Boston Mayor Marty Walsh may be headed to Washington, D.C., but the city’s 2021 mayoral race appears on the verge of getting even more crowded.
In the wake of Walsh’s nomination to be President-elect Joe Biden’s labor secretary, the likelihood of a wide-open race for a seat that has traditionally gone to incumbents is attracting an increasing number of eyes across the city’s 48 square miles.
Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, two Boston city councilors and former council presidents, are already in the race, having announced their candidacies last fall well before it was clear that Walsh — who appeared to be readying a campaign for a third term — might be joining Biden’s administration.
Wu and Campbell, who both congratulated Walsh on his nomination Thursday, were campaigning against the mayor, a fellow Democrat, from the left, calling for bolder action to address Boston’s stark socioeconomic inequities. Either would be Boston’s first woman and first person of color elected as mayor.
If Walsh is confirmed as labor secretary, the City Council’s current president, Kim Janey, would be elevated to acting mayor, becoming herself the first woman of color to lead the city.
The Roxbury city councilor would continue to serve as acting mayor, which has limited powers, until a special election or the general election is held (it’s currently unclear if a special election would be held this year ahead of the city’s preliminary and mayoral elections; according to the city charter, it may depend on when exactly Walsh vacates office).
Janey hasn’t expressed interest in running for a full term as mayor, and her office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
However, her friends told The Boston Globe that they would be “surprised if she does not give it strong consideration.”
Boston’s longest serving mayor, Tom Menino, took a similar route to the position; after then-Mayor Ray Flynn was appointed to an ambassadorship by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Menino, the City Council president at the time, became acting mayor and went on to win the general election months later.
“I’m ready to take the reins and lead our city through these difficult times,” Janey said in a statement after Walsh’s nomination, adding that she looks forward to ensuring “a smooth transition.”
Annissa Essaibi-George, a fellow Boston city councilor, is considering entering the race in the wake of Walsh’s nomination, a source close to the Dorchester native told Boston.com, adding that running for mayor has been a goal of hers. Essaibi-George has been fielding calls about jumping into the race and plans to discuss the possibility with her family, the source said.
Essaibi-George, whose interest in the race has also been reported by multiple other outlets, received the second-most votes of the four at-large councilors — behind Wu — in the city’s 2019 municipal election.
Multiple outlets are also reporting state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, is considering a mayoral campaign if Walsh is confirmed. As the Globe and State House News Service noted, Michlewitz also wouldn’t have to immediately give up his seat to enter the race, given Boston’s off-year municipal elections.
In a similar position is state Sen. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat who is also considering a run, as the Boston Herald first reported Thursday. Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkin also suggested someone fitting his own description should enter the race.
“I’m not saying I’m running or not,” Tompkins, who is Black, told journalist David Bernstein. “But I think that this race calls out loudly for a male of color with executive experience who knows how to run a big operation.”
The list, potentially, goes on.
According to Politico, more than a dozen city and state-level officials have been floating their names — or had their names floated — following Walsh’s nomination Thursday, though it’s unclear how serious their intentions are.
But if one thing seems likely, it’s the field will be more crowded without Walsh in it.
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