Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George advanced from Boston’s mayoral primary election Tuesday night. As of Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST, Wu received 33.4% of the vote to Essaibi George’s 22.5%. Eight candidates were on the ballot.
Wu and Essaibi George are both at-large city councilors. They defeated fellow city councilors Andrea Campbell and Kim Janey (who received 19.7% and 19.5% of the vote, respectively) along with three other candidates to advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Janey is also the city’s acting mayor, having succeeded Marty Walsh in March 2021 when he became secretary of labor in President Joe Biden’s (D) administration.
Media outlets have described Essaibi George as the more moderate of the leading candidates in the primary and Wu as one of the more progressive candidates. A former teacher and a member of the council since 2016, Essaibi George has emphasized her opposition to defunding the police and has discussed housing, schools, and public safety as priority issues. Wu has highlighted her climate plan, including a Boston Green New Deal, and her support for rent control. Wu has been on the city council since 2014.
Either will be the first woman to serve as Boston’s mayor. Essaibi George and Wu have emphasized that they are the children of immigrants. Wu’s parents are Taiwanese. Essaibi George’s mother is from Poland and her father, from Tunisia.
On Sept. 14, Boston voters will decide which two of seven mayoral candidates advance to the Nov. 2 general election.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who succeeded former incumbent Marty Walsh after his appointment to President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet, is seeking election to a full four-year term. Janey also serves on the city council. Three other councilors—Andrea Campbell (District 4), Annissa Essaibi George (at-large), and Michelle Wu (at-large)—are running for mayor. Local media have described Essaibi George as more moderate and the other three candidates as more progressive.
Three independent polls in recent weeks have shown Wu leading the field and Campbell, Essaibi George, and Janey within a few percentage points of one another for second place.
The candidates’ personal backgrounds have been a key theme of the race, which is expected to produce the city’s first non-white, male mayor. All leading candidates are women. Campbell and Janey are Black, Essaibi George is Arab American, and Michelle Wu is Asian American.
Campbell, a lawyer, said the story of her and her brother, who died in prison at 29, was the story of two Bostons divided by access to opportunity. Campbell’s campaign website said, “Andrea’s career has been driven by the pain of Andre’s loss and a fundamental question: How can two twins born and raised in Boston have such different life outcomes?”
Essaibi George is the daughter of a Tunisian father and Polish mother. She emphasizes her background as a teacher—she taught at East Boston High School for 13 years. Essaibi George’s campaign website says this “gave her a front-row seat to the challenges and inequities that Boston families face.”
Janey has discussed her experience as a student during the second phase of busing desegregation in Boston and as one of two Black students in her graduating class. She said her work has “centered around making sure every child has the opportunity to learn and succeed in a more just city than the one I grew up in.” Janey worked for Massachusetts Advocates for Children from 2001 and 2017.
Wu is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. She discusses her experience caring for her sisters when her mother experienced mental illness, saying, “it felt like we were alone, invisible, and powerless.” She said her time on the city council has taught her “what’s possible through city government in Boston.”
Satellite groups have reported spending more than $2 million in the race. Among the highest spenders are the Better Boston PAC, which has spent $1.4 million supporting Campbell; the Real Progress Boston PAC, which spent $425,000 supporting Essaibi George; the Hospitality Workers PAC, which spent $380,000 supporting Janey and opposing Campbell; and the Boston Turnout Project PAC, which spent $334,000 supporting Wu.
Boston will also vote on all 13 city council seats—nine elected by district and four, citywide.
Early in-person voting for Boston’s Sept. 14 primary elections begins Sept. 4 and runs through Sept. 10. The city is holding elections for mayor and all 13 city council seats—four elected citywide and nine elected by district. The two candidates who receive the most primary votes in each race will advance to the Nov. 2 general election. The 17 candidates running for the city’s four at-large council seats will all compete in one race, and the top eight candidates will advance.
Four of the seven mayoral candidates are current city councilors, including the acting mayor. Kim Janey, who represents District 7, became acting mayor after former Mayor Marty Walsh joined President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet as secretary of labor. Councilors Andrea Campbell (District 4), Annissa Essaibi George (at-large), and Michelle Wu (at-large) are also running for mayor.
The Boston Globe‘s Laura Crimaldi wrote, “Although census figures show about 65 percent of city residents identify as people of color, the upcoming election will be the first in Boston history that won’t result in a white man becoming mayor.” Each of the above candidates has argued that her personal experience and record best equips her to lead the city.
With the four mayoral candidates and an additional councilor not seeking re-election, around 40% of city council seats are open.