Tough road ahead for Yancey

Precinct-level analysis indicates newcomer Campbell tough to beat

CITY COUNCILOR CHARLES YANCEY has represented Boston’s District 4 since the district was created in 1983. In every election since then — both preliminaries and finals — Yancey has taken the top spot at the polls. But all that changed in the September 8 preliminary election, when newcomer Andrea Campbell trounced Yancey, 58 percent to 34 percent. Campbell ran strong across the entire district, which includes large pieces of Dorchester and Mattapan, with slivers of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. But the size of her victory came from running up huge margins in the highest turnout precincts — precincts that also tended to have the largest white populations in the predominantly minority district.


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Campbell topped Yancey in 25 of 32 precincts, including a 54-29 blowout in Yancey’s home Dorchester precinct of Melville Park. The powerful impact of high turnout precincts on the election results is illustrated by comparing the two precincts where each candidate ran best. Campbell’s biggest margin came in the Ashmont Hill precinct, where she won 81 percent of the vote. Ashmont Hill recorded the highest turnout of any precinct in the city — 21 percent — and Campbell garnered 152 votes there to Yancey’s 32. Yancey’s biggest margin came in a Grove Hall precinct, where he picked up 60 percent of the vote, but with only a 6 percent turnout in the precinct that put just 44 votes in his column, with Campbell winning 26.


Yancey’s victories came in the precincts with the heaviest concentration of minority residents. Of the seven precincts he won, not one is more than 5 percent white. That said, in the heavily minority district, 24 of the 25 precincts Campbell won are majority-minority. But there is a strong correlation between how white a precinct is and how likely its residents were to have voted for Campbell.


For example, in addition to her victory in Ashmont Hill, Campbell beat Yancey 78-18 in the district’s only Jamaica Plain precinct, which is also its only majority-white precinct. In the district’s only Roslindale precinct, she took 77 percent of the vote compared to 18 percent for Yancey. Those three precincts gave Campbell her largest margins of victory.


Yancey performed better in the 18 precincts that are less than 5 percent white, but only well enough to win seven of them. Campbell edged him overall in these precincts, taking 46 percent of the vote compared to his 43 percent. Terrance Williams, the race’s third-place finisher, took 10 percent of the vote in these precincts. In the 14 precincts that are more than 5 percent white, Campbell took 67 percent of the vote to Yancey’s 27 percent.


Although these whiter precincts make up only 43 percent of registered voters in District 4, they accounted for 57 percent of the votes in the preliminary, turning out at nearly twice the rate of the precincts that are less than 5 percent white.


Meet the Author

Maya Jonas-Silver

Staff member, MassINC Polling Group
This might appear to show a path to victory for Yancey in the November final election — there is room for a big increase in turnout in the precincts that form his strongest base of support. But just to match Campbell’s vote count from the preliminary, Yancey would need to turn out 70 percent more supporters than he did in September. And in the last municipal election, the 2013 open race for mayor, most precincts saw only small increases in turnout from the preliminary to the final. Even more daunting for Yancey: The 25 precincts Campbell won saw larger increases two years ago between the preliminary and final elections than did the seven precincts Yancey won in September.

It’s possible that Yancey’s supporters were complacent in the preliminary after three decades of watching him sail to victory. It’s possible that after what Yancey described on election night as “a wake-up call” he will reach deep into his base to find the 1,000 extra votes he’ll likely need to win in the final. But with Campbell propelled by the big margin of her preliminary victory, an energized and well-funded campaign, and a series of recent endorsements, it looks like an uphill climb for the longest-serving member of the Boston City Council.