Ending months of intense speculation, Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Tuesday that she is running for a full term as the city’s chief executive, joining an already crowded field in this year’s race.
“The work to address the challenges we face from COVID and racial inequalities that have been inherited from centuries of structural racism will take longer than a few months to change,” Janey said at a Tuesday morning news conference in front of the “Faces of Dudley” mural in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. “It is going to take fearless leadership.”
Janey, the city’s first Black and first female mayor, is now officially in a race that includes five other major candidates: City Councilors Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu; John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief; and state Representative Jon Santiago.
The campaign for Janey, who became acting mayor when Martin J. Walsh left his City Hall post to head the US Labor Department last month, also released a video on Tuesday announcing her run. In it, she intones: “We’ve got work to do.”
The video features trailblazing Black Bostonians including Melnea Cass, Mel King, and Ayanna Pressley, among others. Janey narrates the three-minute-plus spot, lamenting affordable housing that isn’t actually affordable and deep racial inequities, referencing a 2015 report that the median net worth of Black households is $8, compared to $247,500 for white households in the area.
“This recovery is our chance to build a more equitable city for every resident,” Janey says in the video. “We can’t go back, we can only go better.”
Janey, a 55-year-old former education advocate, was in her second term on the City Council, and serving as the body’s president, when she became acting mayor last month.
Hailing from a large and well-known Roxbury family, Janey grew up the oldest of six. Her father, an educator, at one point served as a schools superintendent for Washington, D.C. Her mother was a homemaker. Her parents divorced when she was young. She grew up in Roxbury and the South End.
In the strife-ridden 1970s, she was bused from the South End, where her great-grandmother and mother lived, to Charlestown for sixth and part of seventh grade, as part of the court-ordered desegregation of Boston’s schools, an experience she referenced as part of her Tuesday campaign launch.
By the eighth grade, she was attending school in Reading as part of Metco, a voluntary school-integration program that enrolls Boston students in public schools in the suburbs. At 16, before finishing high school, she gave birth to a daughter, Kimesha, whom she raised in Boston and Connecticut, where her grandparents lived.
Janey attended two years at Greater Hartford Community College before studying at Smith College for two years, where she cleaned bathrooms as part of her work-study. She stopped her studies before getting a degree, stymied by family obligations — she cared for her grandfather after her grandmother died — and financial challenges. It was at Smith that she started her educational advocacy.
Political observers have said that Janey serving as acting mayor will benefit her during the campaign and boost her name recognition citywide.
Indeed, at her news conference, Janey emphasized a handful of initiatives rolled out during her weeks-old acting mayoralty, including a $1.5 million vaccine equity grant program and $50 million for rental relief, among other measures.
Janey spoke about the need to reimagine policing in the city and stressed the importance of equitable vaccine distribution and economic assistance for the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. She said she understood the city’s challenges “because I have lived them.”
“Those experiences inform how I govern and how I will lead the city through a lens of equity, justice, and love for every Bostonian,” she said.
She declined to say what separated her from the other five major mayoral candidates.
“I will leave the political commentary to the pundits,” she said.
Boston has never elected a mayor who is not a white man. This year’s diverse field — all the major candidates thus far identify as Black, Latino, Asian, or Arab American — could see that trend come to an end.
Tuesday’s announcement came after months of rumors that Janey would run. She had retained the services of a well-known local political consulting firm and recently avoided issuing denials when asked if she was planning to run.
State campaign finance records from last month made available on Monday offered additional evidence she was ramping up for a run at a full term.
Janey was actively fund-raising in March, collecting $187,000 and spending nearly $70,000, according to a bank report made public by the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance on Monday.
Her expenditures included multiple payments to consultants, $15,00 on digital advertising, and nearly $25,000 on a media production company with a national reputation for making ads for Democrats.
The March proceeds were far and away the most that Janey’s campaign has raised and spent since she first filed a campaign finance report, in January 2017.
Already declared mayoral candidates also had a busy month.
Essaibi George’s campaign raised the most for the month, $240,000. The campaign for the at-large councilor from Dorchester spent about $88,000. She ended with a balance of $426,000.
Campbell’s campaign raised $203,000 for the month, with expenditures topping $69,000. She has the largest campaign war chest, with $974,000.
Barros raised $182,000 for his campaign in March, ending with a balance of $228,000. His campaign spent $14,000, according to state records.
The campaign for Santiago raised similar numbers in March, pulling in $180,000, spending $42,000, and ending with a balance of $525,000.
Wu’s campaign raised $175,000, spent $67,000, and ended with a balance that topped $941,000.