At-large city councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George have secured the top two spots in the preliminary election to be Boston’s next permanent mayor.
With all precincts now counted, Wu led the field with 33.36 percent of the vote and Essaibi George sat in second place with 22.48 percent.
District 4 City Councilor Andrea Campbell took third place with 19.72 percent followed closely by Acting Mayor Kim Janey in fourth place with 19.47 percent. Former city chief of economic development John Barros has fifth place with 3.19 percent. The city saw 108,181 ballots cast out of 386,492 active voters on the city’s rolls.
Janey, Campbell and Barros all made speeches or issued statements late last night conceding the election based on reports from each campaign’s poll-watchers.
Wu and Essaibi George now move on to the general election, scheduled to take place on Nov. 2.
Candidates Pivot to to General Election
Under the city’s new election rules, absentee ballots were able to be dropped off as late as 8 p.m. Tuesday night, when polls closed, resulting in thousands of votes that needed to be counted alongside in-person precinct results, delaying any certainty for the candidates long into the night.
Wu was first to declare victory in the preliminary race, sending out a statement at 11:25 p.m. that she was “excited” to advance to the general election.
“Together, we have and will continue to take on the big challenges we were told would be impossible – from passing paid parental leave to standing up to big corporations to protect rental housing,” she said. “But we have always believed that more is possible. And now is the time for all of us to lead.”
Essaibi George, who had positioned herself as the moderate on certain issues like policing to the other candidates’ more progressive stances, claimed her spot in the general election in a statement at 1:25 a.m. after Campbell, Janey and Barros conceded.
“As I’ve said before, you won’t find me on a soapbox, you’ll find me in our neighborhoods,” she told supporters Tuesday night according to her prepared remarks, and pledged “I do not and will not govern in a bubble.”
“I don’t fit neatly in a box. I want progress to be made, real progress,” she added. “But at the end of the day, we’re doing an injustice to our residents when we don’t back up those ideas, those values, with action. … The mayor of Boston can not make the T free. The mayor can not mandate rent control. These are issues that the state must address. The mayor can take charge and fix the schools. The mayor can help those on Mass and Cass. The mayor can deliver better parks, more small business help, and keep our neighborhoods safe. I will be that mayor.”
Housing Tops Voters’ Concerns
Both Essaibi George and Wu thanked their competitors in a historic race that saw, for the first time, no white major candidate on the ballot for Boston mayor and saw a Black woman competing as the city’s incumbent leader.
“[A]t City Hall – as the first woman and first Black Mayor of Boston – we not only made history, but we made a difference,” Janey said in her concession statement. “Crime is down, people are staying in their homes due to work we’ve done with rental assistance and an eviction moratorium, our children are safely back in school and Boston is one of the most vaccinated big cities in America.”
The race has been marked by significant voter concern about housing prices and a yawning regional racial wealth gap, things all candidates addressed in their campaign promises and plans. The real estate development community has likewise followed the race with intense interest, given the Boston mayor’s strong control over the Boston Planning & Development Agency and historic ability to influence the city’s Byzantine approvals process. Most notable, Tuesday night’s result will mean Boston not only is going to elect its first woman mayor and its first mayor of color – Wu’s parents are Taiwanese and Essaibi George is the daughter of immigrants from Tunisia and Poland.
Some of the most aggressive proposals came from Wu, who floated splitting the BPDA into distinct planning and development bodies and launching a citywide rezoning process, and Andrea Campbell, who echoed the call for stronger citywide planning and said she would seek to remove affordable housing developments from the BPDA’s Article 80 approval process in order to speed up development review.
Candidates Wu, Campbell, Essaibi George and former city economic development chief John Barros all penned two op-eds each in Banker & Tradesman outlining how they would boost housing production and describing their vision for development should they win in November. Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s campaign declined repeated invitations to do the same.
Updated 10:27 a.m. 9/15/2021: This story has been updated to reflect the final unofficial vote totals reported by Boston election officials.