STATE REP. JON SANTIAGO, an emergency room doctor who launched his campaign for mayor of Boston in February after a year on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, dropped out of the race on Tuesday morning.
“It was with a sincere desire to serve Boston in a greater capacity that I jumped in this race,” Santiago said in a video announcing his exit. “And today, still filled with energy and optimism, I’m ending this race.”
A South End Democrat who practices medicine at Boston Medical Center, Santiago gained visibility during the pandemic as someone versed in public health and public policy. That background, plus his story of rising from a childhood in Roxbury to Yale Medical School and serving both in the Peace Corps and the US Army Reserves, gave Santiago a compelling biography for a candidate for public office. And as the lone Hispanic in the race, the Puerto Rico-born Santiago hoped to tap into the city’s growing Latino population.
But in joining the citywide race only three years after winning his House seat, Santiago had a hard time gaining traction in the mayoral field, which includes two candidates — Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell — who announced their runs last fall and an acting mayor, Kim Janey, who enjoys the heightened visibility of her role running city government, and an at-large city councilor, Annissa Essaibi George, who has run citywide over several election cycles.
Santiago placed at or near the bottom in all the polling done so far in the race, never moving beyond the low single digits.
His departure marks the first shake-up in the race to succeed Marty Walsh, who left to become labor secretary under President Biden.
Santiago raised more than $600,000 after launching his bid, and won the endorsement of Speaker Ron Mariano and several House colleagues. But State House backing doesn’t necessarily translate to support on the ground in a municipal race, and Santiago had little in the way of an established field organization to help grow his support.
Santiago did not immediately throw his support behind one of the remaining candidates, but a spokesman suggested that he might make an endorsement in the coming days.
“He’ll take time to meet with the other candidates over the coming weeks and make a decision on possible endorsements in due time,” said Sean Downey. Downey suggested the issues around addiction and homeless centered on the area around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard remain of paramount importance to Santiago, who cited the problem hot spot in his statement. “He singled out Mass and Cass in his video this morning for a reason and he’s looking forward to moving that discussion forward and shepherding real progress,” Downey said.
Though Santiago did not make an endorsement today, he did seem to handicap the contest in a way that amounts to a snub of one of his former rivals.
“I am deeply proud of the race I’ve run, the relationships made, and the impact our campaign has had,” he said in the two and a half minute video making his announcement. “But the people of Boston have made it clear, and I look forward to supporting the first elected woman of color to lead to Boston.”
With that, he pointed toward the possibility of any of the four women in the race being elected — but left out John Barros, who served a chief of economic development under former Walsh and has also lagged the field in early polls in the race.
His former rivals, including Barros, were all quick to tweet messages praising Santiago and his contribution to the race.
.@IamJonSantiago is a passionate, smart and thoughtful public servant whose unique personal and professional experiences added so much to this race.— Kim Janey (@Kim_Janey) July 13, 2021
Grateful for the unique experience and passion for service that Representative @IamJonSantiago and his team brought to this race. I look forward to continuing to work in partnership to move our city forward.— Andrea J. Campbell (@AJCampbellMA) July 13, 2021
From his military service to his lifesaving service at the ER, @IamJonSantiago took his lived experience & story to build a stronger recovery at a time of crisis. I'm grateful for his contributions to this historic mayoral field & to our city.— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) July 13, 2021
.@IamJonSantiago is a dedicated public servant who has demonstrated his love for this city and its people throughout his entire career and lent an informed and strong voice to this race.— Annissa Essaibi George (@AnnissaForBos) July 13, 2021
With a distinguished record of public service and dedication to improving the lives of all Bostonians, @IAmJonSantiago ran a historic campaign. We are lucky he will continue to serve our City and I look forward to working closely with him in the future.— John Barros (@JohnFBarros) July 13, 2021