Wu is the first person who is not a white man to be elected mayor of Boston.
City Councilor Michelle Wu easily won the Boston mayor’s race on Tuesday night, making her the first woman and person of color to win a mayoral election in the city and putting a progressive voice in charge of the largest city in New England.
Wu will be the city’s first Asian-American to serve as the city’s mayor. She’ll replace Kim Janey, the first woman and Black person to serve as mayor, who took over the job earlier this year after Marty Walsh resigned to become Labor Secretary in President Joe Biden’s cabinet.
Wu easily defeated fellow City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, the more moderate candidate in the contest, in the final round of voting.
While Boston has long served as an incubator of liberal politicians on the national level, its local politics has traditionally been more insular and transactional, a political paradise for back-slapping men at the heads of political machines. Wu, a policy wonk who was a Harvard Law student and political protege of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is pushing to turn the city into a bastion of progressive policy.
While progressives have made key gains in the U.S. House, in state legislatures and in district attorneys’ offices around the country in recent years, they have won few races for executive positions. Wu’s tenure could serve as a policy blueprint and a political test for other left-wing candidates.
Wu has argued for waiving fees for much of the city’s public transportation system; re-imposing rent control; and a city-sized version of the Green New Deal, including aiming for net zero muncipal emissions by 2024.
And while Essaibi George argued the city needed to hire more police officers, Wu has instead argued for civilian responses to some emergency calls in crisis situations.
“We need to have a structural and cultural change to how we think about public safety — and particularly the police department in Boston — so that we’re meeting residents where they’re at and building trust,” Wu said in an interview with the city’s public radio station.
Compared to mayoral contests in New York City and elsewhere, crime was not a central issue in the Boston race, in large part because the city did not see a crime spike during the coronavirus pandemic.
The major issue in the race was instead housing affordability. There, Wu stood alone among an initially crowded field in calling for a revival of rent control in the city. Wu would need to convince the state legislature to remove a statewide ban on rent control laws in order to implement it. She’s also called for increasing the supply of affordable housing and overhauling the city’s notoriously complex zoning and development process.