While We Were Gone: Recapping the Boston Mayoral Race

With the arrival of September, things have begun to heat up for those running in the 2017 Boston mayoral election. Incumbent Democratic mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ‘09, has been challenged by city councilman and fellow Democrat Tito Jackson, as well as two nonpartisan candidates: Robert Cappucci and Joseph Wiley.

Walsh has been Mayor of Boston since 2014. According to his campaign website, his priorities are that “every Bostonian has a fair shot at a good job, affordable housing, and a great education.” Walsh aims to help Bostonians obtain good jobs by supporting small businesses, job training programs, and education for a strong workforce. He also promises to implement a “school-to-career connection” that includes plans for free community college and partnerships between employers and colleges.

Walsh hopes to increase opportunities for homeownership among the middle class of Boston by expanding public housing and building more affordable homes. As for education, Walsh’s platform includes investing $1 billion into Boston’s schools over the next 10 years and establishing “universal access to free, high-quality pre-kindergarten.” Walsh has also placed emphasis on his Imagine Boston 2030 plan, which, according to his website, is Boston’s first citywide plan in more than 50 years. This plan was built to address “all of the major trends affecting our city: population growth, housing demand, inequality, climate change, innovation, and more.”

Jackson’s platform includes education reform that focuses on teaching trade skills that can lead to profitable careers. He plans to do this by creating partnerships between trades and schools to “build pathways for anyone seeking training.” As for housing, Jackson believes that Boston should offer housing opportunities to people of all economic levels in order to promote healthy neighborhoods.

On his campaign website, Jackson also calls to attention the “33 year difference in life expectancy from the north end of my district to the south … Zip codes should not determine longevity.” He says that Boston “must address healthcare disparities head-on.” He also lists employment as being a major part of his platform, urging Boston to “provide access to jobs for younger residents, seniors, the disabled and everyone in between.” Jackson recognizes the important role small businesses play in a successful city, and argues that Boston should support local business owners and be “proactive to ensure small businesses thrive and are an integral part of our community.”

Wiley, a nonpartisan candidate, places education as a top priority, stating that “every student in Boston schools deserves an education that thoroughly prepares them for college, and/or to compete successfully for a good paying job.” Affordable housing is another issue that is put in the forefront of his campaign. Wiley stresses the importance of building affordable housing for the middle class and people of lower income, stating that building more affordable housing will help to address Boston’s “unacceptable” homeless problem. Wiley also brings up the issue of income inequality. According to his website, “In 2013, the Boston’s top 5 percent made 54 times more than the bottom 20 percent.” He believes that the Mayor of Boston should “forcefully” advocate for a minimum wage that is $15 an hour, and that Boston residents need better access to adult education and training, as well as adult literacy and English classes.

Cappucci, a retired Boston police officer and a lifelong resident of East Boston, has a platform that focuses on a few key issues. These include not allowing Boston to become a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, placing a moratorium on all real estate development, and defending the first and second amendment rights of the residents of Boston. Cappucci also says that he will “never forget all our veterans,” and “will protect the life and quality of life of everyone.” Cappucci has made clear his willingness to communicate with President Donald Trump’s administration in order to receive federal dollars, stating that he would not take away money from the middle class in order to fund affordable housing. According to The Boston Globe, Cappucci also believes in “better cooperation with the federal deportation authorities and blocking anyone from coming from out of town to have abortions.”

Over the summer, prospective candidates worked to collect enough signatures in order to enter the race. To run for mayor, a candidate needs 3,000 verified signatures of registered Boston voters. Walsh was the first certified candidate to get onto the ballot, collecting over 38,000 signatures by mid-May. This was among the highest number of signatures for a mayoral campaign ever collected in Boston. Jackson was the next candidate to meet the 3,000 required signatures, and for a short time it appeared that there would be no need for a preliminary election in September. In late May, however, Wiley changed that, as he was able to gain the required signatures with the help of a hired professional petition gatherer who he paid with his own funds. Cappucci was also able to enter the race in late May, saying that he was able to use 72 volunteers in order to gain over 4,000 signatures.

A preliminary election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 26. To vote in the preliminary election, you must be registered to vote at least 20 days before, but you do not have to be registered with a particular political party. The candidates with the two highest vote totals are the ones who get to move on to the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

According to the Globe, some drama unfolded when Wiley entered the campaign, as some thought that he was encouraged by Walsh’s campaign to “run as a foil” in the race and further divide the votes among those who did not support Walsh. Wiley, however, completely rejected these unfounded suggestions, stating that he was running because he knew he was a “better candidate than any one of those guys.”

Walsh made headlines in early June when he said that his city wouldn’t “back down” if President Trump decided to walk away from the Paris climate accord, instead promising that Boston would continue to stay invested in clean energy. A few weeks later Walsh received endorsements from LGBTQ+ leaders, including state senators, state representatives, and community members ahead of the Boston Pride Parade. According to Walsh’s website, “The leaders cited Walsh’s long history of standing up and fighting for the LGBTQ+ community and his ongoing commitment to equality.” In mid-June, Walsh enjoyed another key endorsement, this time coming from UNITE HERE, a politically powerful Boston union comprised of food and hotel workers that boasts around 10,000 members.

While Walsh benefitted from early summer endorsements, a late June poll showed that things were not looking as good for Jackson. A poll from Suffolk University and the Globe put Walsh 31 points ahead in the race for mayor. Of 500 surveyed, around 54 percent said they favored Walsh. The poll also found that almost half of those surveyed did not know who Jackson was. In late June, Meghan E. Irons of the Globe reported that over the summer, Jackson’s campaign experienced a serious lag in donations, writing that donations “ground to a halt” by the end of May.

From May 22 through June 1, Jackson’s campaign raised only $250. Jackson, however, made headlines of a different kind when in mid-July, he called out Walsh over violent crime in Boston, describing Walsh’s attempts to manage escalating violence in Boston as “flatfooted.” In a mid-July mayoral forum he also made the news when he said that he would push for all members of the Boston police force to have body cameras, as well as require officers to undergo training to recognize “implicit bias” they hold.

In mid-July, a West Roxbury forum cast all of the hopefuls into the spotlight as they fielded questions and talked about their visions of the future. All candidates besides Walsh attended. Walsh cited a conflict in his schedule as his reason for not attending, but attendees begrudgingly noted that Walsh did not even send a representative. All three candidates who participated in the forum lamented the lack of affordable housing in Boston, with Jackson saying: “It’s time that we take back our city. Our city is being sold to the highest bidder.” The topics of immigration and racism were also crucial ones at the forum. Jackson made clear his support of making Boston a sanctuary city, also adding that all Boston Public Schools should be sanctuaries as well. Cappucci expressed an opposing view during the forum, stating that he does not believe that Boston should be a sanctuary city because he still wants the city to be able to receive federal funds.

The biggest test so far for the four candidates will occur on Sept. 26, when the voters of Boston will pick the two who will go on to run in the general election. While most polls favor Walsh and Jackson to be the two, both Wiley and Cappucci remain hopeful that they will get their chance to impact the city of Boston in a positive way.

 

Photo By Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff