Last week’s election for Boston City Council drew about 16.5 percent of the city’s electorate to the polls. The underwhelming turnout notwithstanding, the results of the election were notable for many reasons.
Firstly, when seated in January 2020, the new council will be the most diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender in city history. Eight of the 13 councillors will be women. A majority of the council— 7 of the 13— will be people of color. There is an open question at the moment as to who will be seated in the fourth at-large council slot. But whether it’s Julia Mejia or Alejandra St. Guillen who prevails following a recount, the council will add a Latina voice to its chamber.
Mejia surged between the preliminary— in which she placed fifth— and the Nov. 5 final. In Mattapan and parts of Dorchester, where she has long been a resident, Mejia posted strong showings. Often, she was in the top four. In some places, like Mildred Ave’s 17-7 precinct, Mejia actually topped the ticket over the incumbents. She finished third at Codman Square Library. She grabbed the fourth spot at one of the two Lower Mills precincts (17-14).
St. Guillen was stronger in her own base— Mission Hill, JP, Roslindale. But she showed weakness in predominantly African-American precincts across wards 13, 14, 15 and 17.
Most impressive, of course, was Councillor Michelle Wu, who topped the ticket with 20.7 percent of the citywide vote. She captured 41,616 votes— about 7,000 more than her two colleagues who came in second and third— Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty.
Essaibi-George, it should be noted, was impressive in her own right. Tuesday marked her debut in second place. Her vote total continued to grow across the city and she topped the ticket in 23 of the city’s precincts, including in places like West Roxbury and Allston. She was consistently second behind Wu across Boston. It’s notable, too, since Essaibi-George was not “ticketed up” with other candidates. Wu joined forces with St. Guillen and District 7 Councillor Kim Janey, for example. Essaibi-George carved her own path to victory and has assembled a base of support that is now truly citywide.
In District 5, Ricardo Arroyo prevailed over Maria Esdale Farrell. Both candidates have deep roots in Hyde Park, but it was Arroyo who made the more effective appeal to voters in Roslindale and Mattapan. He won 22 of the 30 precincts in the district. The 54-45 margin of victory for Arroyo was a matter of 927 votes in his favor. (The total tally was 5,325-4,398.)
Of the three new faces who will join the council in January (Liz Breadon will represent Allston-Brighton, filling a vacancy left by Mark Ciommo), Arroyo may be the most intriguing. The 32-year-old son of Boston’s first-ever Latino councillor— Felix A. Arroyo— he was reared in a family devoted to public service and politics. He went to law school, became a public defender and has been an advisor to Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins.
Arroyo speaks bluntly—yet eloquently— about the racial divide in Boston and how his own experience in a trailblazing Boston family has taught him how to navigate and improve the city.
In District 4, Andrea Campbell won her third term as councillor for Mattapan and Dorchester by defeating Jeff Durham by a staggering margin of nearly 88 percent. The raw vote count was 5,732-492. There was never really any question as to the outcome of this little-watched race. This election offers ample evidence that Campbell has mastered the job of solidifying her base.
The Boston City Council’s Class of 2020 will be more diverse and more progressive than the one now seated. That’s a good thing for the city.
- Bill Forry