Theodora Skeadas, director of Cambridge Local First and the YWCA Cambridge board, has announced plans to run for City Council. (Photo: Theodora Skeadas campaign)

Theodora Skeadas, director of the small-business advocacy group Cambridge Local First, announced her candidacy for City Council on Friday with a list of priorities that is topped by economic challenges, followed by housing and racial justice issues.

It’s the most public push for a City Council seat in the November elections, and moves the campaign season forward from two years ago, when Charles Franklin became the first candidate announcing formally in mid-March. But there are at least five more residents who have filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and others who are rumored to be running – from former officeholders seeking a comeback to restaurateurs and local lawyers and developers.

Skeadas explored a run for councillor in 2017 and instead managed the council campaign of Sumbul Siddiqui, who won her race and in her second term became the first Muslim mayor in Massachusetts. In 2018, Skeadas worked as operations manager for comedian Jimmy Tingle’s campaign for lieutenant governor.

Adriane Musgrave, Skeadas’ predecessor at Cambridge Local First, ran for City Council in 2019 and got 747 first-place votes in Cambridge’s ranked-choice form of balloting, the 12th-highest number of first-place votes among 22 candidates.

Small business focus

Skeadas has led the work of Cambridge Local First since 2019 as executive director, recently helping small businesses through a year of pandemic with activism and free, public community conversations sharing information about survival techniques, resources and government aid. (Disclosure: This reporter is a member of Cambridge Local First’s advisory board.)

“It’s been a tough year for our city,” Skeadas said in press materials. “I’ve seen up close how much our local businesses are struggling. Unemployment in Cambridge tripled in the first half of 2020 alone.” Pointing to the recent closings of the People’s Republik and Border Cafe, “two iconic, multi-decade Cantabrigian establishments,” she said the absence “means not only lost jobs, but also the loss of a piece of our community’s cultural fabric.”

She plans to build off of her work at Cambridge Local First, she said, by supporting community banks over outside institutions and improving access to credit for traditionally marginalized groups such as BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community and women.

Housing and racial justice

Similarly, her role as chair of the board at YWCA Cambridge has influenced her platform, because she has “seen the disproportionate effects of the housing crisis on people of color.”

Skeadas is also a renter “in a city where two-thirds of the population rents,” she said. “The housing market should be regulated with an eye for tenants’ interests. This means looking at policies like lifting the ban on rent control and revamping current eviction legislation.”

She also plans to push for reallocating police funding to non-police solutions such as housing, health care and public education, she said.

In a biography provided by her campaign, Skeadas said her work in community development in Cambridge began in 2017 as an early board member of the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association. She is a Fulbright alumna with a knowledge of Cambridge that goes back to attending Harvard College; she is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School.

Developing field

Nomination papers don’t become available until July, and are usually due back at the end of that month; 50 confirmed signatures qualifies a resident to run. The past election saw 23 people run for council (including eight of nine incumbents), dropping to 22 by the time of balloting, and 11 for School Committee (including three of six incumbents).

Other candidates identified by the state as recent filers for a Cambridge City Council candidacy:

  • Santos Carrasquillo, Harvard Street, The Port
  • Joe McGuirk, Columbia Street, Wellington-Harrington
  • Dana Bullister, Fifth Street, East Cambridge
  • Tonia Hicks, Pearl Street, Cambridgeport
  • Frantz Pierre, Water Street, North Point
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