BOSTON (Associated Press) — Boston is about to narrow its field of first-time mayoral candidates to two people of color, possibly both women — a stark change from the unbroken string of white men elected mayors in the city’s first 200 years.
On Tuesday, voters cast their ballots in a mayoral primary that will select two top contenders from among five lead candidates, all of colour, four women. The two winners will face each other on November 2, ushering in a new era for a city beset by racial and ethnic conflict.
Read more: Public Wake-up memorial service for Sergeant Johann Rosario Piccardo in Lawrence
Acting Mayor Kim Jane and city councilor Anissa Alsabi George, Andrea Campbell, Michelle Wu, and John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief, are vying to become the top contenders.
Janie already made history, becoming the first black woman from Boston and the first woman to hold the city’s highest office in an acting capacity after former Mayor Marty Walsh resigned earlier this year to become President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labor.
All candidates are Democrats. The Mayoral races in Boston do not include the party primaries. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
Candidates come from a range of backgrounds. Wu’s parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. Janie and Campbell are black. Esbi George described herself as a first-generation Arab-Polish-American. Barros of Cape Verdean descent.
Wu has led the other top four candidates in a number of recent polls, leading to a scramble among the other contenders for second place if Wu holds up.
Boston has changed radically since the days of the 1970s, when the city found itself in the national spotlight due to turmoil caused by school desegregation, and in the late 1980s, when the Charles Stewart affair once again fueled racial tensions.
The most recent US Census statistics show that residents who identify as white make up 44.6% of the population compared to black residents (19.1%), Hispanic residents (18.7%), and residents of Asian descent (11.2%).
The city also changed politically.
Read more: Corona virus in Massachusetts: developments today
In 2018, former Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley defeated Democratic U.S. Representative Michael Capuano to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. That same year, Rachel Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, won the election to become the first district attorney in Boston and the first woman of color to hold such a position anywhere in Massachusetts. In July, Biden nominated her to become the state’s top federal prosecutor.
Among the challenges to the city are those brought by gentrification, which forced many long-time residents, including those living in historically black neighborhoods.
Added to this are a host of other challenges the new mayor will face, from transportation issues, racial injustice and policing to schools and the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most pressing issues is the cost of housing, which is outweighing the financial means of many potential tenants and homeowners.
There were moments of controversy during the campaign.
Jani has been blamed for invoking slavery and lies about Barack Obama’s citizenship pushed by Donald Trump when discussing New York’s efforts to require people to prove they’ve been vaccinated before entering indoor public spaces.
She later retracted the comparisons, saying “I wish I hadn’t used those comparisons.”
Boy George found herself under the microscope after the Boston Globe reported that her city council office had tried to undermine a building project that would have obscured the view of her husband’s luxury apartment building.
Al-Sibi George later said that her husband’s name was not brought up at municipal hearings and only learned of his involvement after questioning by journalists.
The contest is also the first primary in the city’s history to allow voting by mail. The contest also allowed early voting last week.
More news: Activating the Massachusetts National Guard to help deal with the shortage of school bus drivers
(© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)