BOSTON MAYOR Michelle Wu’s name wasn’t on the ballot yesterday, but her political standing was.
Two years after her barrier-breaking victory, Wu rallied behind four progressives looking for seats in the City Council. All four of her picks won in the low-turnout election, a feat without precedent in 40 years of Boston politics.
It was a resounding win for Wu two years before she is expected to seek a second term.
The Wu-backed winners were Enrique Pepen, her former neighborhood services chief, who won the council seat representing Roslindale and Hyde Park; Henry Santana, her former director of civic organizing, who won an at-large seat; former Wu campaign adviser Sharon Durkan, who won a seat in the Back Bay and Mission Hill; and labor lawyer Ben Weber, a labor lawyer who won the seat representing Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. Weber was the only one without a history of working with the mayor, but Wu’s political operation provided the main campaign muscle behind his victory.
The council election was also a duel between outside groups that poured money into races, one closely allied with the mayor and one opposed to her.
A super PAC funded by left-leaning unions close to Wu emerged in the closing weeks and spent nearly six figures to boost her candidates. Another super PAC, tied to conservative-leaning businessman Jim Davis, the chairman of New Balance, and PR mogul George Regan, who both opposed Wu in 2021, spent its own six figures on a slate of candidates that lost to Wu’s picks.
Hours after the polls closed, City Hall aides packed the Yellow Door Taqueria in Mission Hill, a 10-minute walk from the public housing development Santana grew up in. A little after 10:30 p.m., Santana and Wu together stepped onto the restaurant benches along the wall to address the crowd, and they jointly declared victory in his bid for one of the four at-large seats. “I couldn’t have done this without you,” an emotional Santana told the mayor.
As good a night as it was for Wu, her critics on the City Council remain. Dorchester’s Erin Murphy, who has focused on the struggling school system, came in second place in the race for four at-large seats. On Wu’s left, Roxbury Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson was also reelected. Earlier this week, she lamented on an internet talk show that Boston, with its “strong mayor” system of government, would likely have a “strong-mayor council” come January.
But the four victories, brought about with help from unions such as UNITE HERE Local 26, could offer pause to anyone contemplating a challenge from either the left or the right when Wu is likely to be seeking reelection in two years. Wu’s campaign account at the end of October stood at $1.1 million.
Close observers of Boston politics couldn’t recall a mayor backing that many winning candidates in a council race.
When a reporter last night prodded the mayor about her intentions in 2025 when her term is up, noting the evening’s wins offered an opportunity for an announcement, Wu laughed off the question – but telegraphed she’s not going anywhere.
“Everybody’s bored already?” she said of the look beyond the night’s results. “I think it’s a little-kept secret at this point that I’m working on long-term projects and…I hope to be here to have impact for as long as it makes sense for Boston.”
Mayoral losses feature warning signs, police and school tension, and an historic upset
It takes a lot to oust a sitting mayor, and Bay State voters largely danced with the ones who brought them in Tuesday’s general election. But in four Massachusetts mayoral races, familiar local faces bested the city’s top pols.
Prelims were prologue in Fitchburg and Woburn, where incumbents trailed city council challengers heading into the general elections. Fitchburg City Councilor-at-Large Samantha Squailia topped incumbent Stephen DiNatale on the September preliminary ballot by over 1,000 votes, and kept that lead in the general election to claim victory. Woburn incumbent Scott Galvin was vulnerable, after a week-long teachers strike froze the city in February, and City Council president Mike Concannon ousted the 14-year incumbent with the backing of teachers and firefighter unions.
In Greenfield, a race that turned like many others on policing and schools, City Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher defeated incumbent Mayor Roxann Wedegartner in a landslide, pulling in 72 percent of the vote with backing from groups including teachers and nurses unions.
The night’s narrowest upset went to Erin Joyce, a business owner and former chair of the Braintree Planning Board, who beat incumbent Mayor Charles Kokoros by about 4 percentage points. Kokoros has held the seat since 2019 after serving for more than a decade as a city councilor. Joyce will become the first woman elected mayor of Braintree.
Mayors facing challengers largely stomped their way back into office. Incumbents Kassandra Gove in Amesbury, John Vieau in Chicopee, Breanna Lungo-Koehn in Medford, Jon Mitchell in New Bedford, Thomas Koch in Quincy, Domenic Sarno in Springfield, and Jeannette McCarthy in Waltham, among others, all held their seats.
Voters also rebuffed tilts at the windmill from those who used to hold the office. Mayor Paul Coogan of Fall River beat out challenger and former mayor of the city Sam Sutter. Despite former Revere mayor Dan Rizzo narrowly coming out on top in the preliminary, acting mayor Patrick Keefe will now serve a full elected term after turning it around in the general election.
A bump from the new governor may have boosted popular incumbents and some running for open seats – Gov. Maura Healey backed Melinda Barrett, who will succeed 10-term mayor James Fiorentini as the first woman to be Haverhill mayor. But the governor threw her hat in with Wedegartner in Greenfield and DiNatale in Fitchburg. They were ousted handily, unlike Healey-backed mayors including Koch in Quincy, Coogan in Fall River, and Katjana Ballantyne in Somerville.