Politics

Here’s what determined the outcome in the mayoral race preliminary, says Michael Flaherty

“I think that folks in Washington should learn, quite frankly, from this race."

City Councilor at-large Michael Flaherty spoke with WCVB's On the Record about the preliminary elections and the race leading up to it. Yoon S. Byun/Globe staff

There were some unique aspects to Boston’s mayoral preliminary that helped dictate its outcome, according to at-large Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who sat down with WCVB’s On the Record (OTR) Sunday morning to discuss the election that took place Sept. 14. 

Flaherty, who was also on the ballot as an incumbent for at-large city councilor and secured first in the preliminary elections for that position, spoke about why his fellow at-large councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George had a leg up in the race and what their next steps are looking to the November elections. 

1. Why Essaibi George won in a tight race for second place

Polls before the elections predicted that Wu would come out on top among the five candidates, but there was a large uncertainty looming over second place. Essaibi George, Andrea Campbell and Kim Janey were all jostling shoulder-to-shoulder to nab the second slot on the general election ballot.

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On OTR, Flaherty broke down why he thought Essaibi George was able to pick up that narrow second place over her other opponents. 

“Two things happened in this race I think are being missed. One, that both Michelle and Annissa have been on the ballot citywide since 2013, that counts for something … That plus the fact that we were in a pandemic and so everything was cancelled,” Flaherty said.

By “everything,” Flaherty was referring to many of the events that could have been opportunities for the other candidates to get their names out to neighborhoods and their voters, he said. Such events can be critical in a close race like this, and in this case their absence became a missed opportunity that led to huge disadvantages for these candidates, he argued.

Despite their efforts to get out to as many voters as possible, name recognition and their political history in the city of Boston led the two to secure a spot on the ballot, according to Flaherty. 

2. The acting mayor position was not the benefit to Kim Janey that it was for Tom Menino

Throughout the race, comparisons were made between acting Mayor Kim Janey and former Mayor Tom Menino, who was also an acting mayor before securing his first full term. However, Flaherty noted that prior to becoming acting mayor, Menino came from Ward 18, a voter-rich community, and spent 10 years on City Council. 

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His prior political experience gave Menino resources he could leverage once he became acting mayor and then a candidate for mayor, whereas Janey was only on City Council for a term and a half, coming from a much smaller voting base in Roxbury, before becoming acting mayor. 

The mayor's race:

3. The preliminary race was a race on issues

The mayoral primary race was about issues that the city of Boston faces, including public housing, transportation, education, and more, Flaherty noted.

Despite candidates — notably Janey, Campbell and Essaibi George — calling each other out on occasion, the jabs were political and focused on the candidates’ perspectives on certain issues rather than personalities, such as vaccine mandates and response to the Mass and Cass crisis

 “I think that folks in Washington should learn, quite frankly, from this race. This race was a race on issues that were important … It was focused mainly on the issues and not on the personalities,” Flaherty said. 

4. Advice on the next leg of the race

“I think the candidates themselves, if they’re not already doing it, I would advise them, they should be burning up those phone lines,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty says that if there is an opportunity to bring together Kim Janey and Andrea Campbell behind one candidate, despite the rifts that had occurred during the weeks leading up to the preliminary, it would mobilize voters from the Black and brown communities. 

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In the coming weeks, Wu and Essaibi George will need to reach as many voters as possible to gain momentum that will put them in the mayor’s seat this coming November, he said.

Watch the full interview here:

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