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Wu, St. Guillen, Arroyo take lead in preliminary

Women, people of color could dominate council

Yawu Miller and Alexa Gagosz
Wu, St. Guillen, Arroyo take lead in preliminary
Alejandra St. Guillen savors a 4th-place finish during her campaign part at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plan, joined by at-large Councilor Michelle Wu and District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards. PHOTO: ALEXA GAGOSZ

This year’s City Council election produced one of the most large and diverse fields of candidates ever, with 15 people vying for the four at-large seats alone, and others vying for district seats.

Voting results in the September preliminary election suggest that the next council could be the first ever with a majority of the 13 seats held by people of color.

In district races, candidate Ricardo Arroyo bested a field of eight candidates competing for the District 5 seat with 2,235 votes. Also advancing to the final in District 5 was Maria Esdale Farrell, who came in second with 1,813 votes.

Should Arroyo’s victory hold in the Nov. 5 general election, it will mark the first time a person of color will hold the seat, which includes all of Hyde Park and parts of Mattapan, Roslindale and West Roxbury. A win for Arroyo could also bring the number of people of color on the council to a majority of seven members.

In the at-large race, incumbent Michelle Wu led by a wide margin with 26,622 votes. Next were fellow incumbents Annissa Essaibi-George with 18,993 votes and Michael Flaherty with 18,766 votes. Among the four challengers who made the Nov. 5 ballot, Alejandra St. Guillen, who garnered 11,910 votes, was the fourth-place finisher, ahead of incumbent Althea Garrison, who finished with 9,729 votes.

Turnout for the preliminary municipal election was just 11.17 percent of the city’s 403,200 registered voters.

St. Guillen, who could become the first Latina on the City Council, said that she thinks back to the candidates she has supported in the past.

“Growing up in Boston, you didn’t necessarily see yourself as a young woman of color in positions of power,” St. Guillen told a reporter during her election night party, held at Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain. “I’m excited that young Latina or young LGBTQ teenagers or high school students can look at me and say ‘I can be anything I want to be.’”

Wu and District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards were also in attendance at St. Guillen’s victory party.

“This could be the year that Boston breaks the barrier,” said Wu of bringing more women of color to the Boston City Council.

Two miles away, in Roslindale Square, Arroyo gathered on election night with family members and elected officials including Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and state Reps. Russell Holmes and Nika Elugardo.

Arroyo said his preliminary victory signaled that Roslindale, Hyde Park and Mattapan are “ready to have a progressive voice at the table.”

While District 5 has long had a majority population of blacks and Latinos, voters there have elected a succession of white councilors, reflecting the strength of the traditional political stronghold in the high-voting Readville portion of the neighborhood.

Arroyo said his campaign knocked on more than 14,000 doors and identified nearly 3,000 supporters. On election day, his campaign volunteers targeted those supporters as part of their get-out-the-vote effort.

“I knew that the turnout was low,” Arroyo told reporters during his victory party at the Square Root Café. “In the past, that hasn’t been good for progressive candidates. But I also know we had a field team that has knocked on 14,000 doors. Personally, I’ve knocked on 3,000 doors. I knew that had to count for something.”

Elugardo, who won her Massachusetts House seat last year, besting long-term incumbent Jeffrey Sanchez, said she always believed Arroyo would win.

“I knew the precincts in my district would come out strong for Ricardo,” she said. “I knocked on thousands of doors. I know he’s the kind of person voters are looking for.”

Holmes, whose House district also overlaps with District 5, said Arroyo’s preliminary victory suggests a shift toward progressive values in Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Mattapan and Roslindale.

“The entire district has changed,” he said.

In the at-large race, the other candidates advancing to the Nov. 5 election (listed by order of votes received) are Julia Mejia, Erin Murphy and David Halbert. Six among the eight at-large finalists are people of color —

Wu, Essaibi-George, St. Guillen, Garrison, Mejia and Halbert.

In other district races, incumbent Kim Janey easily bested a field of three vying for the Roxbury-based District 7 seat. Janey garnered 70 percent of the vote to Roy Owens’ 17.6 percent and Valerie Hope Rust’s 12 percent.

In District 8, which includes Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the Fenway and Mission Hill, Priscilla Kenzie Bok secured 50 percent of the vote. Also appearing on the Nov. 5 ballot for District 8 will be Jennifer Nassour, a former head of the state Republican Party, who came in second with 18 percent of the vote.

In the Allston/Brighton-based District 9, Craig Cashman and Liz Breadon will proceed to the Nov. 5 final election. Cashman got 25 percent of the vote, Breadon 23.5 percent.

Motivated volunteers

St. Guillen’s choice of Doyle’s as the spot for her post-election party echoed a theme that has come up repeatedly during this year’s council campaign: displacement.

As real estate values in neighborhoods across the city have soared, pushing out longtime residents, housing affordability has become a key issue in candidate forums. Business affordability, too, is suffering as rents climb.

The increasing cost of Boston housing is what inspired some of St. Guillen’s volunteers to join the campaign.

Sara Hathaway, 19, is a registered voter in Rhode Island but attends Emerson College studying political communication. She’s a fellow for St. Guillen’s campaign because moving off campus “terrifies her” due to the price of living.

“The families of Boston, from Boston, are getting pushed out,” said Hathaway.

Annemarie Sevigny, 43, of West Roxbury, said she attended Boston Latin Academy with St. Guillen and has known her for more than 20 years. Sevigny became a single homeowner 10 years ago, she said, but doesn’t think she could do it again. She said she now has watched her brother try to buy a home.

“I’m watching what they’re facing and it’s scary,” said Sevigny, who hopes that St. Guillen reaching the City Council will help families afford housing.

Longtime political activist Ann Rousseau said she volunteered on St. Guillen’s campaign because she wants to see greater diversity on the City Council, which has long had a majority-white makeup, despite the city having a majority people-of-color population for the last 19 years.

“Our representation should reflect who Boston is,” Rousseau said. “She will make a great addition to the Boston City Council.”

Alexa Gagosz is a staff writer for The Scope, a project of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

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