Her name wasn’t on the ballot, but Tuesday night’s municipal election was undeniably a good one for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
In the first municipal election since she became mayor, the Roslindale Democrat’s slate of preferred City Council candidates went undefeated. Four political newcomers with very little electoral experience received the backing of the city’s top politician. All four progressives emerged victorious Tuesday night, according to unofficial results from the city’s elections department, paving the way for a remade council that’s likely to be more friendly to the administration’s aims once it is sworn in early next year.
“No doubt this is a big win for the mayor,” said Eldin Lynn Villafañe, a public relations specialist. “Now to be seen is whether those that were newly elected are going to help deliver on her agenda . . . with the collaboration of the rest of the city council members.”
Henry Santana, who most recently worked for Wu as her director of civic organizing, a $105,000-a-year City Hall post, secured the fourth at-large council spot Tuesday night, meaning he will be representing the entire city.
Another first-time candidate and Wu acolyte, Enrique José Pepén, bested Jose Ruiz in District 5, which includes Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roslindale. Pepén earlier in the year worked as Wu’s executive director of neighborhood services, a $120,000-a-year post. Wu endorsed Pepén during the preliminary stage of the race, a move that appeared to give the young candidate a crucial boost as he vied to beat the incumbent, Ricardo Arroyo, a onetime Wu ally and a known and reliable progressive vote on the council. Arroyo was eliminated in the September preliminary.
In District 8, which includes Beacon Hill and Back Bay, Sharon Durkan cruised to victory over Montez D. Haywood, garnering 70 percent of the vote in the process. It was an expected result, as Durkan had previously defeated Haywood earlier this year in a special election to replace Kenzie Bok. That marked the first time Durkan had run for public office, and Tuesday’s result means Durkan will now serve a full council term. Durkan, too, has worked for Wu, including acting as Wu’s campaign finance director from 2015 to 2017 and campaign committee director from 2017 to 2020. She was a political adviser to Wu from 2022 until this spring.
Lastly, there was Ben Weber, who defeated William King in District 6, which includes Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. Weber, a labor attorney, was the only candidate among Wu’s endorsed slate who did not previously work for the mayor. A first-time candidate, Weber beat King, an IT director, by 20 percentage points in Tuesday’s contest.
Just under 19 percent of the city’s 413,000-plus voters turned out Tuesday.
Lou DiNatale, a longtime political analyst and veteran Massachusetts pollster, considered Tuesday’s results to be a textbook example of a victory of new Boston over old Boston.
“Big time, big time,” he said.
He thought that the newly elected council would hail a changing of the political guard in the city.
“She’s leading it,” he said of Wu, “but there’s a wave coming in behind her.”
Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, thought Tuesday’s election reflected “an off-year acceptance of the mandate” Wu earned when she was elected mayor two years ago.
“The Boston City Council has often been a source of competition for the city’s mayor, but it is not really in that mode now. It’s in a mode to really move with her,” Watanabe said.
John Nucci, a former Boston councilor, thought Tuesday’s election showed that Wu “has the pulse of her city, that’s good news for her.” Nucci thought that the ideological bend of the council, which has trended leftward in recent years, really has not changed much.
“Practically speaking, she’ll save a lot of money on Tylenol because she’ll have a lot fewer headaches on the City Council right now,” Nucci said.
Speaking Tuesday night, Wu said, “Boston chose new leadership ready for the hard work ahead.”
“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.
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling, a Boston political consultant, said Tuesday’s wins bolstered Wu’s chances at reelection. She also credited Wu with helping keep progressivism a dominant force in city politics. Ferriabough Bolling thought the recent council redistricting process could have resulted in a more moderate council.
“She rescued the progressives, period,” she said.
Erin O’Brien, a political science professor at UMass Boston, agreed that “the cause of progressivism won last night.” She noted that although two progressive stalwarts who have been buffeted by scandal on the council, Arroyo and Kendra Lara, were eliminated in September’s preliminary, Tuesday’s election showed that there were other progressive options on the ballot.
O’Brien also thought Tuesday’s results showed that Wu, who won 64 percent of the vote in her 2021 mayoral bid, was able to teach her candidates how to develop an effective ground game.
“Michelle Wu is a powerhouse,” O’Brien said. “She gets a lot of credit for her policy chops but she knows neighborhoods.”