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Candidates For Mayor Storm Across Boston In Final Weekend Before Preliminary Election

City councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Chinatown on Saturday. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)
City councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Chinatown on Saturday. (Anthony Brooks/WBUR)

They shook hands with business owners in Roxbury, danced with a neighborhood group in Dorchester, and held get-out-the-vote rallies from Grove Hall to Chinatown.

It’s down to the final hours of campaigning for the five major candidates running for mayor of Boston, and over the weekend, acting Mayor Kim Janey, city councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, as well as the city’s former economic development chief John Barros, criss-crossed the city to try to win over undecided voters.

The preliminary election takes place Tuesday, when voters will decide which two contenders will advance to the final election on Nov. 2.

At a rally Saturday in Chinatown, Wu, the apparent frontrunner, promised to bring historic, progressive change to City Hall.

“Now’s the moment to knock on doors so that we can deliver a Green New Deal in Boston; fair, free transportation; universal pre-K and child care for families,” Wu told a large crowd of cheering supporters at the Chinatown Gate.

According to the latest poll from 7News and Emerson College, Wu is running well ahead of her rivals, with the support of 30% of likely voters. Wu’s campaign seems to be firing on all cylinders at just the right time. She’s the darling of many progressives and the choice of many of the city’s young voters. She also has money in the bank to fuel her campaign into November.

Wu, Janey and Campbell have all raised about $1.5 million since the start of the year. But among the major candidates, Wu has raised the largest share of her contributions from small donations under $100, and the smallest share from larger donations of more than $500, which suggest she is benefitting from considerable grassroots support across the city.

On Saturday, Elizabeth Warren joined the rally in Chinatown to endorse Wu, one of her former students at Harvard. Warren said Wu is committed to policies that will help working families — including expanding child care and affordable housing.

“Michelle [Wu] has good values,” Warren said. “And Michelle has a good plan to enact those values. I love a woman with a plan.”

While Wu appears to be well positioned to snag one of the two spots to advance to the final election, polls suggest that acting Mayor Kim Janey and city councilors Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George are bunched together in a race for the other spot.

Campbell used the weekend to sprint through every one of Boston’s 23 neighborhoods — from Charlestown to the North End to Dorchester to Roxbury. At a get-out-the-vote rally in Roxbury on Saturday, Campbell told a crowd of supporters that her lived experience is an important part of what she would bring to City Hall. She and her twin brother grew up poor in Roxbury; he died while in criminal custody, while she went to Princeton University and law school at the University of California Los Angeles. But she said she’s also running on her record of accomplishments as a city councilor.

“I’ve done the work when it comes to creating more affordable housing in the city of Boston,” Campbell said to group of cheering supporters. “I’ve done the work when it comes to closing the gaps in our education system. I’ve done the work when it comes to policing reform and ensuring that our police department is the most transparent and accountable in the country. And I did that long before George Floyd.”

Campbell said her campaign is benefiting from momentum, and there’s some evidence of that. Not long ago, she was running well behind in the pack, but the latest polls show her in a statistical tie with Essaibi George and Janey.

Janey, who held a get out the vote rally Sunday afternoon in Grove Hall, is running as the incumbent, which gives her both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, she has been able to use the trappings of the mayor’s offices to show that she’s in charge. She has held regular press conferences to announce policies — including vaccine equity grants, a moratorium on evictions and a free bus line.

On the other hand, she’s been frequently targeted — particularly by Campbell and to some extent by Wu — for not being aggressive enough in responding to COVID-19. But Janey is making a case that she’s managed the city well through the pandemic.

“In the last five months, we’ve accomplished a lot,” Janey declared at a recent debate sponsored by WBUR. “I’ve opened up the city. We have our kids back in school. Crime is down. We’re keeping people in our homes, [and] Boston continues to be one of the most highly vaccinated big cities in America.”

Essaibi George also had a busy weekend, campaigning in South Boston, Hyde Park,  Roslindale and Dorchester, where she talked to voters at a neighborhood jobs fair on Saturday. Of all the major candidates, Essaibi George identifies the most with former Mayor Marty Walsh, representing a kind of continuity.

On Saturday, she said her campaign is driven by her identity as a mother, a former teacher and a small business owner — and that she’s focused on public health, public safety and improving the city’s schools.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do around the opioid crisis and making sure that our kids, as they return to the classroom, have access to a high quality education,” she said.

Essaibi George, who has rejected calls to defund the police and has been endorsed by former Police Commissioner William Gross, is often described as the moderate in this historically diverse field of candidates. Asked if she’s comfortable with that label, she said, “I’m comfortable when people describe me as someone who is willing to do the work.”

“I look forward to building a team that has diversity of representation,”Essaibi George said. “When we think about labels, I hope mine is ‘mayor.’ And that’s what I want people to call me — soon.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 WBUR

Anthony Brooks has more than twenty five years of experience in public radio, working as a producer, editor, reporter, and most recently, as a fill-in host for NPR. For years, Brooks has worked as a Boston-based reporter for NPR, covering regional issues across New England, including politics, criminal justice, and urban affairs. He has also covered higher education for NPR, and during the 2000 presidential election he was one of NPR's lead political reporters, covering the campaign from the early primaries through the Supreme Court's Bush V. Gore ruling. His reports have been heard for many years on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
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