Boston took a major step toward nixing a special election to replace Mayor Martin J. Walsh, with the approval of a home-rule petition by the Massachusetts House on Monday that would override the requirement should Walsh leave his post before March 5.
The US Senate is expected to confirm Walsh to be the Biden administration’s labor secretary any day now, though the exact timing remains unclear. Supporters say the effort to bypass a special election would spare the city the expense and health risks of holding extra elections during the pandemic.
That would leave Kim Janey, the Boston City Council president, to take over as acting mayor before the regularly-scheduled election later this year.
There is a preliminary mayoral election scheduled for September, which would winnow down the field of candidates, and a general contest slated for November. So far, three city councilors have declared their mayoral candidacies: Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu.
But if Walsh steps down before March 5, the city charter mandates that Boston also hold a special election, probably this summer, that would include its own preliminary and general contests. That would leave the city hosting as many as four mayoral elections in one calendar year, all while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.
The petition still requires approval from the Massachusetts Senate and Governor Charlie Baker, who has said he would sign it. The Senate could take up the petition as early as Thursday, when the chamber next meets.
State Representative Chynah Tyler, the Boston Democrat who sponsored the petition, thanked House leaders for moving so quickly on the proposal, and said she looks forward to delivering “the safest option for municipal elections this year for the people of Boston.”