Politics

Somerville elects Katjana Ballantyne as next mayor

"Somerville voters showed they want bold, inclusive experienced leadership to move us forward! Now let's get to work!"

Katjana Ballantyne. Handout

In another historically diverse race, Somerville has elected a set of progressive leaders to serve the next term.

On Tuesday, Somerville had to choose between two mayoral candidates who were similar in many ways: both are immigrants, city councilors, and have proven progressive leadership. Though it was a well fought race, City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne won with 55.8% of the vote to her opponent and fellow City Councilor Will Mbah’s 37.6%, according to unofficial election totals.

Ballantyne is the second woman to be elected mayor of Somerville, after Irish immigrant Dorothy Kelly Gay served from 1999 to 2004. She’s served on the City Council representing Ward 7 since 2014, and was twice elected City Council president. Ballantyne also received Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s endorsement. 

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Mbah conceded around 8:20 p.m., as unofficial results were broadcast on local cable. A native of Cameroon in West Africa, Mbah studied environmental science and agriculture in Cameroon and Sweden before winning a work visa lottery and moving to the United States. He moved to Somerville in 2008 knowing no one, and within a decade was elected to the City Council in 2017.

“While I had hoped for a different result, the people of Somerville have spoken and I respect their decision,” he told Boston.com in a statement. “I want to congratulate Councilor Katjana Ballantyne on her victory and on the honor of being selected to represent the great city of Somerville. I also want to thank my supporters who invested their time, energy, and money into a campaign that was bigger than any single person and was dedicated to putting the needs of our city’s residents first. Your belief inspired me and sustained me over the past six months. My campaign may have ended tonight, but our fight for affordable housing and racial equity here in Somerville continues. I look forward to remaining involved and organizing in this community that has given me so much and continuing to fight for bold progressive policies. Onward.”

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On Tuesday, Somerville voters cast a ballot in the first open mayoral election since 2003, and Ballantyne will take over from ninth-term mayor Joe Curtatone, who has served since 2004. Though many thought he was eyeing a run for governor, Curtatone took a job as president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.

New faces on the Somerville City Council

Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston all had stacked City Council fields. Three incumbent councilors-at-large, including Mbah, didn’t run for reelection, as well as councilors in wards 5 and 7, so Somerville will have a shiny new City Council come January.

Eight candidates were vying for the four councilor-at-large spots, and only one was an incumbent. City Councilor-at-Large Kristen Strezo was re-elected with 17.7% of the vote, followed by newcomers Willie Burnley Jr. (16.8%), Charlotte Kelley (16.7%), and Jake Wilson (12.2%).

In Ward 2, incumbent Councilor J.T. Scott won re-election with 65.1% of the vote. The open ward races were tighter, with Beatriz Gomez Moukad winning with 51.7% in Ward 5 and Judy Pineda Nuefeld taking home 54.6% in Ward 7.

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