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City Council incumbents Wu, Essaibi-George, Flaherty, and Garrison advance to Nov. ballot with four newcomers

A voter marked her ballot in the Chinatown YMCA gymnasium, which doubles as Boston's Ward 3 Precinct 8. Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, frequently mentioned as a potential future mayoral candidate, won more votes than anyone else in the City Council’s preliminary election Tuesday, as voters winnowed down the field of hopefuls who will appear on the November ballot.

Wu, alongside fellow at-large councilor incumbents Michael Flaherty, Annissa Essaibi-George, Althea Garrison and newcomers Alejandra Nicole St. Guillen, Julia Mejia, Erin J. Murphy, and David Halbert will move ahead to the city’s Nov. 5 municipal election, according to unofficial results.

The top finishers in a field of 15 candidates, they will vie for the four at-large seats on the city council.


Wu, who led the at-large city councilor race with 26,622 votes — more than 19 percent of the vote — said voters came to the polls with an eagerness to get engaged with municipal government.

“The city council has the platform to empower communities, think big, and seek actions on issues that made a difference in people’s lives,” Wu said.

Polls closed at 8 p.m.; voters who turned out will help shape the next council, drawn from the most diverse slate of candidates running for the board in the city’s history.

In the district councilor races, where the top two finishers in each district Tuesday will appear on the city’s November ballot, the strongest showing by a candidate who was not an incumbent was Priscilla Kenzie Bok, who secured half the votes in the five-way race to represent the Back Bay area and succeed retiring councilor Josh Zakim.

“I am incredibly honored and proud that our supporters across the district propelled this campaign into a strong first place finish,” Bok said in a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday night. “Even more remarkable, we won each of the five neighborhoods in #district8! My heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed.”


Jennifer Ann Nassour came in behind Bok in the District 8 race, and will also appear on the November ballot, according to unofficial results.

The seven-way campaign to succeed Allston-Brighton Councilor Mark Ciommo in District 9 ended with Craig Cashman and Liz A. Breadon looking poised to advance.

In the race for the council seat in District 5, which spans parts of Roslindale, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, Ricardo Arroyo had about 30 percent of the votes, followed by Maria Esdale Farrell, who had about 24 percent of the votes. Both will advance to November.

They were the apparent top finishers in the eight-way race to succeed incumbent Timothy McCarthy, who was not running for re-election.

Incumbent Councilor Kim Janey, who represents Roxbury in District 7, showed a commanding lead in a three-candidate race: Janey had more than 70 percent of the votes in the race for re-election, and looked poised to go head-to-head with Roy Owens Sr. in November.

On Tuesday, voters slowly trickled to their polling places, casting their ballots in what was a low-turnout preliminary election for City Council.

Polls were slow all day: about 15,000 had cast ballots by noontime; six hours later, about 35,800 — about 9 percent of the city’s 402,536 registered voters — had voted, according to the elections office.

Among those who voted, some did so out of a sense of civic obligation, like 60-year-old Patricia Butler, who couldn’t imagine not participating in an election.

“I just thought it was important that I voted,” Butler said, after casting her ballot at the West End Library on Cambridge Street, where 183 ballots were cast by 6 p.m.


That included the 423 votes cast at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square by 6 p.m. Among them were Susan Husserl-Kapit, 75, and her husband, Johnston Edward, 76, who voted largely for the same reason — to elect candidates who would support the Back Bay.

But they didn’t see eye to eye on candidates in the race in District 8: Husserl-Kapit supported Bok; Edward cast a vote for Nassour.

Husserl-Kapit praised Bok’s educational background, including a PhD from the University of Cambridge: “She’s bright, and knows what she is doing,” Husserl-Kapit said.

Nassour, the former head of the Massachusetts GOP, would bring a different perspective to the council, Edward said.

“It wouldn’t hurt to have a Republican,” he said.

Tuesday was the first time since 2013 there was a preliminary election for an at-large council seat; there were no more than eight candidates on the ballot for at-large races in 2015 and 2017. In 2013, 19 candidates were on the ballot for at-large seats.

There was no preliminary vote in the remaining districts. Incumbents Lydia Edwards, who represents Charlestown in District 1; Edward Flynn of District 2, which includes South Boston and Chinatown; Frank Baker, the councilor for the South End and parts of Dorchester in District 3; and Matt O’Malley, representing much of Jamaica Plain in District 6, are running uncontested races. Council President Andrea Campbell, who represents Dorchester, will face challenger Jeff Durham in the District 4 race in November.


John Hilliard can be reached at