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City Council expected to set record for female members

CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

The City Council elections will deliver new councilors to voters in at least three districts Tuesday night.

By Globe Staff 

The City Council will include more female members and councilors of color than ever before when it convenes in January, after voters on Tuesday added two more women to serve on the increasingly diverse body.

Tuesday’s results will give the 13-member council six women of color, less than a decade after it was dominated by nine white men and one white woman — marking a rapid shift in the city’s political hierarchy.

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East Boston attorney Lydia Edwards prevailed in a tight battle with city transportation official Stephen Passacantilli in a council district that also includes the North End and Charlestown, long enclaves of white-ethnic political power. In the night’s most closely watched race, Edwards, who is African-American, posted a victory of more than 5 percentage points over Passacantilli, according to unofficial results.

She claimed victory shortly after 9 p.m., and Passacantilli had both called to congratulate her and delivered his concession speech, one of his advisers said.

Kim Janey, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, scored a 12-point win over Rufus J. Faulk, program director for an antiviolence group, for the District 7 seat.

That district, covering Roxbury and sections of Dorchester, came open when Tito Jackson relinquished it to challenge Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

With expected easy victories by four female incumbent councilors, who together had already tied the earlier record for representation, the council will feature the most women it has ever had, once the winners are sworn in early next year.

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“There’s a lot of new and a wider variety in experiences we’re seeing on the council, not just in gender, but also in age, too,” said at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who won a second term on Tuesday.

Another race that intrigued city insiders pitted Edward M. Flynn of South Boston, son of former longtime mayor Raymond L. Flynn, against Michael Kelley of the South End, a former campaign manager for the late mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Flynn’s campaign, leading by more than 3 percentage points with all precincts reporting, claimed victory late Tuesday night, and Kelley had conceded. District 2 also includes Chinatown and Bay Village, but the race was largely seen as a showdown between South Boston, a longtime political powerhouse, and the more progressive South End.

Longtime political observers say the expected turnover on the council would better reflect the city’s demographic makeup.

“It’s about time,” said Josiane Martinez, CEO of Archipelago Strategies Group and a political consultant who did not have a client in the council races. “I feel like minorities are driving our population, economic, and cultural growth, and it’s about time that leadership catches up to that.”

As recently as 2009, the City Council consisted of nine white men, one white woman, two African-Americans, and one Asian-American.

In January, the council will include seven white men and six women of color.

“The demographics of the council are starting to finally catch up to the demographics of the city, which have been a lot different,” said state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat. “It’s certainly been lagging, and that’s been definitely been noticed by many groups of people over the years.”

Michlewitz pointed out that open seats — like those in districts 1 and 7 — frequently prompt the type of change in makeup that the council will see in January.

“Sometimes the political voices take time to shift to what the demographics are, and I think that as incumbents leave, that opens up new doors,” said Michlewitz, who endorsed Passacantilli.

Tuesday’s marquee race, the Edwards-Passacantilli matchup, came about after Councilor Sal LaMattina said he would not seek another term.

Passacantilli, who comes from a longtime political family in the North End, claimed support from Walsh, who recorded robocalls on his behalf that were sent out Tuesday. Passacantilli also received endorsements from both LaMattina and John Connolly, the former city councilor whom Walsh beat for mayor in 2013.

Edwards is an attorney who has lived in East Boston for a decade. She surprised political handicappers by beating Passacantilli in September in Ward 2, Charlestown, long a redoubt for white politicians.

In the September preliminary, Passacantilli took home a narrow victory of fewer than a hundred votes in a three-way race. But political observers predicted the broadened electorate on Tuesday would likely land Edwards on the council.

The District 2 race, filling the vacancy left behind by former city councilor Bill Linehan, at times turned acrimonious. Kelley distributed campaign literature depicting Flynn as a shadowy figure, and accusing him of “anti-equality” and “anti-immigrant.”

Flynn’s campaign last month alleged the Kelley operation had committed “vote-farming” among elderly voters in Chinatown — essentially fixing absentee ballots.

In District 8, Councilor Josh Zakim turned back challenger Kristen Mobilia. District 9 Councilor Mark Ciommo defeated a challenge from Brandon David Bowser.

The four current citywide councilors — Michelle Wu, Michael F. Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, and Annissa Essaibi George — cruised to reelection, over four other candidates on the ballot.


Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.