The city is 53% white, 25% black, 20% Hispanic and 10% Asian, according to census data. However, about two-thirds of black residents live in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. A growing number of the city’s Hispanic immigrants live in East Boston.
Janey and Campbell kept racial equity promises, with Janey noting the history of racism in Boston.
Supporters hoped Janey would be the one to help right these wrongs. As a candidate with deep roots in the city, supporters were convinced she was heading for a victory in November after being named Boston’s first black female mayor following Marty Walsh’s resignation.
Keller said Janey, Campbell and John Barros ultimately split the black vote, creating an easier path to victory for Wu and George.
“What you had were three attractive black candidates…” Keller told WBZ TV on Wednesday. “If there had been one candidate who got all that vote, he would be a big winner this morning.”
CNN spoke with Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP and a strong advocate for diversity in the city’s leadership. She said several factors led to Janey and Campbell’s defeat, including low voter turnout and none of the candidates had a message that resonated with enough white and Hispanic voters. Many residents, including immigrants, white progressives and white conservatives, are concerned about issues beyond racial fairness and Boston’s racist history, she said. Wu and George appealed to these voters. This interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
Why do you think Kim Janey and Andrea Campbell were ultimately beaten in the Boston mayoral primary?
It’s really about forming your base, those reliable voters you can count on on election day. One of the contributing factors is that Campbell and Janey are District City Councilors who prior to participating in this race had very low profile. And the two candidates who advance to the final are city councilors in general who had previously run a city-wide campaign. So for Janey and Campbell, they started out in a position that was behind, from a basic standpoint, the two candidates who ultimately move forward. Second, polling day is all about voter turnout. Rubber meets the road when people go to the polls to vote. What we’ve seen in the city of Boston is a relatively low turnout. The third element is that in a time where we had an open race and an opportunity to reflect as a city, this was the time for inspiring, bold and visionary campaigns that really motivated people to come out and vote and which required a lot of link voters. We haven’t seen that, period. And so that allowed the other two candidates to really benefit from the name recognition.
What do you think this says about the ongoing struggle for black representation in the Boston Mayor’s Office?
I think it’s important for us to understand that we are not the Boston of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The problems in Boston with regards to economic mobility and equity have a significant impact on black communities and brunettes, but what candidates need to understand is that the campaign cannot be about black and white issues. The campaign must recognize that Boston’s demographics have changed. We have people who are not familiar with the real life experience or the history of Boston, so they are not moved by the emotion or the historical context. A campaign should be one that can talk about the issues, present clear, coherent, and ambitious policy solutions, and be able to communicate them in a way that all Boston feels is part of the vision. And I think it was a challenge. Neither Wu nor George have a track record on issues of racial equality, neither has a track record of tackling economic inequality. They stayed on the issues that are of critical importance to the city of Boston, but were truly somewhat agnostic when it comes to racial and class lines. In order for us to get to the point where we can celebrate the election of a black mayor, we need to understand that the development of a campaign must take into account that the city has changed and what resonates with voters has changed and what is not enough to say that we need a black mayor, there has to be a message resonating throughout the city.
Do you think Boston’s electorate, given the city’s history of inequity and racism, is still struggling with the idea of electing a black mayor?
Absoutely. Race played a role in this campaign. Much of the conversation is about dividing the black vote. I think this is the wrong conversation. This is not the end of the story. To be elected mayor of the city of Boston, it takes more than a simple black vote. Across the ideological spectrum, there were white voters who did not choose to go with a black candidate. We know that Michelle Wu has received significant support from white progressives and has spoken out about the issues that concern this community. Annissa Essaibi George had the support of moderate and conservative voters and spoke out on the issues that mattered most to them. Where we ended up as a black community was in a situation where yes the black vote was split but there weren’t enough white voters or LatinX voters who thought Campbell or Janey was the right candidates. I think it speaks to the work that we still have to do in this city with respect to racial equity.
Do you find some level of confidence in knowing that the two candidates qualifying for the general election are still women of color and do you think they will tackle racial equity?
I’m looking to find data to support that for either of them, racial equity is a priority. I did not see any intention related to this question on the part of any of them. Because Janey and Campbell have spoken so explicitly about racial equity in their campaigns and together they garnered 42% of the vote, it will be extremely important for Wu and George to figure out how to speak to these voters as they will make a difference. difference overall. elections in November.