Boston city councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George each announced Tuesday that they finished in the top two in the preliminary municipal elections in Boston, setting the stage for a final in which the winner – for the first time – will be a woman and one person. colored.
“I am delighted that we are confident that we have done the first two and move on to the final elections,” Wu, a city councilor whose parents emigrated from Taiwan, told a noisy crowd of Distraction Brewing supporters in Roslindale. .
“My parents came to this country without speaking English, nothing in their pockets, and they could never have imagined that one day their daughter could run for the post of mayor of Boston,” she added.
Essaibi George, who is also a general councilor, took the stage at the Venezia restaurant in Dorchester dancing to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud”. She told Wu that she was looking forward to their next campaign and thanked her fellow candidates.
“Good governance means being on the ground, listening [to] and learn from those of us in our communities across the city, âsaid Essaibi George. âI’ve said it before: you won’t find me on a soapbox. You will find me in your neighborhood, doing the job.
Essabi George’s father emigrated from Tunisia and her mother was born to Polish parents in a displaced persons camp in Germany.
Both candidates spoke before the city of Boston announced its official vote count. At midnight, only 1% of the results were available. The city’s election service said compiling the early ballots was responsible for the delay.
At a rally at Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Dorchester, Councilor Andrea Campbell admitted defeat.
“I know this is not the outcome we wanted or hoped for,” she said. âBut I firmly believe that we are victorious tonight, and I will tell you why. We kept this campaign focused on the issues that matter most to Bostonians. “
Acting Mayor Kim Janey conceded in an emailed statement congratulating Wu and Essaibi George and adding, âI amâ¦ determined to ensure a smooth transition for the next mayor so that SHE can get underway.
The fifth major candidate in the race – John Barros, who was previously Boston’s chief economic development officer – thanked his staff late Tuesday night, writing on Twitter this “[t]his work will continue with all of you. Barros has regularly polled behind the top four candidates in Tuesday’s election.
Dating back to John Phillips, who served as Boston’s first mayor in 1822 and 1823, every mayor in the city has been a white man.
Voters will choose between the two finalists on November 2, and the winner will be unveiled later this month.
Wu and Essaibi George last faced off in the 2019 city council race, in which Boston voters could select up to four candidates. In this contest, Wu dominated the ticket with 21% of the vote. Essaibi George was second with 17%.
Wu’s success on Tuesday came as no surprise. She was the first female candidate to officially enter the race, in September 2020, and pre-election polls have consistently shown her in first place by a substantial margin.
Essabi George’s journey to the November final elections was more difficult. At the start of the race, many political observers saw Janey – who, as president of the city council at the time, automatically took over when Mayor Marty Walsh joined the Biden administration as labor secretary – as a candidate for one of the first two places.
History may have informed the initial assumption that Janey would qualify for the final. In 1993, when then-mayor Ray Flynn became the Clinton administration’s ambassador to the Vatican, City Councilor Tom Menino became acting mayor. He was immediately elected a few weeks later and ruled Boston for two decades.
But while Janey was celebrated early on for becoming the first black woman to lead Boston at length, she soon discovered that her tenure, which lasted much longer than Menino’s, presented dangers as well as possibilities.
It was up to Janey, for example, to react to the scandal surrounding then-police commissioner Dennis White, who had been abruptly appointed by Walsh towards the end of his tenure. Within days, the Boston Globe reported that White had previously been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife. At the time, some advocates suggested that White, who is black, was subject to a double racial standard. But after a long review, Janey fired White in June.
In August, Janey was questioned by a reporter about New York City’s plan to require proof of COVID vaccination for certain indoor sites. In dismissing the idea – which Janey says could have a disproportionate impact on Bostonians of color – she likened it to Donald Trump’s false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, an analogy that many found it problematic.
Janey’s relationships with her former colleagues also deteriorated after her ascension, with several advisers accusing her of lack of responsiveness and collaboration. In June, the council passed a rule change that gave it the right to remove the chairman of the council at any time, including Janey, who retained that title after becoming acting mayor. The move has been widely interpreted as the political equivalent of a backward pitch, as Janey’s impeachment as chairman of the board would have removed her as acting mayor as well.
Pre-election polls showed Essaibi George and Janey battling three for second place with Councilor Andrea Campbell. Like Wu, Campbell entered the race in September 2020, when Walsh still looked likely to get re-elected.
Campbell – who, like Janey, is a black woman – has emerged during the campaign as the most vocal critic of the acting mayor. When Janey compared vaccine passports to childbirth, for example, Campbell called this response a “leadership failure” which “puts people’s health at risk.”
Dianne Wilkerson, the former state senator who led an effort to unite the black electorate around a black candidate, said it was too early to conclude that Janey and Campbell did not move forward because ‘they split the black vote.
âToday’s result was clearly not what we were hoping to see,â said Wilkerson. âBut I caution people against jumping to conclusions. â¦ To really understand what happened, it will take a more in-depth conversation.
In addition to her invigorating critiques of Janey, Campbell has also presented herself as an enthusiastic supporter of police reform. She was the only candidate to make transferring funds from the Boston Police Department to social services a top priority, and she fought on social media with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association over the former BPPA chief. , Patrick Rose, who has been charged with multiple accounts of child sexual abuse. .
Essaibi George, on the other hand, is widely regarded as the preferred candidate for law enforcement. It was endorsed by former Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, predecessor of Dennis White, and supported by a Super PAC led by gross whose funders include two other Boston police unions.
Additionally, Essaibi George campaigned as someone who would extend Walsh’s legacy rather than challenge it. This point was driven home by a public endorsement from Walsh’s mother, Mary, that Essaibi George drove to early voting with her own mother.
Wu, who led the ticket, campaigned from the start as a proponent of great systemic change. Shortly before launching her campaign, she released a Green New Deal and Just Recovery plan linking issues such as climate change, public health and Boston’s huge racial wealth gap. She is also advocating for the implementation of rent controls in Boston, a step that would require action from the Massachusetts legislature, and has proposed to abolish the Boston Planning and Development Authority.
Despite an unprecedented field in which all of the top candidates were people of color, Tuesday’s preliminary elections appear unlikely to reach 30% turnout based on early returns. In the 2013 preliminary election, which saw Walsh and former city councilor John Connolly advance to the final, 31% of voters voted. But in 2017, only 14% of registered voters in Boston came forward to send Walsh and former Boston Councilor Tito Jackson to that year’s final.
The fact that no black candidate qualifies for the final is likely to spark a lot of discussion and debate by November. But during Janey’s election night rally, Armani White – a Right to the City Vote organizer, who backed Janey – had already come up with a grim interpretation.
âI think that suggests the city is not ready to see a black person rule it,â he said. “What I am seeing right now [suggests] Boston is not ready or willing to follow black leadership.