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Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi-George ready for general election battle



Battenfeld: Is Boston ready to become another Cambridge?

Despite the smiles and big hug that Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George shared Wednesday in the city council chambers after their success in the mayoral preliminary, both have wasted no time in staking out their theses for why they’re the better choice to become Boston’s next mayor.

Wu and Essaibi-George made history on Tuesday night as voters advanced the two female at-large city councilors to the Nov. 2 general election.

It took until around 10 a.m. Wednesday for the city to post the results of all 255 precincts, but — despite brief kerfuffles among internet dwellers watching candidates’ names shuffle around as different parts of the city registered their votes — the final tally settled on what the campaigns’ organizations all knew just a few hours after polls closed last night.

Wu led the pack with 33.4%, followed by Essaibi-George’s 22.5% out of 107,592 votes counted. City Councilor Andrea Campbell was third with 19.7%, just ahead of Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s 19.5%. Former city economic development director John Barros drew 3.2% of the vote.

Asked why the count took so long, the city said, “Due to ballots received on Election Day via U.S. mail and ballot drop boxes, the Election Department had to cross-check those ballots with precinct voter lists from each polling location to ensure voters did not vote twice.”

Wu and Essaibi-George will face off in the Nov. 2 general, and the winner will be the first woman and the first person of color to be elected mayor of Boston.

The pair of veteran city councilors gave each other a hug right before Wednesday’s council meeting in front of snapping cameras. They exchanged some kind words, and complimented each other’s smarts and work ethic to reporters. But this race isn’t going to be all smiles.

As the progressive Wu declared victory on Tuesday night, she took aim at “status quo” policies. She repeated those themes in a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday morning, that while some have thought her ideas too “pie in the sky,” she “knocked those down one by one.”

Essaibi-George, speaking to cheering supporters around midnight, went after a couple of Wu’s big-picture goals, saying that the mayor isn’t about to make the MBTA free or implement rent control.

Essaibi-George, a relative moderate and ally of former Mayor Martin Walsh, said, “Too often the conversation centers around those sorts of abstract ideas” rather than real-world solutions.

A big part of the new phase of the campaign is going to be appealing to Black voters. None of the three Black candidates in the mayor’s race — Campbell, Janey and Barros — advanced, to the disappointment of many.

Political strategist Jacquetta van Zandt said this means that the bulk of the Black vote is “up for grabs” — but that it shouldn’t be treated like a monolith, as Black voters of varying generations and different socioeconomic strata cast their ballots differently.

“Who now will be able to garner the coveted black vote?” becomes the big question, she said. “The message of ‘you are heard and you are seen and we are going to work together’ is how it will have to be.”

Eldin Villafane, a Boston-based political communications consultant, said the candidates will pivot to trying to pitch voters of color why their plan will be the ones that help them.

He also added that, across the board, people vote for people they feel they can trust with power — “Who’s going to be our city boss, and who’s going to have a firm grip on the city amidst a lot of change.”

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