Boston voters turn left

It’s as if someone swapped out the “Vote Here” placards marking city polling places and replaced them with street signs common to the confusing tangle of Boston byways: “Left turn only.” 

A city where municipal races were dominated 25 years ago by voters in the “high-numbered wards,” shorthand for the more conservative white residents populating perimeter neighborhoods like Hyde Park, West Roxbury, and coastal Dorchester, has been moving steadily away from that once predictable pattern. 

Yesterday’s election put a fork in it. 

Michelle Wu, an Asian-American Chicago native, ran away with the top spot in the at-large City Council race, a showing that will further fuel speculation about a challenge in two years to Mayor Marty Walsh. Two Latinas were separated by only 10 votes in the race for the fourth at-large council seat. The liberal contender prevailed in all three competitive district council races, with candidates supported by local political mainstays in Hyde Park and Allston-Brighton swept away by progressive and minority voters flexing their electoral muscle. 

Regardless of the outcome of an expected recount involving Julia Mejia, who had a 10-vote lead over Alejandra St. Guillen in the at-large race, the 13-member council will have 8 women, its first female Latino councilor, and 7 people of color.

It’s a long way from the days of the Dapper O’Neil, the race-baiting throwback who was sent packing 20 years ago. His tired shtick was ended by then-newcomer Michael Flaherty, who fashioned himself as a new Boston candidate from an old-line South Boston family. Two decades later, Flaherty looks very much like the old guard, and his third-place at-large finish made him an anomaly amidst the lefty wave washing over city politics.

City election outcomes have often lagged the broader transformations occurring in Boston. “But for the first time in memory, the City Council is a barometer of a city that is changing — one in which progressives now routinely beat moderates,” writes the Globe’s Adrian Walker.

“The council has been quietly transforming itself for six years, from a small-bore, pothole- obsessed group of neighborhood operators into one with grander ideas about its place, one that thinks of itself as a branch of government — even if not a coequal one,” he adds. 

As it thinks about those bigger ideas, the council agenda will be very much shaped by the changing make-up of its membership.

“Think about the folks who are going to have voices now,” Ricardo Arroyo, a Latino lawyer and son and brother of former city councilors, said at his victory party in the race for the open District 5 seat in Hyde Park. “Think about the issues that are going to be lifted up.” 

As David Bernstein points out, the inroads made in recent years by minority candidates and others traditionally not part of the city’s power structure have come from those who had one foot firmly in the political structure, while championing “outsider” issues that appeal to progressive voters. 

Arroyo certainly represents that. Bernstein also cites, among other examples, Wu’s background working for Elizabeth Warren and Tom Menino and City Council President Andrea Campbell’s prior stint in state government under Deval Patrick. He suggests the winning recipe is one that finds a middle ground between the revolution and business as usual. 

“Boston voters aren’t looking for bomb-throwers and rabble-rousers, but neither are they seeking go-along friends of the powerful,” Bernstein writes for WGBH.

Walsh still stands as the undisputed heavyweight of city politics. At least for now. 

It’s been 70 years since anyone ousted an incumbent Boston mayor. But few saw Ayanna Pressley’s huge victory coming in her race last year against a 20-year congressional incumbent. Time-honored certainties in politics seem less certain these days. At a minimum, Walsh will have to contend with a City Council that’s unlikely to be the pushover of the past. 

“Taken together,” writes Walker, “the results point to a council that could be a potent counterweight to the nearly unchallenged influence of the mayor.” 



Despite President Trump’s visit there on Monday pleading with Kentuckians to send a strong message by reelecting Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, voters sent a very different signal by narrowly choosing Democrat Andy Beshear. (Washington Post

Voters in New York City overwhelmingly passed a measure that will bring ranked-choice voting to municipal elections starting in 2021. (New York Times


A super PAC with ties to Gov. Charlie Baker supported 10 winning city council and mayoral candidates, including Rep. Shaunna O’Connell who cruised to victory in the mayor’s race in Taunton. The PAC also supported five candidates who lost, including Amesbury Mayor Kenneth Gray. (CommonWealth)

Lowell voters rejected ranked-choice voting, choosing instead to elect city councilors and school committee members to both district and at-large seats. (Lowell Sun) In the Mill City’s city council race, Mayor William Samaras finished eighth, and former Senate candidate John Drinkwater was among three new councilors elected. (Lowell Sun)

CItywide, Boston voters rejected the idea of renaming Dudley Square as Nubian Square, which was a non-binding question on the ballot. (WGBH) 

Paul Coogan trounced embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, sweeping up nearly 80 percent of the vote. Just over 1,000 people voted to keep Correia, who has stepped aside from his mayoral responsibilities. (Herald-News

Other mayoral races: Charles Kokoros wins in Braintree by 140 votes. (Patriot Ledger) Linda Tyer wins in Pittsfield. (Berkshire Eagle) Incumbent Jon Mitchell was re-elected with more than 70 percent of the vote in New Bedford. ((Standard-Times) Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini was re-elected to a record ninth term. (Eagle-Tribune) Thomas Bernard wins a second term by a landslide in North Adams. (Berkshire Eagle) Somerville re-elected Mayor Joe Curtatone and all of the incumbent city councilors. (Somerville Journal) Robert Hedlund wins big in Weymouth and Thomas Koch is victorious again in Quincy. (Patriot Ledger) City Councilor Robert Sullivan wins in Brockton. (The Enterprise) State Sen. Donald Humason narrowly wins in Westfield. (MassLive) Domenic Sarno wins in Springfield. (MassLive)

Voters sweep out the entire School Committee in Saugus. (Daily Item) In Holyoke, voters soundly rejected a middle schools project backed by Mayor Alex Morse. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross are pushing legislation that would allow the city to install cameras on school buses to catch drivers who ignore the stop-arms used when children are being dropped off. (CommonWealth)


Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union, reversed his previous sworn testimony and provided a new sworn statement to House impeachment investigators saying he told Ukrainian leaders they were not likely to see a resumption of US military aid until they made a public declaration that they were investigating Joe Biden and other Democrats. (New York Times

President Trump’s defense against the impeachment probe is increasingly relying on repeating false statements about the evidence and other circumstances surrounding the brewing scandal. (Washington Post)


Amazon plans to build a robotics innovation hub in Westborough. (MetroWest Daily News)


Melania Trump is visiting Boston Medical Center today to see a program that helps babies who were exposed to drugs in utero — but not everyone there will be happy to see her. (Boston Globe

UMass Memorial in Worcester joins other hospitals nationwide to raise $700 million to address social inequities that contribute to poor health. (Telegram & Gazette)


T notes: GLX will be a big money loser….T revenues are up thanks to increased sales tax and commuter rail fare revenue…Expect a supersized shutdown on the Orange Line this weekend and Red Line shutdowns are coming soon. (CommonWealth)

Data from the bike-sharing company Lime is revealing the dangerous roads being used by cyclists. (CommonWealth)

Police have not yet issued any citations against a 21-year-old woman who struck and killed with a Jeep a 58-year-old Ipswich man who was bicycling. (Salem News


Federal and state officials have approved renewal of a controversial permit that will allow toxic runoff to be dumped into the Merrimack River in Lowell. (Boston Globe

As the US offshore wind market gears up, the largest wind turbine blade in the world, which is manufactured by General Electric in France, will be stress-tested in Charlestown for six months. (WBUR)


The SJC is getting a legal hot potato — what to do in courts where there aren’t enough attorneys to represent indigent defendants. (CommonWealth)

A Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled that Gov. Charlie Baker overstepped his authority and ordered an end to the state-imposed ban on marijuana vape sales in one week unless the Cannabis Control Commission steps in and reinstates the ban. (State House News)

Four Cape Cod towns — Eastham, Mashpee, Provincetown, and Wellfleethave received subpoenas in connection with an investigation by the US attorney’s office into municipal host agreements with marijuana businesses. (Cape Cod Times

A Globe editorial backs a proposal to guarantee legal representation for low-income tenants in eviction cases. 


An ABC news anchor’s off-air comments about her story about Jeffrey Eptsein being quashed by the network set off a furor (NPR)