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John Barros’s mayoral campaign pushes TV station to include him on popular political show

John Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development and the only Black man in the mayoral race, was not invited to “On The Record,” although four other major mayoral candidates were asked to appear in the weeks before the September election.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The campaign of Boston mayoral candidate John Barros is pressing WCVB-TV to reconsider its decision to exclude Barros from appearing on the Sunday morning program “On The Record” in the run-up to the preliminary election on Sept. 14.

In a letter to the station’s president, Kyle Grimes, that was obtained by the Globe, Barros’s campaign manager, Lizzy Heurich, highlighted his track record and achievements and said he deserves to be heard on “OTR.”

The letter noted an editorial from Grimes less than a year ago that addressed the public’s response after the killing of George Floyd and said that despite a historic reckoning on racial issues, “the perspective of Black men has been largely ignored throughout this race.”

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“No matter who wins, this will be an historic election for Boston,” Heurich wrote. “Every voter deserves the chance to hear from John and each of the other candidates so that they can make an informed decision in September. I urge you to reconsider your arbitrary decision and allow John to appear on ‘On The Record’ to present his vision to Boston voters.”

Grimes, who is also the station’s general manager, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barros, the city’s former chief of economic development and the only Black man in the race, was not invited to the show, although four other major mayoral candidates were asked to appear in the weeks before the September election.

The show’s producer, Mike Cole, said Tuesday that Barros was on the show after he announced his bid for mayor in March and that he’s open to another appearance if the candidate’s poll numbers improve or his campaign surges.

“I want to have John on the show if John’s a factor. I don’t want to have John on the show if ... we’re doing it because he’s on the ballot,” Cole said. “We could devote the time to other issues in the race that might be more significant than his candidacy, if he’s not connecting with voters at this point.”

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But the decision not to invite Barros, first reported in the Globe, drew backlash from Barros supporters on Twitter and Facebook who argued that the media should not prevent voters from hearing the views of all the major candidates.

Barros was drawing 2 percent support in a poll conducted by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe in June, far behind the other candidates.

Barros is a well-known figure in Boston — a former School Committee member, nonprofit leader, 2013 mayoral contender, and top city executive who served the administration of former mayor Martin J. Walsh for seven years. He has raised nearly $600,000 during his campaign and, according to his campaign, has the highest percentage of donations from Boston residents.

In her letter to Grimes, Heurich noted that the Suffolk University/Globe poll was two months ago. That poll showed that 22 percent of likely voters were undecided and excluded respondents who could not immediately name the month of the preliminary election, which Heurich described as “an unusually restrictive voter screen which excluded any potential voters who had not yet begun paying close attention” to the race.

“The truth is that this race remains extremely fluid. As more and more voters learn about John’s accomplishments, values, and vision for Boston, our support keeps growing,” Heurich wrote. “For WCVB-TV to exclude a candidate with John’s experience, record, and fund-raising level, based solely on limited months-old polling, is wrong.”

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Barros has appeared at more than three dozen mayoral forums during his campaign, most of them virtual. He is among five major candidates invited to a mayoral debate on Sept. 9 that will be hosted by WBUR, WCVB, The Boston Globe, and UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. (The event will be moderated by “Radio Boston” host Tiziana Dearing and Globe columnist Adrian Walker and will be aired live on 90.9 FM. It will also be livestreamed.)

Two other mayoral candidates, Michelle Wu, a former City Council president, and Kim Janey, the acting mayor, voiced support for Barros on Twitter, saying all of the major candidates should be heard.



Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.