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Michelle Wu, Boston’s First Asian American Mayor Breaks Barriers in Politics

At 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday November 2nd, the city of Boston anxiously awaited the results of a historic election that would define the city’s direction for the next four years. Two candidates, Michelle Wu, former council member, and it’s first Asian American Council President, along with Annissa Essaibi George, a fellow city council member and Boston native, were on the ticket for Mayor. A position which had been held exclusively by white men since the city's first mayor was elected in 1822.

The city broke this trend in March 2021 when then mayor, Marty Walsh, resigned after being confirmed as the Secretary of Labor in President Biden's Cabinet. City council president, Kim Janey, was then promoted to acting mayor of the city in a historic move making her the first woman, and person of color, to have the position in the city.

Janey, along with several other candidates, however, were unable to secure enough votes in the preliminary election on September 21 to be a candidate in the general election. This narrowed the race to Wu and Essaibi George as the two candidates that were going to square off for the mayoral seat.

The two candidates, both democrats, but running unaffiliated with any political party, shared similar concerns on the same issues, but often differed on how to address them. Wu, a clear progressive, while Essaibi George, more moderate, described herself as a candidate that would take a more “pragmatic” approach. Both candidates shared concern for issues such as housing, infrastructure, and public safety, but often disagreed on how to address it.

In their final debate, both candidates shared their plans on how they would address many pressing issues in the city, one in particular being an ongoing humanitarian crisis around the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, also known as Mass and Cass. Wu mentioned that she would perform an audit on properties to see which can be repurposed as housing. Essaibi George agreed, mentioning opening up a former detention center run by the county sheriff, while also using a local hospital to provide more accommodation.

The two differed in opinion when Essaibi George emphasized rebuilding a bridge that was closed down in 2014, cutting off access to houselessness and addiction services for many. Wu said that rebuilding the bridge would cost too much money and take too long to address the current issue. Emphasizing a need for expediency in the matter.

When asked about quality of life issues, Essaibi George pressed Wu on her “Bold Vision” with the Green New Deal plan for the city, stating:

“We need to fill potholes, we need to repair sidewalks, we need to make sure the trash gets picked up and the lights get turned on every single evening. It’s not fancy, but it’s important.”