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Despite crash, JP Progressives recommend endorsement for Lara

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Although Lara is facing charges related to a June car crash, the Jamaica Plain Progressives steering committee told members that they should vote to officially endorse her.

Councilor Kendra Lara speaks during Dominican Cultural Day at the City Hall Plaza in Boston. Tanner Pearson/The Boston Globe

In just a week, Boston voters in certain districts will head to the polls for the city’s preliminary municipal election. The election will narrow down the races in districts where more than two candidates are running for a spot on City Council. This means residents of Districts  3, 5, 6, and 7 will be able to make their voice heard on Sept. 12. The two candidates that receive the most votes in each district will face off in the general municipal election on Nov. 7. 

One of the most-talked about races is occurring in District 6, where incumbent Kendra Lara is hoping to prevail against William King and Benjamin Weber. Despite facing ongoing scrutiny and charges related to a June 30 car crash, Lara picked up a win this week when she received support from the Jamaica Plain Progressives steering committee. In a message Sunday, the committee recommended that members vote to endorse Kendra Lara in the race. 

Members of JP Progressives in good standing now have the opportunity to vote for the organization’s official endorsement. A candidate must receive 60% support to receive the endorsement, and ranked choice voting will be used to determine the winner.

Before expounding on their reasons for supporting her, the committee addressed the crash. While driving on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Lara swerved off the road and into a house. Lara’s 7-year-old son was in the car at the time, officials said, and received stitches at a local hospital. The crash also caused significant property damage. 

Police said Lara was driving more than twice the speed limit, and that she was driving illegally. She was arraigned last month on charges including permitting injury to a child, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, driving with a suspended license, driving an uninsured vehicle, and not putting a child under 8 in a car seat. She pleaded not guilty, and a lawyer for Lara is seeking to dismiss the charges. 

The JP Progressives steering committee lamented the lack of clarity surrounding the issue.

“We have heard the frustration expressed by JP voters about the lack of clear communication from Councilor Lara about the charges,” they wrote. “We have also come to know that Councilor Lara was advised by her lawyer not to speak publicly, and we have felt this has severely hampered her ability to provide the details we have all been searching for. (We have offered her this feedback ourselves.)”

But the committee cites recent reports that Lara attempted to have her suspension lifted before joining City Council in 2021, and that bureaucratic delays played a major role in the situation. Lara’s former husband was the one who drove their son around before they separated two years ago, according to the committee. The car Lara was driving, which belonged to a friend, was actually insured, they wrote. Lara has been in touch with the property owner whose home was damaged to make sure a claim is filed. 

Their calculation ultimately boiled down to whether Lara is still worthy of constituents’ trust and if she can still be an effective proponent of progressive policies on City Council.

“We are choosing to trust that further details will be sympathetic to the councilor’s situation. We are choosing to trust in the regret she has expressed and that she will correct her mistakes with humility and hard work,” the committee wrote. 

JP Progressives highlighted a number of Lara’s accomplishments and areas of focus. First, Lara was praised for her willingness to address the housing crisis. This includes support for rent stabilization and work on a new policy to increase the percentage of income-restricted housing for new developments, the committee wrote. 

Lara also won praise for building consensus on a City Council often beset by discord. She collaborated with Councilor Frank Baker, one of the body’s more conservative members, to use COVID recovery dollars to solidify the city’s composting infrastructure and add jobs, the committee wrote. Lara’s work with conservative-leaning Councilor Michael Flaherty is helping restore housing protections for almost 150 elderly and disabled low-income tenants, they added. 

To round out their recommendation, the committee noted that Lara is the first woman and person of color to represent District 6, where a large Latinx community resides. Her ample experience with community organizing is a major plus, they added. 

“Her significant first-hand experience and deep commitment to the needs of the district’s most marginalized communities is unique, particularly when contrasted with the other candidates for the D6 seat. We believe that the representation of these constituents will be adversely impacted if Councilor Lara is not reelected,” the committee wrote. 

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