Janey will seek full term as Boston mayor

There had been little doubt she would run, but Roxbury pol makes it official

ACTING BOSTON MAYOR Kim Janey, who has looked very much like a candidate for a full term since taking the reins from Marty Walsh two weeks ago, made it official on Tuesday morning, announcing that she will vie to be elected to the seat in the fall election. 

“The work to address the challenges we face from COVID-19 and the racial inequalities that have been inherited from centuries of structural racism will take longer than a few months to change,” Janey said in a statement. “It is going to take fearless leadership, bold action and a commitment to doing the hard work to make Boston the equitable city our residents want, need and deserve. I am 100 percent committed to leading this change.”

The 55-year-old Roxbury resident made history last month when she became the first woman and first African American to take the reins as acting Boston mayor. Now Janey is out to become the first woman and first person of color elected to the post, and she immediately becomes a top contender with all the visibility of her high-profile perch. 

“We can’t go back. We can only go better,” Janey said in a three-minute video announcing her run, echoing a line she has been using that plays off her barrier-breaking ascension. Introducing herself as the city’s 55th mayor, Janey says, “For our city, it’s been a long time coming.” 

The video goes on to position her as heir to a long line black Bostonians who have fought for seats at the table of political power. It features clips of Mel King in his historic 1983 run for mayor, becoming the first black candidate to make it to a final runoff election, and Bruce Bolling who sought the post 10 years later. 

It recounts her coming of age and witnessing the violence and bigotry of Boston’s anti-busing activists. “I’ve been at the center of Boston’s history, the bad and the good,” she says. The video also features more than one close-up of the Converse All-Star high-tops Janey is partial to —  colorful kicks that seem destined to become as much a signature of her campaign as Ed Markey’s worn Nikes were in his Senate reelection race last fall. 

Janey joins an already crowded field of five candidates — all of whom identify as persons of color — in a race being heralded as the election that may break the city’s unbroken string of white male mayors. 

In her announcement video, Kim Janey laces up her All-Stars for her mayoral run.

Janey hails from a family with deep roots in the city and brought a long record as an education advocate to the City Council when she was elected to the Roxbury-based district council seat in 2017. In 2020, she was elected by her colleagues to serve as City Council president, positioning Janey to take over as acting mayor in the event of a vacancy in the city’s top job. That happened last month when Marty Walsh resigned to become labor secretary in President Biden’s cabinet. 

Janey had never aired any ambition to run for mayor, but she was suddenly in the most desirable spot from which to launch a campaign. Although she held off a formal announcement for the nearly three months since Walsh was nominated, Janey has sent every signal that she was preparing to enter the race. She hired the firm headed by Democratic strategist Doug Rubin to help with her transition, and Politico reported last week that she’s hired a campaign manager. She also dramatically ramped up her fundraising efforts, raising $187,000 last month and ending March with $248,000 on hand. 

“I think Kim Janey has gotten off to a good start,” said former city councilor Larry DiCara about her first two weeks in office. “She is trying to make some media every day.” For others in the race, he said, “it is almost impossible to make news every day.” 

A case in point was Monday’s announcement by Janey of a new city-sponsored tourism campaign that is focused on promoting the diversity of Boston’s hospitality and restaurant offerings throughout its neighborhoods. “Building on her commitment to put equity at the center of the City of Boston’s recovery from COVID-19, Mayor Kim Janey today launched the All Inclusive Boston campaign,” trumpeted the City Hall press release on the initiative. 

Though Janey launched All Inclusive Boston at an event in Roxbury, the idea was hatched — and the contract awarded to develop the campaign to a three-firm team that includes two black-owned marketing firms — months months ago under the lead of John Barros, then the city’s economic development chief and now one of the five candidates vying with Janey for the mayor’s post.

“Six months ago, I awarded the largest City contract a woman- and minority- owned business has ever received. The acting mayor is holding a press conference about it this afternoon,” Barros said in a campaign statement on Monday. 

“I had worked on this campaign up until four weeks ago,” Barros said in an interview. “It’s her prerogative in terms of how she wants to roll it out, but I am proud of the creative product and work there and the story that’s being told.”

Janey, who has sought to capitalize on the power and perception of the mayor’s seat, has shed the “Acting” designation that part of her official title.

Along with Barros, three of Janey’s city council colleagues have declared runs for mayor. Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell launched campaigns last September, when it was still assumed that Walsh would seek a third term this year. In January, following Walsh’s nomination to head to Washington, Annissa Essaibi George jumped in the race. State Rep. Jon Santiago announced his run in February.

Janey reported raising $187,000 last month, while spending $69,000 in campaign funds, leaving her with $248,000 on hand. It came after she began ramping up fundraising in February with $42,000 in donations. 

Her expenditures last month included $15,000 to Rising Tide Interactive, a Washington-based digital marketing firm, and $10,000 to Northwind Strategies, the firm run by Rubin. 

As solid as Janey’s fundraising numbers were in March, she was outpaced by Essaibi George, who reported raising $244,515 for the month, and Campbell, who raised $203,000. Essaibi George had $426,313 on hand and Campbell had $975,000 in her account, tops among the mayoral field. 

Santiago raised $180,959 in March and had $525,991 on hand. John Barros raised $182,447 and had $228,697 in his account. Wu raised $175,440 and had $941,192 on hand, putting her nearly on par with Campbell in total funds available. 

Though Janey is likely to raise considerably more in the months to come, she also may not need as much money as other candidates to run strong.

Many have likened her position in the race to that of Tom Menino, another district city councilor without clear mayoral ambitions who vaulted into the acting mayor’s seat by virtue of his position as City Council president. Menino had just two months to establish himself, from Ray Flynn’s July 1993 departure for an ambassador’s post until the September preliminary election, but he placed first in the eight-candidate race and then romped to a 2-to-1 victory in the November final. He went on to be the longest-serving mayor in city history.

“There was never any doubt that Tom Menino would run and, in my own mind, I never had any doubt that Kim Janey would run,” DiCara said of the golden opportunity they each were handed. He pointed out that no Boston mayor, whether elected by the voters or serving as acting role, has been defeated in more than 70 years. “I think by announcing early, Kim Janey gives herself the same head of steam Tom Menino had. It’s up to her to prove herself, to show her good deeds, and, truth be told, to not screw up.” 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Since taking power Janey has dispensed with the “acting” qualifier in front of her mayoral title in everything from press releases to the blue background panel she always speaks in front of, which features the city seal and “Mayor Kim Janey” in large lettering. 

“So let’s keep on going together, Boston,” Janey says at the end of her announcement video.  “Your mayor is asking.”