City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo stands at the precipice of several political firsts in Boston as he launches his campaign for mayor.
Arroyo would indeed be the first Latino candidate to have his name on the ballot for mayor. Arroyo would be the first Latino candidate to run a full campaign for mayor.
But is he the first candidate of Hispanic heritage to launch a mayoral bid? That’s a more complicated question that involves a 72-hour span in the life of Diana Lam.
Lam is an educator who served as a superintendent and an administrator in several school districts, from New York City to Dubuque, Iowa, to Chelsea, Mass. In 1991, Lam quit her job as school superintendent in Chelsea to challenge Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. A Globe story described Lam as a native of Peru born to a Hispanic mother and a Chinese father.
She launched her mayoral bid on May 30, 1991, in front of 150 supporters in the backyard of her home in Jamaica Plain. According to a Globe article published the next day, Lam invoked “resolute underdogs from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King Jr.” and vowed “turn the public schools around.”
The Globe also reported that day that Lam had not mailed her state income tax returns for 1988 and 1989 until just before she launched her campaign. Her campaign never got off the ground. Lam pulled out of the race on June 2, telling the Globe, “I think I underestimated the message that was given by filing the taxes late. I feel that I have let people down.”
It raises the question: Is Arroyo the first Hispanic candidate for mayor of Boston?
“I would say that,” Lam said today in a very brief telephone interview. “Absolutely.”
Lam said that she identified herself as Hispanic but declined to discuss her candidacy for mayor of Boston.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Lam said.
By the way, the Globe checked: Arroyo has filed his state tax returns for the past five years, according to the state Department of Revenue. So have all the other 12 members of the Boston City Council.