The Nation and the World

Boston will make history on November 2

Update: Michele Wu won the election by a wide margin and will be the next Boston mayor.

In the last 200 years, Boston has elected only white male mayors, usually of Irish or Italian descent. This year, though, Boston will elect a woman and person of color to serve in its highest office.

Kim Janey, former President of the Boston City Council, was sworn in as Interim Mayor last March, following former Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s appointment as Secretary of Labor. Janey is the first woman of color to serve as the mayor of Boston, but the next elected mayor will be the first woman of color that the city has chosen.

After a non-partisan preliminary election on Sep. 14, Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George emerged as the two candidates that will advance to the general election on Nov. 2. 

As a City Councilor At-Large, Wu has been described as “a voice for accessibility, transparency, and community engagement in city leadership.” She became the first Asian American woman to serve as City Councilor in 2013, and three years later the first woman of color to be elected City Council President. 

Wu is considered the more progressive candidate and has focused her campaign on climate change and housing policy. She hopes to make Boston’s public transportation free, control rent prices, and introduce America’s first city-level Green New Deal. On her campaign website, Wu states that she believes “we can solve our deepest challenges through building community.” Although not originally from Boston, the New York Times observed that she “has built an ardent following as a city councilor by proposing sweeping structural changes.”

Essaibi George was elected City Councilor At-Large in Nov. 2015, representing all Boston neighborhoods. She is the daughter of Tunisian and Polish immigrants and is a first-generation American, like Wu. A native Bostonian, Essaibi George stated that she is running because she has “deep roots here,” citing this as “A connection that drives [her] to work harder and deliver more for the city [she loves].” According to the New York Times, Essaibi George “flexes her Boston accent like a badge of honor.”

Essaibi George positions herself as moderate and earned endorsements from “traditional power centers like the firefighters’ union and a former police commissioner.” She disagrees with Wu’s “‘abstract’ and ‘academic’” approach, arguing that many of Wu’s plans are “unrealistic.” Essaibi George claims to be more pragmatic than Wu. “You won’t find me on a soapbox,” she said, “you’ll find me in the neighborhoods, doing the work.”

Given that the mayoral race once featured three Black candidates, many are disappointed that none of them advanced to the general election. Hyde Park resident Barbara Gibbs said “It’s a shame. Boston should be ashamed of itself,” and “I just think Boston is a racist city.”

While they will not be on the final ballot, Black candidates remain involved in the election. Janey joined Wu at a campaign event in Roxbury to encourage her supporters to back Wu. “We have so much more to do,” Janey said. “It is why I am endorsing Michelle Wu.”

No matter the outcome, this election will make history. A city that has long struggled with racial and ethnic division will soon have a leader that is partially representative of its majority minority population. Wu said she is “humbled to be part of this moment in Boston.”

Image Source: The Boston Globe

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