In recent weeks, the city of Boston has been enveloped by an extremely competitive mayoral race. During the preliminary election on Sept. 14, Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George came out on top, earning themselves spots in the upcoming general election on Tuesday, Nov. 2; both women are current Boston city councilors.
For centuries, Boston has only elected white men to the mayoral office. But this year, two women of color are competing for the position—Essaibi George is a first-generation American and Wu is Asian American. Regardless of the election's outcome, Boston will be welcoming its most diverse mayor yet.
However, many Black leaders and predominantly Black communities in Boston are feeling deep disappointment at the result of the preliminary election. Considering there were three Black candidates in the race, many were hopeful that there would be a strong chance for one to make it to the general election and ultimately win. With Wu and Essaibi George as the candidates for the general election, the Black community’s vote is even more important than ever. Nevertheless, Black Bostonians’ votes are likely to be the deciding factor in this election and both Wu and Essaibi George have been spending significant time courting that community in recent days. Wu has put lots of resources into canvassing in the Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury and Hyde Park, both of which have large Black populations, while Essaibi George has spent time in similar places, hosting community forums and participating in local events like kickball games.
This week, the race heated up even more, with Representative Ayanna Pressley endorsing Michelle Wu. Up to this point, very few high-profile endorsements had been made, and many feel that this could be a turning point in this election cycle for Wu. Rep. Pressley has gained national recognition in recent years as a progressive congresswoman and a member of the group nicknamed “The Squad,” consisting of Representatives Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar. An endorsement from someone of this level for a mayoral race is somewhat uncommon and will likely boost Wu in the polls, helping her to earn the essential votes of Black Bostonians that will be the deciding factor in this upcoming race. Acting Mayor Kim Janey also threw her support behind Wu, while former candidate and City Councilor Andrea Campbell has said she will be waiting to endorse a candidate to see who makes stronger and more concrete commitments to the Black community.
Despite their different experiences, Wu and Essaibi George have centered their platforms around similar issues. One major issue in the race is the Boston Public Schools and public education, especially during the pandemic. For Bostonians, reopening schools safely and ensuring that all students have access to the same resources, such as technology, are of paramount importance. Essaibi George touts her track record of consistent involvement with the Boston Public Schools, not just as a student but also as a teacher and parent. Her plan focuses heavily on the impact of the pandemic and instituting policies and initiatives that help reintegrate students back into an in-person setting, as well as giving parents an option to have their children repeat a year of school if they feel their child has fallen irreparably behind. Similarly, Wu has publicized her strong educational plan on her website, social media, and on the campaign trail. She presented a comprehensive eight-step plan to revamp BPS, including how the intersectionality of the climate crisis, anti-racism, and education deeply impacts the diverse student body of Boston’s schools. She presented her idea of a Green New Deal for BPS that promotes clean and efficient facilities with respect to things like water, air, and temperature, as well as using schools as community hubs to bring people together around art, sports, and more.
Additionally, the housing crisis and lack of affordable housing is a major platform for both women. Essaibi George pledged to increase the affordability and accessibility of housing through concrete steps such as making better use of Boston Housing Authority land and investing in Boston Home Buyer and first time home buyers programs to allow housing to be available to all. As with her education plan, Wu emphasized the intersectionality of the housing crisis with many other campaign issues. Her plan focuses on city planning, the rental market, and the homeless crisis, but she also reiterated how racism, public health, and climate change are deeply intertwined with with the housing market and how, in order to tackle one crisis, it is essential to look at the bigger picture and try to fix problems in congruence with one another.
The campaigns have entered their final month before election day and things are certainly heating up, including a controversy over how Essaibi George, born and raised in Boston, spoke about Wu’s Chicago upbringing. Over the next four weeks, Bostonians are sure to continue being bombarded with ads, phone calls, and lawn signs promoting each of these extremely qualified women. Ultimately, Boston will be electing its first female mayor of color, a huge step for this historically white-washed New England city. This is an exciting time for Boston, as the city will certainly be electing its most diverse mayor to date, an inspiring moment for everyone.