Michelle Wu secured victory in Boston’s mayoral election Tuesday night, defeating her opponent, at-large city councilor Annissa Essaibi George, by nearly 30 points in a historic race to become the first woman and first person of color to be elected to the office in the city’s 400-year history.
“One of my sons asked me the other night if boys could be elected mayor of Boston,” Wu said in her victory speech at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Cyclorama Building. “They have been, and they will again someday, but not tonight.”
Wu and Essaibi George emerged as the top two vote getters in the Sept. 15 preliminary elections. On election night, Wu garnered 91,239 votes, or roughly 64 percent of the total. Essaibi George fell short with just over 35 percent.
Essaibi George conceded the race just hours after polls closed, voicing her support for Wu in the spirit of cooperation.
“Boston is a city of scrappy, hard-working people,” she said. “When we come together, we can accomplish anything. It’s going to take all of us to move this city forward. This race may technically be over, but the work is not done. Our work is not done.”
Wu, a progressive, held dominant leads in polls leading up to election day. Her platform seeks to build a “resilient, healthy, and fair Boston,” by bolstering education, expanding food access and increasing jobs, according to her campaign website. On the contrary, Essaibi George sought to “prioritize building an economy” and make Boston more affordable for all its residents.
“Wu always seemed to do a good job,” voter Summer Box said. “Every time I look at things she’s done, actions she’s taken or has proposed doing, [I see] she has a track record of working for and with the city of Boston.”
Wu will replace Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who became the city’s first female and first person of color to serve as mayor when Martin J. Walsh took up the post of Secretary of Labor in February.
This election marks the first time since 1930 that the office has not been contested by a member of either of Boston’s powerful Irish-American and Italian-American constituencies.
“It’s a historic election,” voter Jessica Jacobs said. “I’m very excited that we have not only a person of color but a woman taking on the mantle of mayor here in Boston.”
The importance of the election was not lost on Boston voters.
“It’s very important for the city of Boston, for each individual, to vote and be involved in the voting process,” voter Ingrid Nevins said. “It makes a difference in how we live and function.”
Emerson alumna Janice Seidman served as a poll worker for the first time this year at the Boston Public Library’s central branch, and said she was pleased with the voter turnout.
“I worked in the primaries for the first time and now I’m working this,” she said. “I can say that there’s a more steady flow of people this time, compared to the last time, which is good. A lot of interest and a lot of young people.”
Nevins, who voted for Wu, said she hopes Wu will “clean up” the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. The area, now a sprawling tent city, has become the epicenter of the city’s addiction crisis.
“It’s very important that these individuals are looked at as human beings and that they’re given proper mental health care and physical care and medical care,” Nevins said.
“[We’re ready] for every Bostonian experiencing homelessness, mental health, substance use at Mass. Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard and across our city and beyond to have dignity, treatment, and housing,” Wu said in her victory speech.
For Jacobs and other proponents of climate action, Wu represents a new approach to environmentally-friendly policies on the municipal level.
“Michelle had a much more bold vision for how to tackle climate resiliency for the city and would keep it safe for generations to come to protect our beautiful city,” Jacobs said.
“Boston is ready to become a Green New Deal city,” Wu said in her speech, a plan that she has vehemently promoted since the conception of her campaign.
Boston’s Green New Deal will seek to catalyze the city’s transition to renewable energy by decarbonizing and expanding its wind industry. This shift to cleaner energy will create jobs and continue Boston’s push for environmental justice.
Eager Wu supporters showed up to the polls decked in purple and pins, spreading support for their candidate.
“I have voted in every single election since I was old enough to vote, both primaries and general [elections],” voter Susan Collings said. “I had a very clear choice in this election.”
For some, the reason to vote was more than what the candidates could do for the city, but a measure of keeping some from holding the power.
“I came in to vote against someone,” said Peter Yarr, another Wu voter. “I don’t think property developers should be in charge of the city. I absolutely voted against George.”
Though Essaibi George generated staunch opposition—in part due to her developer husband’s flouting of municipal and state building codes—her supporters remained enthusiastic.
“She understands Boston from a grassroots level,” said Deborah Dumel, of Dorchester. “She understands the city’s needs. I think she, out of the two candidates, was probably the perfect choice.”
“I’m never going to stop fighting for this city that I love. I’m never going to stop fighting for the people that I love,” Essaibi George said in her speech.
In addition to the mayoral race, Michael Flaherty, Julia Mejia, Ruthzee Louijeune, and Erin Murphy became Boston city councilors at-large while Lydia Marie Edwards, Edward Flynn and Frank Baker were voted councilors for districts one, two and three, respectively. Brian Worrell, Ricardo Arroyo, and Kendra Hicks became councilors for districts four, five and six, and Tania Anderson, Priscilla Bok, and Liz Breadon were voted councilors for districts seven, eight and nine.
Voters were also faced with three ballot questions on Tuesday night, the first of which asked residents to approve or disapprove a change in Boston’s city charter that would allow city council members to propose and revise city budgets. Question 2 regarded Bostonians’ views on Eversource’s plans to install an electric substation in Chelsea Creek, while question 3 asked whether the current appointed school committee structure should be changed to a school committee elected by Boston residents.
Questions 1 and 3 garnered 68 and 79 percent approval, respectively, while Question 2 received 83 percent disapproval.
Justin Chen, Payton Cavanaugh, and Abigail Lee contributed reporting.