Albany Times Union
Boston edges into historic shift in mayoral race
All 5 major candidates are people of color
With Boston’s preliminary mayoral election just a month off, voters are on the verge of making a historic decision by narrowing the field of five major candidates — all of whom are people of color.
Since it first started electing mayors nearly 200 years ago, Boston has only tapped white men to lead the city — a streak certain to end this year, a reflection in part of the city’s changing demographics.
With the departure of former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh earlier this year to become President Joe Biden’s labor secretary, the city has already witnessed a political first — the elevation of Kim Janey as acting mayor, the first woman and Black person to hold the office.
But Janey, who as city council president stepped into the office, is facing stiff competition as she tries to win the post outright. Three fellow members of the Boston City Council — Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Anissa Essaibi George — are also vying to become mayor, as is John Barros, Walsh’s former economic development chief. Each of the candidates identifies as a person of color.
It’s a monumental shift. Boston has wrestled with racial strife throughout its history, including the turmoil over school busing in the 1970s and the case of Charles Stuart, believed to have shot and killed his pregnant wife in 1989 while trying to blame the killing on an unknown Black man, inflaming racial tensions before jumping to his death from a bridge.
All candidates are Democrats, though mayoral races in Boston do not include party primaries and a Republican has not been elected to lead the city since 1930. The top vote-getters in the
Sept. 14 preliminary election will go head-to-head on Nov. 2.
Among the challenges facing the city are soaring housing costs, transportation woes, racial injustice and policing, schools and the ongoing response to the pandemic.
One of the most pressing is the cost of housing, which is rapidly outpacing the financial means of many tenants and prospective homeowners. The candidates agree there is a housing crisis, but offer a variety of solutions.
Wu is pushing to revive a version of rent control, or rent stabilization, which was banned statewide by a 1994 ballot question. The move would essentially limit yearly residential rent increases.
Janey has pushed to increase down payment assistance for income-eligible, first-time homebuyers, while Campbell said she’d quickly begin developing 100 city-owned lots.
George said she’d also support assistance with down payments and closing costs while focusing on the construction of housing for working families.
Barros has advocated neighborhood investment funds that would let local residents buy into new development.