Boston Mayor’s Race Narrows, With a Progressive in the Lead

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The city ends a 91-year succession of Irish American and Italian American mayors, with Michelle Wu earning one of two places in the November general election.

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BOSTON — Michelle Wu, an Asian American progressive who has built a campaign around climate change and housing policy, earned one of two places in Boston’s preliminary mayoral election on Tuesday, setting the stage for change in a city. done, which has only been chosen for almost 200 years. White men.


As a pioneer, Ms Wu, 36, marks a grand departure for a city whose politics has long turned on neighborhood and ethnic rivalry.

The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she is not from Boston, and has built up an ardent following as a city councilor by proposing sweeping structural changes, such as making city public transport freehandjob reinstate a form of rent control, and introduction Country’s first city level Green New Deal.

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Counting of votes progressed slowly on Wednesday morning and the Associated Press did not immediately announce who finished second behind Ms. Wu. But another councillor, Anisa Esaibi George, announced that she had won second place in the November general election, and her two closest competitors told supporters they had lost.

Ms Essabi George, 47, has established herself as a moderate, winning support from traditional power centers such as former police commissioners and firefighters’ unions.

In a debate last week, he promised voters that if they were elected, “You won’t find me on the soapbox, you’ll find me working in the neighborhood.”

The November 2 matchup is expected to test the consensus that emerged among many national Democrats after the New York mayoral primary: that liberal black voters and older voters would draw the Democratic Party to its center, particularly on issues of public safety. Feather.

For weeks, polls showed two leading black candidates – Acting Mayor Kim Janney and City Councilor Andrea Campbell – in a dead heat for second place with Ms Essabi George. But turnout in the independent preliminary election was low on Tuesday, and they appeared to be declining.

The prospect of a general election without a black candidate came as a bitter disappointment to many in Boston, which seemed closer than ever to electing a black mayor.

“Boston is a northern city,” said 62-year-old John Hallett, who supported Ms Jenny, in despair. “They have Black mayors in Atlanta, in Mississippi, and other places in the South. I think it’s just ridiculous. Seriously, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to do.”

The winner of the election will take charge of a rapidly changing city.

Once a blue-collar industrial port, Boston has become a center for biotechnology, education and medicine, attracting a stream of affluent, highly educated newcomers. Housing costs have skyrocketed, forcing many working families to settle for substandard housing or travel long distances.

Ms. Wu, a Chicago native who came here to attend Harvard University and Harvard Law School, speaks to those new arrivals and their concerns, acknowledging that her major proposals are “pushing the envelope. “

“Others sometimes describe them as ‘pies in the sky’ because they are courageous, reaching for that brighter version of our future,” she said. “What we celebrate in Boston began as scenes that may initially seem ‘pie in the sky,’ but were what we needed and deserved. And people fought for them.”

Throughout its history, she says, Boston has served as a laboratory for new ideas such as public education and for movements such as abolitionism, civil rights, and marriage equality.

“This is a city that knows how to fight for what is right,” said Ms Wu, who credits her law professor Elizabeth Warren with helping her get into politics.

But Boston’s most loyal voters are in predominantly white neighborhoods, where many question Ms Wu’s policies and calls for police reforms after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Those voters rallied around Ms Essabi George, who grew up in Dorchester, the daughter of Tunisian and Polish immigrants, and is the only candidate. protest against cuts in police budget and favor Increasing the number of officers on the streets of Boston.

At a victory ceremony that began shortly before midnight, Ms. Asyby George, along with all three of her teenage children, began in criticism of Ms. Wu and her policy-wink platform.

“We need real change, and it doesn’t just come with ideas or academic practice, which comes with hard work,” she said. “I don’t just talk, I work. I do. I dig and reach for it. That’s how my parents raised me. That’s how this city built me.”

She moved to punch holes in two of Ms. Wu’s signature platforms to elicit cheer from the crowd. “Let me be clear,” she said. “The mayor of Boston cannot free T. The mayor of Boston cannot mandate rent controls. These are issues the state must address.”

Supporters of Ms Essabi George, who wore her campaign’s trademark hot pink T-shirts on the side of a Dorchester road on the eve of the election, were mostly white, and they called public safety a top concern. Robert O’Shea, 58, recalled the 1965 pop ode “Dirty Water” for the polluted Charles River and its “lovers, robbers and thieves”.

“Well, when this was written, nobody wanted to be here,” he said. “Look what it is now. I’ve seen this city grow so much, I can’t afford to buy the house I live in.”

Mr O’Shea said he was not hostile to Ms Wu, or what he called “all this progressive stuff”.

“It’s all great, although the socialism aspect of it scares me a bit,” he said, noting that many of his relatives are Boston police officers. “But people need to be safe. People need to feel safe in their homes before saving the world.”

One reason Boston may prove more receptive to progressive candidates is that it’s a very small townAbout a third of its population is between the ages of 20 and 37.

“Its manufacturing jobs have mostly disappeared, making way for richer, better-educated newcomers,” said Larry DiCara, 72, a former Boston city councilor, “people who can read the Times but don’t go to church.” . And it wasn’t a blow from a rise in violent crime over the summer, something that may have shifted votes in New York toward Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams.

Ms Wu had no choice but to build her political base around a set of policies because she could not bank on ethnic or neighborhood equality, said Jonathan Cohn, chairman of the Ward 4 Democratic Committee, which supported her. did.

“There’s a real way that politics is often done here, ‘which church, which school, what neighborhood,’ and she’s trying to move it into the policy discussion,” he said.

When Ms Wu entered the city council in 2014, the body was primarily concerned with constituent services, but over the next few years it became a forum for national-level policy on climate change and police reform. The policies Ms. Wu focused on, such as fare-free transit and the Green New Deal, emerged as her mayoral platform.

Some observers question whether Ms. Wu’s policy platform will be enough to propel her into the November general election.

“People want the city to work for them, they don’t want good policies,” said Kay Gibbs, 81, who served as a political aide to the city’s first black city councilor Thomas Atkins and Representative Barney Frank. Boston’s next mayor, she said, will have her hands full of the basics, taking control of powerful forces within a sprawling city government.

“Voters are smarter than we think, and they have some interests that don’t reach all these dream ideas of free public transportation and a Green New Deal,” he said. “They’re going to pick the person they think is most capable.”

Boston is growing rapidly with its Asian and Hispanic population increasing rapidly. It has seen a shrinking percentage of non-Hispanic white residents, who now make up less than 45 percent of the population. And the percentage of black residents is falling as well, falling from about 22 percent in 2010 to 19 percent.

Ms. Jenny, who was then the city council’s chair, met Martin J. After Walsh became the country’s labor secretary, she became acting mayor, and many assumed she would run in the general election. But she was cautious in her new role, clinging to the script largely in public appearances, and damaged by criticism from her rival, Ms. Campbell, a Princeton-educated lawyer and vigorous campaigner.

During a campaign on Monday, Ms Jenny said being in power did not necessarily prove to be an advantage.

“I would definitely say, if anything, it’s a double-edged sword,” she said.

Municipal elections, especially early elections, tend to be less white and older than the city as a whole. Steve Kozella, president of MassInk polling group, said change has only begun to rip through Massachusetts in the past few years, which has seen many ups and downs for progressive women of color.

“It is the culmination of the resilience of the new political force,” he said.

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