Who Will Be The Next Mayor of Boston? Political Scientists Weigh In

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2021/09/15/who-will-be-the-next-mayor-of-boston-political-scientists-weigh-in/

The next mayor of Boston will likely be either Michelle Wu or Annissa Essaibi George.

But which one?

The two at-large city councilors declared themselves winners of the preliminary round of the Boston mayoral election on Tuesday, September 14 as their other competitors conceded fromthe race. Wu got 33.36 percent of the vote, Essaibi George got 22.48 percent.

Among also-rans:  city councilor Andrea Campbell got 19.72 percent, acting mayor Kim Janey got 19.47 percent, and the other candidates finished in the single digits, according to the city of Boston.

(Bob Capucci, a pro-life Democrat from East Boston, got 1,175 votes, or a little more than 1.09 percent, or sixth in the eight-candidate race, according to the city’s unofficial results.)

Wu had more support than any of the seven candidates on the ballot in the preliminary round, but how will Essaibi George fare against her in a head-to-head matchup? Political scientists tell NewBostonPost that just because Wu came in first in the preliminary, that doesn’t guarantee a victory.

UMass Lowell political scientist John Cluverius told NewBostonPost that facing Essaibi George benefits Wu more so than if she had to face either acting mayor Kim Janey or at-large city councilor Andrea Campbell, both black women. Essaibi George is half Tunisian and half Polish.

“The race looks a lot easier for Michelle Wu right now,” Cluverius said by email. “To win, Annissa Essaibi George needs to repeat Marty Walsh’s success in the 2013 mayoral race. She needs to put together a coalition of mainline Boston voters that view Michelle Wu as too far to the left, particularly the Black voters and unions that endorsed Kim Janey and Andrea Campbell. There’s also the question of whether she will attack Wu more directly than she has in the past. As the runner-up in the preliminary, Essaibi George needs to draw sharp contrasts between her and Wu that don’t alienate her own voters.”

Suffolk University political scientist Robert Cosgrove says there are still a lot of unknowns in the race, given that Campbell and Janey got about two-fifths of the vote combined and those people are likely voters in the general election. 

“I’d say this is a competitive, toss up race,” Cosgrove said in an email message. “Either candidate could win it and a lot of who does will be decided by the messaging they do for the next several weeks and the mobilization efforts that they undertake as early voting begins and election day itself comes. Michelle Wu is using the kind of branding strategy that progressive Democrats have used nationally. George is closer to the more centrist branding people in both parties use. 

“They both have well articulated substantive agendas but they have important policy differences thus the last question is which candidate can draw that contrast more sharply in a way that energizes and engages more voters, keeps their current supporters on side and attracts support from those who chose another candidate in the primary?”

Cosgrove also said it will be key for both sides to turn out voters who didn’t vote in the preliminary election, specifically ones that fit the demographics that they performed well with on Tuesday.

While UMass Boston political scientist Erin O’Brien said she’d rather be in Wu’s position today, she said it’s too early to tell who wins the election — and that there are at least a couple of things that Essaibi George could have going for her.

“There are a lot of factors,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning. “About 45 percent of voters didn’t vote for either of those candidates, so it depends on where those voters go and if Janey, Campbell, and John Barros choose to endorse. Barros did endorse Marty Walsh in 2013. I also think it’s interesting that of the five in the race, these are the two polarities in terms of ideology. A lot of people say ‘Listen, they’re both Democrats, how different could they be?’  But they’re reflective of the differences in the Democratic Party, a progressive and a pragmatic, more moderate Democrat.”

O’Brien also said there is a class of overlooked swing voters in this election that could choose between voting for Essaibi George and not voting at all:  Republicans and Republican-leaning voters.

“I think it’s clear that Republicans will go with Essaibi George,” O’Brien said, referring to Republicans who choose to vote in the general election November 2. “She’s received support among the police, but there’s also not a ton of Republicans in Boston. That’s the way I see it shaping up.”

And Boston College political scientist Dave Hopkins said it will come down to how well Essaibi George can court Janey and Campbell voters.

“With Wu presumably the favored candidate of white progressives and Asian-Americans, and Essaibi George the favored candidate of white moderates, one of the biggest questions will be how the Black and Hispanic vote divides itself between them,” he told NewBostonPost in an email message on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s the Janey and Campbell supporters who are now the persuadable swing vote, so Essaibi George will need to win over a significant share of their support in order to prevail in the general election.”


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