Former Republican State Representative Advances To Boston City Council General Election

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How many candidates for city council in Boston have served as both a city councilor and state representative?

How many of them have been elected as a Republican in Boston?

The answer: one. Althea Garrison.

A perennial candidate for public office since the 1960s, Garrison finished in the top eight in the at-large city council preliminary election on Tuesday, September 14.

Garrison, now an independent, came in seventh place out of 17 candidates, according to the city of Boston. Garrison received 16,810 votes, or 6.1 percent of the vote.

The 80-year-old Garrison is a biological male who identifies as a woman — and a conservative. Garrison is pro-life, supports the police, and supported former President Donald Trump. Unlike many Republicans, however, Garrison supports rent control.

Garrison has run for office as a Democrat, Republican, and independent over the years. However, Garrison’s lone outright victory came as a Republican in 1992 when running for state representative in the Fifth Suffolk District.

Garrison received 54.9 percent of the vote running against Democrat Irene Roman in the Fifth Suffolk District in 1992. Garrison benefited that year from a successful effort by the state Republican Party to get the incumbent, Nelson Merced, a Democrat, thrown off the ballot by challenging signatures of registered voters submitted on his behalf to get onto the Democratic primary ballot.

Garrison was involuntarily outed by The Boston Herald days after winning the election. That makes her the first known transgender person to serve in a state legislature. At the time, the news hurt Garrison’s political career. Garrison lost re-election in 1994.

Although Garrison continued running for office, another success story wouldn’t come for another 25 years.

Garrison served as an at-large city councilor in Boston in 2019 thanks to U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester). Garrison came in a distant fifth place out of eight candidates in the 2017 Boston city council at-large general election. Garrison received less than half the votes of the fourth place finisher Annissa Essaibi George (45,564 votes).

Pressley successfully primaried U.S. Representative Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) in the state’s Seventh Congressional District and won the general election unopposed. Pressley then resigned from the city council to take her seat in Congress. The rules state that if someone resigns, then the person with the next highest vote total serves out the rest of the term. In this case, it was Garrison. And Garrison, despite having many political disagreements with Pressley, campaigned for her in 2018, as WBUR reported.

Garrison sought re-election in 2019, but was unsuccessful. Garrison came in seventh place out of eight candidates in the general election with 15,189 votes. Only the top four won at-large seats. The fourth-place finisher, Julia Meija, got 22,492 votes.

Garrison also ran for office last year. Garrison was a candidate in the Suffolk County register of probate race, coming in third against incumbent Democrat Felix Arroyo and fellow unenrolled candidate Melissa Tyler.

Garrison has never finished in the top four in an at-large city council race. 

Garrison could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Boston’s 2021 citywide general election is set for Tuesday, November 2.


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