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Wu, Essaibi George claim victory in mayoral preliminary

Yawu Miller and Avery Bleichfeld
Wu, Essaibi George claim victory in mayoral preliminary
At-large Councilor Michelle Wu claims victory at Distraction Brewing in Roslindale. AVERY BLEICHFELD PHOTO

Boston City Councilor and mayoral hopeful Michelle Wu entered the crowded patio at Distraction Brewing Co. in her home neighborhood of Roslindale, to raucous cheers and applause, followed by a resounding chant of “Wu, Wu, Wu…”

In the glow of bistro lights, looking out over a packed crowd of supporters, Wu announced she and her team were confident that they secured one of the two spots for mayoral candidates ahead of the November general election.

Annissa Essaibi George greets voters at the Higginson Lewis school in Roxbury. BANNER PHOTO

“I am humbled by your support; I am inspired by your leadership,” Wu said. “Today is our 365th day on this mayoral campaign trail, and it was a beautiful day, wouldn’t you say? As we crisscrossed this city visiting polling sites, standing with community members, I was reminded why we are in this fight, reminded that when we are asking for votes we are actually asking to listen to the vision of our community.”

In Dorchester, in a ballroom at Venezia restaurant, supporters cheered and chanted after a long night of uncertainty. East Boston teacher turned mayoral hopeful Annissa Essaibi George met the crowd with the same level of enthusiasm, dancing to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” as she made her entrance to stage at the front of the room.

“I am so grateful for all of you being here this evening and sticking it out for like, nine hours,” she said.

Essaibi George made it a point to differentiate herself from front runner Michelle Wu, telling media and those gathered, “The mayor cannot make the T free,” and “The mayor of Boston cannot mandate rent control.”

“Boldness isn’t just about voicing aspirations, boldness is about getting it done instead of just advocating and participating in academic exercises –– having lovely conversations,” she said, whipping up applause from her supporters, before leaving them with a pledge:

“I will be the teacher and the mother and the mayor to get it done.”

In the South End at the SoWa Power Station, Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s supporters gathered, then dissipated as the city’s official results, which were still being tabulated Tuesday morning, failed to materialize.

Janey conceded in a statement sent to news media.

“While we are still waiting on some results, it appears that we have come up short in the election,” she said. “I want to congratulate Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George on their victories this evening. This was a spirited and historic race, and I wish them both luck in the final election.”

District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell posted a statement thanking her supporters.

“Thank you Boston, I’m proud of what we built and deeply grateful to our team,” she wrote. “We know what’s possible when we bring people together to truly transform inequitable systems. Thank you for your faith in what we did and what we will continue to do.”

With 60% of the vote counted at 6 a.m., the city’s results showed Wu with 32% of the vote, Essaibi George with 23%, Janey with 18.8%, Campbell with 19.1% and John Barros with 3.9%.

The low-turnout preliminary appeared to give Essaibi George a boost, as voters in her heavily white base turned out in higher numbers than voters in predominantly Black, Latino and Asian precincts. In the Neponset Ward 16, precinct 12, a bellwether precinct for conservative-leaning white voters, turnout was 53.9% by 6 p.m., and Essaibi George netted 593 votes — more than all other candidates combined.

Essaibi George netted similar yields in Savin Hill’s Ward 13, precinct 10, where she received 312 votes, and at the Adams St. Library branch where she received 525 votes.

Campbell and Janey appeared to trade off wins in predominantly Black Dorchester precincts, neither yielding the same-sized totals that Essaibi George netted in the neighborhood. But together, their vote total was greater than those of any other candidate, appearing to confirm fears that split support from Black voters would prevent either candidate from advancing beyond the preliminary.

Race appeared to play a major role in the preliminary election, with Wu and Essaibi George leading in polling among white voters and Janey and Campbell leading among Black voters. Latino voters appeared split between Janey, Essaibi George and Wu.

Among the issues voters expressed concern about in polling, housing costs led, with education a close second.

Voting at the community center in the Mission Main public housing development, Rafael Feliciano Cumbas said housing was his most pressing concern.

“As the city has increased almost 20% in population, we haven’t seen anything similar in terms of increase of housing for the projects and I feel like that’s an important issue,” he said. “And then the other thing is the obvious rising in rents across the city.”

Feliciano Cumbas said he was torn between voting for Janey and Wu.

Nearby at the Tobin Municipal Building, Frenell Jean-Georges cited the same litany of issues that voters across the city have expressed in polling in recent weeks.

“The city of Boston has a lot of systemic issues with housing, with racism in the police, with not getting elders what they need,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues. There’s been a lot of degradation; some of the fallout has been since the tenure of Mayor Walsh, and I think that there needs to be a change to build the city up to what it can be.”

In other results, District 4 candidates Brian Worrell and Evandro Carvalho appear to be in the lead. District 6 candidate Kendra Hicks claimed victory after her campaign’s internal polling showed her winning with an 818-vote margin over Mary Tamer. In the District 7 race, Tania Fernandes Anderson appeared to lead by a large margin, while the number two spot is too close to call.

Banner reporter Anna Lamb contributed to this report.