Marie Paul can tell just by looking at her that Annissa Essaibi George will be the next mayor of Boston, and a good one.
“I see in her that she is going to help us,” said Paul. She was with a few dozen other elderly Haitians at the Forever Young Adult Day Center in Hyde Park when Essaibi George was there greeting people and handing out campaign cookies on Thursday morning.
“Sometimes, God shows me a good person,” Paul said.
To win over those for whom The Almighty’s guidance might not be quite so direct, Essaibi George delivered her pitch: Her parents were immigrants, just like many of them, and they had a passion for education, which they passed down to their daughter, the candidate, who became a teacher.
“I’m hopeful to lead this city,” she said, as campaign volunteer Bernadette Adonis translated into Haitian Creole. “I’d love your vote.”
It was a bright spot in a tough week for Essaibi George.
Her opponent and fellow at-large city councilor Michelle Wu, the frontrunner in this race from the beginning, continued to rack up valuable endorsements. She’d already been backed by her mentor Senator Elizabeth Warren, and by dozens of local politicians and environmental groups. She’d gotten nods from Acting Mayor Kim Janey, her former opponent in the race for mayor, and from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, both of whom should help draw Black voters to Wu come November. Then, on Wednesday, Senator Ed Markey endorsed Wu. That one stung, because Essaibi George was one of the only city officials to endorse Markey in his reelection battle against then-Congressman Joe Kennedy III. Wu stayed out of that race.
But, at Forever Young, only one endorsement mattered.
“Bernadette chose Annissa,” Junior Mengual, the activities director, told the seniors, some of whom embroidered or leafed through bibles as he spoke. “She would not bring us somebody who would embarrass us.”
Adonis told the seniors that Essaibi George will make sure there are plenty of police on the streets, so that they can feel safe walking down the street with their social security payments. Mengual led the crowd in chants of “Annissa!” and “November 2nd!” so they’d remember election day.
A tall man rose to say he was not completely sold, however. He told Essaibi George he’d been waiting for affordable housing for 11 years. He had voted in every election, even in the snow and rain, to support candidates who asked for his vote.
“Then I never see them again,” said the man, whose comments were translated by a campaign worker. “What will you do for me once you’re elected? Am I going to see you again?”
Essaibi George said 11 years was unacceptable, and that the city has to do a better job. She said she’d be more responsive as mayor.
“They all say the same thing,” he said.
“She will keep her word,” Adonis told him.
Whether candidates can keep their word is a central question at this point. Wu has promised bigger ideas than we’re used to from mayors around here, including a Green New Deal for the city — a climate plan that mirrors the measures being pushed by Markey nationally, and which goes a long way to explaining his jarring decision to endorse her.
Essaibi George has cast such grand designs as chimeras, beyond the ken of municipal government: A mayor can’t make the T free, she argues, and it makes no sense to cut police funding when people like the folks at Forever Young still feel unsafe in the city. She sells herself as the more pragmatic candidate, the one who can actually keep her promises.
Expect those claims to dominate the campaign’s final weeks. Wednesday will see the first of three debates between the two finalists, and Essaibi George will likely go hard at Wu — who drew next to no fire in the preliminary — for making impossible promises.
Essaibi George won’t have to convince the denizens of Forever Young, however. Among these Haitian Americans, at least, victory is assured. “Sorry for her,” Mengual said, but they wouldn’t even consider Wu.
A few hours after Essaibi George left Hyde Park, Wu’s campaign sent out a press release touting yet more endorsements — this time, from more than 20 leaders in the Haitian community.