Politics

Michelle Wu tops, Annissa Essaibi George secures second-place finish in Boston mayoral preliminary election

The two candidates now advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

City Councilors Michelle Wu, left, and Annissa Essaibi George. Scott Eisen, Getty Images / Jim Davis, Globe staff
more on the candidates

City Councilors At-Large Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George will face off against each other in the Nov. 2 general election to become Boston’s next mayor.

The two candidates were the top and second-highest vote-getters, respectively, in Tuesday’s preliminary election, when voters narrowed a historically diverse field of candidates as the city considers who will serve as the first duly-elected mayor of color.

Unofficial election results, with 100 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, showed Wu secured 33.36 percent of the vote and Essaibi George with 22.48 percent.

Rounding out the bottom: City Councilor Andrea Campbell with 19.72 percent; acting Mayor Kim Janey with 19.47 percent; John Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development, with 3.19 percent; Robert Cappucci with 1.09 percent; state Rep. Jon Santiago with 0.34 percent; and Richard Spagnuolo with 0.26 percent.

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With a backdrop of the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic — and its immeasurable toll on nearly all facets of life in the city — and a nationwide reckoning for racial justice, five major candidates drew on the array of their lived experiences and their track records as seasoned City Hall veterans in their attempts to convince voters of the novelty of their leadership for this moment.

The field also held potential for voters to select a Black mayor for the first time in Boston history. But the likelihood of that was dashed late Tuesday night as Wu and Essaibi George claimed victory and the field’s three Black candidates — Campbell, Janey, and Barros — conceded.

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The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu, a 36-year-old Chicago-born resident of Roslindale, has put forth bold plans, such as overhauling the Boston Planning and Development Agency and eliminating MBTA fares, distinguishing her as the progressive candidate, even in a crowd of fellow Democrats.

“Boston is in a moment of incredible opportunity. It is on our shoulders right now to step up and meet that moment,” Wu told supporters Tuesday night. “We know what’s possible because we have seen it happen in this city, again and again. In my eight years on the council, we have taken on what we were told would be impossible challenges.”

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She painted a rosy vision of what the future could hold, touting a grassroots campaign that spanned languages, cultures, and generations. 

She told the crowd: “This is a moment on our shoulders.”

“This is the moment that we will look back on one day and say, ‘Boston stepped up with every single one of us at the table,’” Wu said later.

The top vote-earner in last two City Council at-large elections, Wu’s name recognition has proven fruitful, again, in her pursuit of the mayor’s office: Polls consistently placed Wu at or near the front of the pack, with more recent surveys forecasting a runaway victory, with as high as a double-digit margin above the fray.

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Also predicted was a close-to-the-finish race for the pivotal runner-up position.

A former Boston Public Schools teacher, Essaibi George, 47, was born and raised in Dorchester to immigrant parents: Her mother was born to Polish parents in a displaced persons camp in Germany, and her father immigrated to the United States from Tunisia.

Often labeled the “moderate” candidate, Essaibi George built a campaign focused on “the practical” in Boston, highlighting her championed causes of education, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health while on the City Council.

“You will not find me on a soapbox: You will find me in your neighborhood, doing the work,” she told supporters in Dorchester on Tuesday night. “I have done that as an at-large city councilor over the last six years, and I’ve done that throughout the course of this race.”

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Essaibi George also offered an early glimpse at the coming weeks, as the race will likely intensify.

At one point, she addressed Wu in her remarks, telling her colleague she looks forward to exchanging ideas and seeing one another on the trail.

And then she fired the first shots of the general election: “Being a city councilor and having the opportunity to advocate for your passions is good, but let me be very clear about this: The mayor of Boston cannot make the T free,” Essaibi George said to cheers from the crowd.

“The mayor of Boston cannot mandate rent control,” she continued. Wu was the sole supporter of the policy in the race to date.

Instead, Essaibi George offered she wants “real progress — not just abstract ideas that we talk about.”

“Boldness is about getting it done,” she later added. “Instead of just advocating and participating in academic exercises and having lovely conversations as mayor, I will do these things.”

There are 48 days until Nov. 2.

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