A mayoral miss for Black Boston
Campbell, Janey, and Barros finish out of the running
BOSTON’S NEXT MAYOR will break twin barriers by being the first woman and first person of color to lead the city. But the storyline of big change comes tinged with one where Black residents again are shut out and won’t see a mayor emerge from their community.
The three Black candidates in Tuesday’s preliminary election, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilor Andrea Campbell, and former city economic development chief John Barros, finished out of the running as city councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George advanced to the November final.
Now comes the hand-wringing — and finger-pointing — over what went wrong and what might have been.
Armani White, a community organizer with the group Right to the City, which backed Janey, expressed bitterness at the result. “I think it suggests that the city is not ready to see a Black person lead it,” he told GBH’s Adam Reilly. “What I’m seeing right now [suggests] Boston is not ready or willing to follow Black leadership.”
Former state rep Marie St. Fleur, the first Haitian-American to serve in the Legislature, told the Globe, “It’s the story about all of Boston and the fact that in the state of Massachusetts, the city of Boston, we cannot move the White community to really come out overall to support a Black candidate as mayor.”
While we will need to see ward-level results to know exactly how the vote played out, the reality is that voters who turned out Tuesday actually were prepared to send a Black candidate to the final election — just not necessarily the same one.
The combined vote share of the two Black women in the race, Janey and Campbell, looks like it will be about 40 percent, far more than the total for first-place finisher Wu.
Campbell sought to put a positive gloss on the turn of events. “The real winner tonight was actually Black women,’’ she told her supporters Tuesday night in conceding the race. “Collectively, our vote share surpassed all others. And what that shows is that there is an appetite indeed in this city for change and I know my candidacy helped ignite it, and I’m proud of it.”
But with that collective vote share split between two candidates, it was a hollow victory for those focused on the here and now.
Throughout the race, the candidates and commentators emphasized that Black voters are not “a monolith,” and that the Black candidates should not be viewed as interchangeable. That was surely true. But it’s also true that the Black candidates amassed a huge share of their vote counts in predominantly Black neighborhoods — votes that almost certainly would have coalesced behind a single Black candidate had only one of them run.
Soon after Janey took the reins as acting mayor in March and declared her candidacy, there was talk among her backers of trying to ease Campbell out of the race to provide a clearer path for the city’s first woman and first Black mayor. Campbell was having none of it, with her campaign calling the idea “misinformed and insulting.” Meanwhile, former state senator Dianne Wilkerson led an effort to get Black voters to rally around Janey.
It ultimately was a game of chicken where no one budged.