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Voters elect new faces, Wu allies in Boston City Council elections

Enrique Pepén celebrated his District 5 victory at his election night watch party held at Guira y Tambora in Roslindale.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Voters on Tuesday elected four new faces to the Boston City Council, elevating a left-leaning slate in a set of races that saw progressives trump more moderate Democrats in nearly every matchup.

According to unofficial results Tuesday night, all nine incumbents on the November ballot held on to their seats, edging out challengers in the council districts that include Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Allston-Brighton. And all four of the new candidates backed by Mayor Michelle Wu won their elections, according to city tallies and candidates’ own declarations of victory, in a notable sweep for the mayor, who will have even stronger allies on the council come January.

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In the at-large contest, Henry Santana, formerly Wu’s director of civic organizing, declared victory Tuesday night, besting a field of four other challengers. Enrique Pepén, a former City Hall official in Wu’s administration, won in District 5 representing Hyde Park, Roslindale, and parts of Mattapan, while labor attorney Benjamin Weber prevailed to represent Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury in District 6 and Sharon Durkan retained her seat as the councilor for Beacon Hill’s District 8, city tallies showed late Tuesday.

In a race Wu had not waded into, John FitzGerald claimed Dorchester-based District 3, an open seat.

“Tonight, Boston took a step forward to the future,” Santana said, wiping away tears as he addressed a crowd at Yellow Door Taqueria in Mission Hill. Wu stood by his side as he spoke.

“I’m a city kid. I grew up in public housing, I’m a product of Boston Public Schools,” he added. “And I’m proud to be your next Boston city councilor elect.”

Michelle Wu and Henry Santana make speech at Santana's victory party
Henry Santana, formerly Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s director of civic organizing, declared victory Tuesday night to supporters in Mission Hill.

Including Durkan — who first joined the council after a special election over the summer, and won reelection to a full term Tuesday — the 13-member council will welcome five relative newcomers come January, a notable degree of turnover in a city where incumbents tend to hang on to their power. That shift comes after two progressive incumbents, Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Lara, were rejected by voters in September’s preliminary elections, and two of the body’s more moderate voices, Frank Baker and Michael Flaherty, did not seek reelection this fall.

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Several of this year’s council races followed familiar battle lines in Boston politics: progressive newcomers, many of them with ties to Wu, taking on more moderate candidates with links to the city’s old guard, in several cases former mayor Martin J. Walsh. In nearly all of those races, the progressive-leaning candidate beat out a rival in the moderate lane of the contest, a signal that the city continues its yearslong trend toward the left.

The victors celebrated their wins Tuesday at watch parties across the city. Speaking to supporters at Guira y Tambora in Roslindale, where his campaign signs decorated the walls, Pepén said, “I’m ready to serve District 5.”

“Let’s get to work,” he said, as the crowd started chanting his surname.

His rival, Jose Ruiz, did not concede defeat Tuesday night, telling The Boston Globe that there were still votes to be tallied.

While Boston’s official results website was still reporting incomplete vote totals late Tuesday, candidates often declare victory based on more comprehensive internal reports on precinct-level tallies.

Benjamin Weber, running for District 6, gave a victory speech at an election night watch party at Brendan Behan Pub on Nov. 7.Tanner Pearson for The Boston Globe

At the Brendan Behan Pub in Jamaica Plain, Weber arrived to cheers from his supporters.

Weber, whose mother turned 77 on Election Day, thanked the crowd for their hard work and support, and for giving his mom an “amazing birthday gift,” as he declared victory in the race for the District 6 seat.

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He also acknowledged the role Wu’s endorsement had had in his victory.

“After the preliminary, I think the mayor saw that I was a candidate who was going to push for the kinds of progressive policies that she cares about and that City Hall cares about and that I have the experience that would help the City Council work in a way that everyone here in Boston would be proud of,” Weber said in an interview with the Globe.

In District 3, FitzGerald — a longtime official with the Boston Planning & Development Agency — claimed a decisive victory over teacher and pastor Joel Richards. FitzGerald, the more moderate of the two candidates, had the endorsement of Walsh, while Richards was backed by the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. The current councilor for District 3, Baker, is seen as the council’s most conservative voice.

John FitzGerald arrived at Landmark Public House with his wife, Meghan holding their son, Mac, 4, to give an acceptance speech. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Baker attended FitzGerald’s victory party Tuesday at Dorchester’s Landmark Public House Restaurant & Bar, where trays of pizza and sliders flowed from the kitchen, as servers slalomed through the crowd.

Shortly after 9 p.m., three bagpipe players and two marching drummers stepped into the bar, followed by FitzGerald a moment later, raising his fist into the air in a sign of victory, his wife and kids at his side.

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“Let’s hear it for John FitzGerald,” Baker said, over a roar of applause.

FitzGerald pledged to bring to the council the Dorchester values of hard work, “of not pointing fingers, and not making excuses.”

“Nothing in this world is a given, we know that,” he told the crowd, standing on a chair in the bar where he said he had once been a bouncer.

“Maybe this is the best it gets for me, maybe this is it, maybe I’ve peaked,” he joked. The crowd jeered at the words. “Or maybe it’s just the beginning.”

Tuesday night also marked a significant political victory for Wu, as all four of her picks — Santana, Pepén, Weber, and Durkan — prevailed in their respective races.

Wu, who served several terms as a city councilor, already had powerful alliances on the body, and under Boston’s strong-mayor system, she has had little trouble passing legislation through the council. But come January, the legislative body that is her counterpart on the 5th floor at City Hall is likely to be even friendlier to her. The council has shed two of her most vocal critics — Baker on the right, Lara on the left — and will now gain three members who have worked for her in the past, either in City Hall or as part of her political operation. Pepén was previously the city’s director of neighborhood services, Santana worked at City Hall as Wu’s director of civic organizing, and Durkan was a political adviser and fund-raiser for the mayor. Weber, of Jamaica Plain, also earned Wu’s endorsement.

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“We saw that Boston chose new leadership ready for the hard work ahead,” Wu told the Globe Tuesday evening outside the restaurant in Roslindale where Pepén’s campaign was celebrating.

Asked whether the new council would be more friendly toward her administration, Wu ticked off instances of cooperation with current councilors, including the passage of two municipal budgets and a recent ordinance barring tent encampments in the city.

“I’m eager to dig down and do a lot more alongside new colleagues and returning colleagues because there’s a lot out there that we need to do,” she said. “We have councilors-elect here who are not only eager to bring that vision and needed action for residents but have the experience, have the track record of getting things done in their communities and in City Hall.”

At-large councilors Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Erin Murphy kept their seats, results showed, and incumbent councilors Gabriela Coletta of East Boston, Ed Flynn of South Boston, and Brian Worrell of Dorchester all won reelection Tuesday night after running unopposed. And city tallies showed councilors Tania Fernandes Anderson, Durkan, and Liz Breadon defended their seats against challengers, in Roxbury, Beacon Hill, and Allston-Brighton, respectively.


Emma Platoff can be reached at emma.platoff@globe.com. Follow her @emmaplatoff. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him @Danny__McDonald. Niki Griswold can be reached at niki.griswold@globe.com. Follow her @nikigriswold. Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him @dekool01.