The four front-runners in the race for mayor of Boston are women of color, a remarkable turn of events for a city that has elected only white men to that office since its inception in 1822.
On Tuesday, voters will choose the top two candidates from a field of eight, but polling indicates that only four candidates get a chance to advance – each of whom is a woman of color. The two winners will go head-to-head in the official mayoral election on November 2.
Michelle Wu, the field leader with 31% of the vote, is the first Asian-American woman to serve as city councilor, according to a Suffolk University poll released last week. Closing in an extremely tight race for second place are Acting Mayor Kim Janney on 20%, City Councilor Anissa Esabi George on 19% and City Councilor Andrea Campbell on 18%.
Jenny took office in March when former mayor Martin Walsh went on to become US Secretary of Labor. Jenny and Campbell are both black women. George is the daughter of a Tunisian-Arab father and Polish mother, and identifies as a woman of color. There are four other candidates on the ballot, of whom only three are active, but none polled more than 3% last week.
history will be made
“History will not be made on November 2, the day of the last election,” said David Pelogos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Next Tuesday will technically be history, as both candidates will be persons of color.”
Although remarkable in some ways, the candidates running for mayor are actually a reflection of a city that has undergone significant changes in its racial makeup over the past decades. Long a majority-white city, Boston is now a majority-minority city, with black and Hispanic residents representing 19% of the population and Asians representing 11%. While still the largest single group, whites now represent only 45% of the city’s residents.
A sign of impending political change came in 2018, when Ayana Pressley, a black woman and city council member, ousted 10-time Congressman Mike Capuano as representative for Massachusetts’ Seventh Congressional District.
troubled racial history
Boston, the 24th largest city in America, has a complex and sometimes disturbing racial history. In the years before the Civil War, the city was the center of the abolitionist movement, which sought to end slavery. And during the war, the famous all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was raised there.
But the city hasn’t always lived up to its history. In the 1970s and 1980s, efforts to integrate schools divided by race faced violent opposition from White Bostonians, who objected to black children settling in their neighborhoods for school.
One of the candidates, Acting Mayor Jenny, had experienced those riots as a child. At an event last week, she recalled settling through rock-throwing mobs as a child. He said his presence as acting mayor and mayoral candidate “is testament to how far this city has come.”
Jenny, who became acting mayor when Walsh joined the Biden administration, has already made history in that role as the first woman to run City Hall and the first person of color. A Boston native, she raised her daughter as a single mother in high school, and eventually worked her way through Smith College.
Wu is a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School. She has served on the City Council since 2013 when, at the age of 28, she became the first Asian American elected to that body. The child of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu speaks fluent Mandarin and Spanish.
George is a native Bostonian who attended Boston University and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston. A high school teacher since 2001, George was elected to the city council in 2015.
Campbell, who is also a Boston native, has served on the city council since 2015 and became the first black woman to serve as council president, a position she held for two years starting in January 2018. He briefly worked as Deputy Legal Adviser to Deval. Patrick, the first black person to serve as governor of Massachusetts.
delay in selecting women
Pressley’s election, and now the expected election of a woman of color as mayor, marked significant progress for a city that has not welcomed women into seats of power, said Erin, an associate professor of political science and university O’Brien said. Massachusetts Boston.
“Boston has been very slow to elect candidates of color, and women,” she said. “And even today, when it comes to electing women in 50 states, we’re barely in the middle. So you have a very liberal state, but you don’t have a state where the elected leaders are so diverse of the people. in the form of.”
One thing that will not be unique in the results of Tuesday’s election is the political party of the winner. All four leading candidates are members of the Democratic Party. Boston has not elected a Republican mayor since 1925.
Suffolk’s Paleologos said, whoever wins Tuesday, the result is “going to rewrite history, and in terms of the election, in November, of a person of color, it’s a bigger story.”