The Race is On: Boston Mayoral Election 2021
Updated: Jan 29
Tuesday, November 2, 2021, will mark the Boston Mayoral Election of 2021. Incumbent Marty Walsh will be up for reelection for a third term, seeking to extend his tenure as Boston’s 54th mayor. Although the odds are in his favor as no Boston mayor seeking reelection has lost since 1949, this election will be a competitive one nonetheless. With more and more candidates declaring their candidacy for the position, this election will undoubtedly be a close one and the clock begins now to see who will be the mayor of Boston for the next three years.
Michelle Wu, 35 and a Harvard Law School graduate, announced her candidacy for the 2021 Boston Mayoral Election on September 15, 2020. If Wu wins, she will make history as she would be the first woman and person of color to lead Boston; the city has only ever had a White male as its mayor. Wu is a native of Chicago and the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. She never thought that she would have a career in politics, let alone run for such an esteemed position. In an interview with CNBC Make It, Wu said that as a daughter of immigrants who had nothing in their pockets and barely spoke English, she felt that her aim was to just grow up and get a stable job that kept her out of trouble. Wu certainly exceeded those expectations, as she attended Harvard both as an undergraduate and law school student where she worked under her then law school professor Elizabeth Warren. Wu’s experience with helping Warren with her senator campaign, as well as her passion for giving back to the community, led her to running for the Boston Council in 2013. Not only did she win in November of 2013, but she has since been reelected for the position three times and now has her eyes set on the mayoral position. Wu promises that if she were to win the election, she would focus on closing the racial wealth gap, ensuring a great education for all kids in Boston, implementing a Green New Deal for the entire city, and promoting transportation services.
In addition to Wu, Andrea Campbell also recently announced her candidacy for the mayoral election. Campbell was born and raised in Boston; she attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, followed by Princeton University and then the UCLA School of Law. After a legal career of working for a non-profit based out of Roxbury and serving as a Deputy Legal Counsel to Governor Deval Patrick, Campbell also won the 2015 Boston City Council election. This was a monumental win for her as she defeated the 16 term incumbent Charles Yancey with 61% of the vote. She won her reelection twice since then, and currently serves on four committees: Community Preservation Act, Public Safety & Criminal Justice, Rules and Administration, and Whole. On September 24, 2020, Campbell announced her candidacy and is a strong advocate against racial injustice and unethical policing. Her own twin brother, Andre Campbell, served a series of prison sentences and died in pretrial custody at the age of 29 due to an untreated illness. Andrea Campbell uses her brother’s story as inspiration to reform the sectors of the city that led to his unfortunate death; she promises that with her as mayor, there will be a significant change in the criminal justice system.
Marty Walsh, on the other hand, has not explicitly announced running for a third term but has hinted at that reality. As a part of his annual address to the Greater Boston Chamber Commerce, he claimed that ending systemic racism needs to be a focal point now as he does not want to have this same conversation on racial injustice three years from now. This statement envisions Walsh as speaking to the Commerce once again in three years and thus suggests that he foresees himself as mayor again and will thus pursue reelection. When asked by reporters at the end of this address if there is something larger he would like to tell the people about his plans for the future, Walsh responded with a vague statement on not looking down the road too much and how his attention is focusing on the issues at the current moment. Mayor Marty Walsh has advocated for working on the response to COVID-19 as it is especially disproportionately impacting people of color, calling upon the business community to help children with limited technological resources for remote learning, and raising funds for other civilian-driven initiatives. Walsh will be running against two women of color and according to an early poll conducted in September by GBH/MassINC, Walsh has 46% of the public support while Wu has 23% and Campbell has 4%. Though it is far too early in the race to put any serious weight to these numbers, they give some perspective of the Boston electoral population.
The Boston Mayoral Election of 2021 will be pivotal for the not just the three years of the
elected official’s term, but the years thereafter as the policies they support will pave the way for long-term reform of some of the city’s deeply rooted inequities. Although we are still a year out from the election, the race is on to see who will be the 55th mayor of Boston. Will it be Walsh, Wu, Campbell, or another candidate? Time, and more importantly, the people, will tell.
Editor's Correction: Councilor Andrea Campbell would not be the first Black woman to run for the mayoral race in Boston. Charlotte Golar Richie ran for the position in 2013.