Boston is set to narrow its field of mayoral candidates for the first time to two people of color, possibly both women – a radical departure from the unbroken chain of white men elected mayors in the 200 early years of the city.
On Tuesday, voters cast their ballot in a preliminary mayoral election that will select two of the top candidates from five top candidates, all of color, including four women. The two winners will face off on November 2, ushering in a new era for the city that has fought against racial and ethnic conflicts.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, city councilors Annissa Essaibi George, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, and John Barros, the city’s former head of economic development, are all vying to be one of the main candidates.
Janey has already made history, becoming the first black Bostonian and the first woman to hold the city’s most senior position on an interim basis after former mayor Marty Walsh resigned earlier this year to become secretary of labor by President Joe Biden.
All the candidates are Democrats. Boston mayoral races do not include party primaries. Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
The candidates come from diverse backgrounds. Wu’s parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. Janey and Campbell are black. Essaibi George describes herself as a first generation Arab-Polish American. Barros is of Cape Verdean origin.
Wu has held a lead over the other four top contenders in a number of recent polls, creating a scramble among other second-place contenders if Wu’s lead holds up.
Boston has changed dramatically from its depressed days in the 1970s, when the city found itself in the national limelight because of the turmoil caused by school desegregation, and the late 1980s, when Charles Stuart’s case again took off. ignited latent racial tensions.
The latest US Census statistics show that residents who identify as white make up 44.6% of the population compared to black residents (19.1%), Latino residents (18.7%) and residents of Asian origin (11.2%).
The city has also changed politically.
In 2018, former Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley defeated longtime U.S. Democratic Representative Michael Capuano to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. That same year, Rachael Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, won the election to become Boston’s first female district attorney and the first woman of color to hold such a position in Massachusetts. In July, she was appointed by Biden to become the state’s highest federal prosecutor.
Among the challenges facing the city are those brought on by gentrification, which has forced many longtime residents, including those from historically black neighborhoods.
Added to this are a host of other challenges the new mayor will face, from transportation issues, racial injustice and policing to schools and the continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most pressing issues is the cost of housing, which is beyond the financial means of many tenants and future owners.
There were times of controversy during the campaign.
Janey has been accused of invoking slavery and lies about Barack Obama’s citizenship pushed by Donald Trump during discussion of New York’s efforts to require people to prove they have been vaccinated before entering in indoor public places.
She later came back to the comparisons saying, “I wish I hadn’t used those analogies.”
Essaibi George also found herself under surveillance after the Boston Globe reported that her city council office attempted to undermine a construction project that allegedly blocked the view of a luxury condominium owned by her husband.
Essaibi George later said her husband’s name had never been mentioned in municipal hearings and that she only became aware of his involvement after being questioned by journalists.
The competition is also the first preliminary election in the city’s history to allow postal voting. The contest also allowed early voting last week.
The Independent Gt