Politics

How Things Shook Out in the 2019 Boston City Council Election

For the first time, a majority of members will be women. Plus, a recount looms.


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The results of the 2019 municipal election are in, and it looks like the transformation of Boston’s City Council will continue. For the first time ever, a majority of members will be women, and the council will soon welcome its first Latina member.

Citywide, 16.5 percent of voters cast a ballot, up from 13.6 percent in 2015. Turnout during the mayoral election in 2017 was 27.8 percent.

Three incumbents will hold onto their seats among four at-large councilors. Michelle Wu, an influential voice on the council who this year launched a campaign to abolish the Boston Planning and Development Agency, was the top vote-getter among four candidates elected to at-large seats, with more than 41,000 ballots cast in her favor. Longtime councilor and onetime mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty will also re-take his at-large seat after getting more than 33,000 votes. Also re-elected was Annissa Essaibi George, who’s been in the role since the 2015 election, with about 34,000 votes.

As for the fourth seat, it’s still up in the air. Alejandra St. Guillen, of West Roxbury, has called for a recount after early results showed her just 10 votes shy of Dorchester’s Julia Mejia.

“We are so proud of the campaign we ran, and in order to fight for a better Boston for all, every vote needs to be counted, and we are requesting a recount,” St. Guillen said in a late-night statement. “This campaign engaged thousands of voters across this city to ultimately be separated by just 10 voters. Every voter who came out and cast a ballot – whether it be absentee, in the voting booth, or provisionally – deserves a full and complete count to determine who is our next City Councilor at large.”

Both Mejia and St. Guillen are first-time candidates, and either would be the first Latina elected to the council.

Without a doubt, though, this is the end of the line for Althea Garrison, a former state representative and perennial candidate who inherited a spot on the council after the departure of now-Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and stood out for being a self-described conservative who voted for President Trump. Garrison had used an unusual strategy in her quest to hold onto her seat, asking supporters to submit a so-called “bullet vote” in her favor, meaning marking down only her name on the ballot so as not to give her competitors any advantage. State Secretary Bill Galvin this week called that move “kind of startling.” In the end, she finished seventh of eight, with 16,161 votes, according to unofficial results.

In the closely watched District 5 race to fill outgoing City Councilor Tim McCarthy’s seat, Ricardo Arroyo came out on top, with a decisive 10 point victory. Arroyo, whose father and brother both served on the council, challenged Maria Esdale Farrell, McCarthy’s former education aide. The race became the subject of controversy last month after video surfaced of a speech in which McCarthy, at a victory party for Farrell, appeared to boast about his preferred candidate finishing ahead of “minorities” in the preliminary race, and disparaging supporters of other candidates as “nonsense people.”

Incumbents Andrea Campbell, who finished 87-12, and Kim Janey, who finished 74.5-24.5, will also keep their seats in District 4 and District 7, respectively. In District 8, Priscilla Kenzie Bok bested attorney and former state GOP chairwoman Jennifer Nassour 70-30, and activist Liz Breadon bested state house staffer Craig Cashman 58.5-41.

Meanwhile, in a non-binding ballot question, voters have voted by a 10 point margin against a proposal that would change the name of Dudley Square in Roxbury to “Nubian Square.” Right now, the square is a tribute to 17th Century Massachusetts Bay Colony Gov. Thomas Dudley, who proponents of the change note was in charge when the state passed laws legalizing slavery.