Wu, Campbell lead money push, but the others are catching up

City Councillors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell are leading the fundraising race in their bids to become Boston’s next mayor, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the state. But other candidates are gaining ground.

Wu and Campbell, who were the first to jump into the mayor’s race, have more than a million dollars each in their campaign accounts, which gives them an important advantage in a crowded field.

“I think Michelle and Andrea...are really demonstrating the benefit of having started early,” said political strategist Wilnelia Rivera said.

In a race where almost half of registered voters were undecided just a month ago, according to a poll sponsored by WBUR, The Boston Foundation and the Dorchester Reporter, money is critical. It helps candidates build name recognition and present their visions for the future of the city.

The field also includes Acting Mayor Kim Janey, City Councillor Annissa Essaibi George, the city’s former economic development chief, John Barros, and state Rep. Jon Santiago.

Wu says her lived experience is the heart of her campaign: She’s the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who, in her early 20s, became the primary caregiver for her two younger sisters after her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“Knowing what it’s like to be up all night in the emergency room waiting for the mental health bed to open up for my mom, or opening a small business with so many hoops and barriers to jump through — and so many other people in similar situations were struggling with that,” Wu said.

Campbell, who joined the race about a week after Wu, also has a story to tell about her life that is central to her campaign: She had a twin brother, who, like her, was the product of Boston Public schools. But she went on to Princeton University and UCLA Law School, while her brother was accused of terrible crimes, cycled in an out of the criminal justice system, and died while in custody.

“Sadly, it’s not a story that is [just] familiar to me,” Campbell told WBUR. “It is familiar to many thousands of residents in the city. And so my work...is about eradicating those inequities and breaking cycles of poverty, trauma, criminalization. And so, I’m excited to run for mayor.”

While Wu and Campbell benefitted from being first to join the race, others are catching up. That includes City Councillor Annissa Essaibi George, who has about half as much cash on hand as Wu and Campbell. But since the start of this year, Essaibi George has raised more raised more than everyone else, except for Wu.

“I’m excited about that because that helps me spread the word and reach more voters,” said Essibi George, a small business owner and a former high school teacher. She’s running as an ally of Marty Walsh, representing a kind of continuity at City Hall.

“I am very proud of my relationship with former Mayor Walsh and what I was able to do in partnership with him,” she said. “[That includes] my commitment to education, our commitment to our most vulnerable residents, especially when we think of homelessness, when we think of those dealing with substance abuse disorder; that’s important to me, and I want to continue that work.”

Meanwhile, Santiago has about a half million dollars of cash on hand — about the same as Essaibi. Barros has about $300,000.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey has less cash than all of her rivals. That›s partly because she only declared her candidacy last month, not long after she succeeded Walsh. But in April, she raised more than $200,000 — more than anyone else in the race. And, of course, Janey has an advantage beyond money.

“You refer to her as ‘Mayor Janey,’” said Tito Jackson, who ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 2017. Jackson pointed out that, as mayor, Janey can roll out initiatives as acting mayor and talk about them at daily press conferences — giving her front-runner status.

But Jackson is heartened that all six major candidates are people of color — focusing one way or another on racial inequalities in the city.
The candidates have four months to make their pitch to voters before the preliminary election in September.

This article was published by WBUR90.9FM on May 6. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership.