As Newton Democrat Jake Auchincloss moves forward with his bid for Congress, a race is already beginning to shape up locally as at least two candidates eye a potential vacancy on the City Council.
Tarik Lucas and Bryan Barash each previously ran in separate races last year to represent the city’s Ward 2, which includes Newtonville along with parts of West Newton and Newton Centre.
If Auchincloss steps down from the City Council to succeed US Representative Joseph Kennedy III, Barash said he would run for Auchincloss’s Ward 2 at-large seat, while Lucas said he would strongly consider such a campaign.
Such a race would look like a remix of the ward’s 2019 election, but with a new twist: this time, Lucas and Barash would be facing off directly. And it would mean a reshuffling of some endorsements, particularly that of the Newton Teachers Association, which backed both Lucas and Barash.
Auchincloss’s seat, while based in Ward 2, is chosen by voters from across Newton. And in separate interviews, Lucas and Barash each emphasized their work building strong ties with voters.
Lucas, 38, of Newtonville, works as a royalty specialist at Harvard University Press, and is a referee for youth basketball and soccer games.
“As a city councilor, I would be fair, and I would be willing to listen, and I would be dependable,” Lucas said. “The main slogan for FIFA is ‘Fair Play,’ [and] I would certainly bring those skills to the City Council.”
Barash, 37, who also lives in Newtonville with his wife, Claudia Bowman Barash, is general counsel for state Senator Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure every person who votes in this race knows that I’m going to be there for them, that they have a personal connection,” Barash said. “They can call me or e-mail me any time, and I will be there for them.”
If seated on the council, each highlighted some specific areas they want to focus on. Lucas said that includes bringing additional funding to support city social services, particularly mental health programming. Barash said he sees a nexus between housing, transportation, affordability, environment, and racial justice that must be addressed at the same time by the council.
Auchincloss will appear on the November ballot with Republican candidate Julie Hall to replace Kennedy, whose term ends in January.
If Auchincloss wins, the timing of a special election would depend on when he resigns from the council, said David Olson, the city clerk.
Beyond Newton’s borders, Barash and Lucas share a great deal politically: They are both Democrats, both say they are working to get Joe Biden elected president, and they share similar views on racial justice issues raised by the national Black Lives Matter movement.
“We still have work to do,” Lucas said, adding he is looking forward to the outcome of efforts by a city police reform task force. “I’m glad we’ve had these demonstrations. ... It’s good, it’s about bringing change to a city I love very much.”
While the police task force will make recommendations, it will be up to the City Council to determine how to implement any of them, Barash said.
“The City Council has an absolutely critical role to play in making sure we get that right,” Barash said.
Lucas and Barash are both renters, and both say they support bringing more affordable housing to Newton. Each said they back a proposal by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to create more affordable housing at the West Newton armory.
Lucas said he is concerned that the zoning redesign proposal is not going to create affordable homes. Among larger developments, much of what has been built only offers rental housing. Few options for home ownership are available for people of moderate to modest means, he said.
“I want the developers to be fair — to abutters, to the surrounding community,” Lucas said. “I believe that we should give people the opportunity to truly invest in Newton, by offering condos for sale ... and establish ownership, equity, and then wealth.”
Barash said the city needs to make it easier for nonprofits to develop affordable housing in Newton, and officials must work to bring housing available to very low-income residents. It’s a critical issue, he said, and he hopes the armory project could help reach that goal.
Barash said the city’s zoning reform needs to make more housing attainable for residents coming from a wide range of income levels.
“I think we need to have much more tools in the tool box than tear it down and build a McMansion, or tear it down and build two giant condos,” Barash said. “I think that is what you hear people’s frustration about — that is the current zoning code.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.