IN THE WORLD of Twitter and activist Boston, the unfolding contest for mayor looks like a battle to be crowned the undisputed progressive champion ready to lead the city in a new direction. In the world of early polls of the electorate, an imperfect yet probably much better snapshot of where the race actually stands, what’s clear is that there is room for a more moderate candidate to be competitive in the six-way race.
That survey-centered handicapping of the race, which has been the talk of political operatives and insiders for months, came into even sharper relief with the release of a new poll showing City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George leading the field.
The poll, carried out by two progressive political consulting firms and reported yesterday by The Bay State Banner, shows Essaibi George with 22 percent, followed by fellow at-large city councilor Michelle Wu with 18 percent and Acting Mayor Kim Janey with 16 percent. Trailing considerably far behind are City Councilor Andrea Campbell with 6 percent and state Rep. Jon Santiago and former city economic development chief John Barros, who each garnered 5 percent. The largest share of those polled — 29 percent — were still undecided.
The September preliminary election that will narrow the field to the two top finishers is still three and a half months off. But the poll suggests more moderate voters, at this stage, may be coalescing around Essaibi George. She made the biggest gain of any candidate compared with an April survey carried out by the MassINC Polling Group for WBUR, the Dorchester Reporter, and The Boston Foundation.
That poll had Wu and Janey running neck and neck with 19 percent and 18 percent of the vote, respectively. The four other candidates all trailed far behind, with support ranging from 3 to 6 percent, while nearly half of those polled — 46 percent — were undecided. The 17-point drop in the undecided number in the new poll, carried out by Poll Progressive and Emancipated Group, seems to have benefitted Essaibi George the most.
Essaibi George, Santiago, and Barros are seen by many as more moderate candidates in the field, but Santiago and Barros appear to have gained little traction in the roughly seven weeks between the two polls.
Asked on this week’s episode of The Codcast whether she is looking to carve out the more moderate lane and appeal to the political base of former mayor Marty Walsh, her Dorchester neighbor while growing up and a close political ally, Essaibi George answered by saying she thinks of herself as a “pragmatic and practical” elected official.
A former Boston high school teacher, Essaibi George has decried the “school to prison pipeline” that she says traps too many black and brown boys in special education classes where they are separated from mainstream classrooms, yet she parts ways with mayoral rivals who favor removing school “resource officers” from schools.
Against the backdrop of protests against police killings of black Americans, she says the city needs to hold police officers accountable, yet she has the largest share of campaign donations from police officers in the field, and recently won the endorsement of former police commissioner William Gross.
Essaibi George’s more moderate positioning may have left-leaning voters crossing her off their list as they weigh their choice, but there are plenty of voters looking more toward the middle, and right now they seem to be leaning her way.