently a middle school educator. He teaches history and incorporates racial and social justice topics into his curriculum, connecting them to his students’ everyday experiences. He recently served as Deputy Campaign Manager to newly elected State Senator Adam Gomez and serves as the first Black President of the Young Democrats of Massachusetts.
Lezlie is running for Springfield City Council because Ward 3 deserves a Councilor who will be accessible, combat youth violence, and work to invest in the neighborhoods. He is ready to step up to the plate to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.
Boston City Council, At-Large
A grounded, thoughtful, and inclusive leader, Ruthzee is the person Boston needs to build a more prosperous and equitable city. Ruthzee was born and raised in Boston and is passionate about her hometown — her first job at the age of 14 was as a walking tour guide, offering a people-centered history of Boston’s neighborhoods. An experienced lawyer and a daughter of working class Haitian immigrants, Ruthzee will fight for a budget that reflects the values of Boston residents and a more affordable city for working class families. Ruthzee has practiced before Boston Housing Court representing families facing eviction and foreclosure and has worked on cases before the U.S. Supreme Court expanding voting rights.
She served as the senior attorney on Senator Warren’s presidential and Senate campaigns. When she was just a student, Mayor Menino appointed her to a committee to redesign the student assignment process in Boston Public Schools. Ruthzee has the passion, conviction, and experience to meet the urgency of this moment as we come out of the pandemic.
Her candidacy is historic: she would be the First Haitian-American elected to represent Boston citywide. She is a graduate of Boston Public Schools, Columbia University, Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. She is trilingual with French and Haitian Creole and is conversant in Spanish.
Somerville School Committee, Ward 7
Sara Dion is running for Somerville School Committee as a first-time candidate. She has worked as an Elementary English Learners Teacher in the Medford Public Schools for 8 years, working mostly with students from immigrant families. Her career as a teacher has helped her understand what works for students from diverse backgrounds and their families. Sara also has experience with labor organizing. As an active member of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association (MTA), Sara has advocated for a variety of issues and empowered her colleagues to do the same. In the summer of 2018, she worked as an MTA Summer Member Organizer, where she engaged her fellow educators in meaningful conversations about the importance of the union. She was recently elected to MTA’s Candidate Recommendation Committee, which helps to decide which candidates for state-level office will receive MTA endorsement.
Sara is running in order to bring an educator’s perspective to the Somerville School Committee, which currently contains no teachers. A few of her main priorities are a living wage for education paraprofessionals, pushing back against the MCAS testing system, supporting student mental health needs, and looking at curriculum and policy from a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She hopes to help enact policies that will improve the lives of students, educators, and families.
Somerville City Council, At-Large
Willie has seen firsthand how people-powered movements can transform the urgency by which we tackle systemic issues through his experiences fighting on the frontlines of today’s most pressing social movements and staffing the re-election campaigns of both Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Now, he’s running for City Councilor At-Large to ensure Somerville is safer, stronger, and more sustainable through transforming public safety, passing a Somerville Green New Deal, and ensuring we have permanently affordable and accessible housing.
Willie is a queer community organizer, renter, and former union member with Teamsters Local 122 and knows from lived experience the impact of economic, racial, and environmental injustice. In 2017, he was displaced from Somerville. Ever since he worked his way back, Willie’s been fighting to ensure that we close the gap between our community’s stated values and its reality. From organizing for housing as a human right and alongside communities of color with Just Us Somerville for racial justice, he knows that by putting the power in the hands of residents we can create a Somerville that is more affordable, accessible, and accountable.
Worcester City Council, District 5
Yenni is running for Worcester’s District 5 City Council Seat to fight for a more modern, equitable, and accessible Worcester. She obtained a degree in Electronic Game and Interactive Development from Champlain College in 2012 and worked as a project manager. She fell in love with Worcester’s history, character, and potential after buying a multifamily home and moving to Newton Square in 2013 with her husband, a lifelong Worcester resident.
She opened Next Level Pet Care in 2014, which closed due to the pandemic in March 2020, so she understands the struggles other small business owners go through. As a disabled person and member of the LGBTQ+ community, she believes the city must do more than show lip service to minority groups.
Throughout her entire life, Yenni has always been a forward-thinking, data-oriented, problem solver. As a game developer and small business owner, she has used this trait to her advantage and she believes that our council needs these traits now more than ever.
There are great opportunities for the city to prepare for the rapid pace of technological change and automation, improve our infrastructure, expand public transport, support our schools, and expand access to affordable housing. To best effect positive change the council must fully analyze problems, collect needed data, consult experts, and only then act on solutions with an eye toward the future. This is the mindset and expertise we need from Yenni Desroches at City Hall, so let’s Move Worcester Forward together!
Bozeman City Commission, At-Large
Christopher Coburn is a community health advocate and collaborator. Christopher is from a non-Indigenous family that has called Montana home for generations. He’s guided by an intention to have a positive impact on the communities that raised him, and he has a strong history of showing up. Christopher has worked on numerous initiatives aimed at improving the lives of his neighbors: including developing a supportive housing program, hosting community conversations around domestic violence, and leading a mental health education campaign — and has served on the Gallatin City-County Board of Health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christopher is running for Bozeman City Commission because he believes Bozeman has the opportunity to be a leader in creating the type of strong, equitable, inclusive, and just communities we all deserve. Against the backdrop of a devastating state legislative session, Christopher will be an unwavering voice to advocate for healthcare, working families, LGBTQ+ people and folks of color. He’s committed to fighting for affordable housing, addressing the climate crisis, and increasing access to services that folks need to thrive: such as childcare, healthcare, and transportation.
Cleveland City Council, Ward 8
Aisia Jones is a respected community organizer and activist whose experiences have led her to take her activism to City Hall and the ballot box. Aisia grew up in Ward 8 and had a childhood filled with hot summer days at Euclid Beach State Park and neighborhood block parties. Her family moved away and when she moved back to Cleveland in 2013 she didn’t recognize her community‚ from the dilapidated homes to the increased crime rates that kept her neighbors locked inside their homes.
Aisia knew when she moved back that her life’s work would be in uplifting her community. She began small on her block, by cleaning up yards and organizing community conversations. She grew into her role as a community leader, hosting the radio show Our Voices Today on WOVU 95.9 FM and serving as the wraparound services coordinator, Anton Grdina School. She is an alumni of Cleveland’s Neighborhood leadership Institute and is currently the outreach coordinator for Black Lives Matter Cleveland.
Aisia is running to transform Cleveland and Cleveland City Council. Over and over again, she has seen how racial inequities, housing disparities, the lack of job access and the lack of emergency mental health services have hurt Clevelanders like her neighbors in Ward 8. Aisia is running on a platform to tackle police reform, increase local government accessibility and better spend city money to increase public health & safety. Aisia lives in Cleveland with her husband and two young sons.
Cleveland City Council, Ward 3
Ayat Amin loves to talk trash. As an environmentalist, she has done everything an individual can do to help the planet. She eats mostly vegan, rides her bike everywhere, and lives zero waste. Her zero waste lifestyle ironically earned her the nickname “Trash Girl.” In college, she studied to be an environmental engineer when she learned we had the technology to address the climate crisis, what we needed was politics. So Ayat got politically involved by joining Black Environmental Leaders and Clevelanders for Public Transit. Two years ago, she attended a climate protest holding a sign that said “Change the politics, not the climate.” But still not enough had changed. So she decided to take her own advice and run for office. Ayat is now a candidate for Cleveland City Council in Ward 3.
Mayor of Cleveland
Justin is a community advocate and nonprofit leader running for Mayor of Cleveland to create a safer, healthier, and more resilient city. Right now, Cleveland is at a crossroads. Violent crime and homicides rates are reaching record highs, businesses are collapsing, evictions are on the rise and Black babies are dying before their first birthday.
Cleveland cannot wait. Now more than ever, the city needs a bold, dynamic and visionary leader who will bring new ideas and a sense of urgency to addressing some of our most systemic challenges.
These problems are not new and that’s why it’s time for change. As mayor, Justin will champion a new generation of leadership to solve Cleveland’s oldest problems and modernize city government. Cleveland needs a leader who understands tough times to get us through these tough times and Justin has the experience, values and compassion we need to help improve the lives of Cleveland’s kids and families. As the son of a social worker and first responder, Justin was raised to put others first, even when his family were struggling themselves.
Having gone to law school and completed an MBA, founded two nonprofits, served on the regional transit board, named Vice President of a major community bank and advised dozens of mayors across the country on leveraging data and technology, Justin will bring his personal and professional experience in the public and private sector to develop collaborative solutions, unify the city and lead Cleveland to economic recovery.
Lakewood City Council, At-Large
Laura is a public servant and community champion who has dedicated the past 20 years to the betterment of Lakewood and Northeast Ohio. She is a first generation Puerto Rican whose father immigrated to the mainland to seek opportunities for a better life. She is running because she believes that representatives on Lakewood City Council should represent the future we are trying to build — one that is more inclusive, equitable, and focused on solving the everyday issues important to residents.
Over the past year, Laura has been on the front lines with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently the Midwest Regional Outreach and Communications Lead supporting the Federal COVID Response (formerly Operation Warp Speed), helping to prioritize diverse and inclusive representation in clinical research of treatments for COVID-19. In 2020, Laura was appointed by Mayor Meghan George to Lakewood’s first Anti-Racism Task Force and serves as Co-Chair. Laura was formerly selected by City Council to serve on the Foundation Planning Task Force, which eventually became the Healthy Lakewood Foundation. For her community work and public service, Laura was awarded Crain’s Cleveland Business Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Award in 2017, as well as the Resiliency Award from Cleveland State University.
Cleveland City Council, Ward 12
Rebecca is a lawyer, community advocate, and civic leader in Cleveland. Her work ranges from organizing block parties to sparking city-wide conversations on lead-safe housing and government transparency. She is running for Cleveland City Council to represent Ward 12, one of the only wards to cross the east and west side of the Cuyahoga River, covering the neighborhoods of Old Brooklyn, Slavic Village, Brooklyn Centre, and Tremont.
Rebecca grew up in Northeast Ohio, graduated from the University of Chicago and Stanford Law School, and returned to Cleveland after seeing the impact of the foreclosure crisis and housing instability on the city. She spent time as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland where she represented tenants facing eviction and homeowners facing foreclosure. She went on to help organize the grassroots coalition Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing, which successfully pushed Cleveland City Council to preemptively test rental properties for lead hazards before children became poisoned. She has also been working alongside community leaders and local organizations to fight for a public comment period at City Council meetings — a right which current members of council refuse to allow. She has served as the elected Ward Leader for the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party in Ward 12 for the past three years and has worked hard to build one of the most active and engaged field programs in the county. She is ready to build a more accountable and transparent City Hall that makes Cleveland work better for every resident.