4 Newcomers Set To Join A Historically Diverse Boston City Council

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At-large Boston City Council candidate Julia Mejia, left, speaks with Carol and James Dryden about issues that concern them. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Newly elected Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, left, speaks with Carol and James Dryden about issues that concern them during the campaign. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

For the first time, minority candidates will make up a majority of the Boston City Council.

In Tuesday's municipal election, four progressive newcomers were poised to win seats on the legislative body, including the first-ever Latina and the first Latino in six years.

With Tuesday's results, seven of the 13 councilors will be people of color. Boston is a majority-minority city. Eight of the 13 will be women.

First-time candidate Julia Mejia, a community activist, appeared to finish fourth among eight candidates to win the final at-large council seat, squeaking by fellow Latina newcomer Alejandra St. Guillen by just 10 votes, per the city's unofficial results. Mejia got 22,464 votes to St. Guillen's 22,454.

Just after midnight, St. Guillen, who led the city's Office of Immigrant Advancement, called for a recount, saying in a statement that "[e]very 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."

St. Guillen must now collect signatures for a recount, which Mejia said she welcomes. Secretary of State William Galvin said Wednesday he's working with Boston officials on the likely recount and hopes it'd be done this month.

If the unofficial results hold, Mejia would join at-large incumbents Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty, and she would replace Althea Garrison, who moved onto the council after Ayanna Pressley won a seat in Congress. Garrison, a self-described conservative, finished seventh on Tuesday.

Said Mejia, as her supporters waved Dominican flags Tuesday night: “My mother, who I cleaned offices with in this city, who was undocumented, was able to cast a ballot for her daughter. That goes to show what the American dream really is all about."

Councilor Wu — whose name has been floated as a possible mayoral challenger — was the top vote-getter among the at-large candidates in September's preliminary election and finished first on Tuesday as well, with 20.7% of the vote, per the unofficial tally.

District 5

Five of the nine council districts had contested races Tuesday, including three seats left open by retiring white male incumbents.

Ricardo Arroyo (Simón Rios/WBUR)
Ricardo Arroyo (Simón Rios/WBUR)

In one of those three open contests, in District 5, Ricardo Arroyo topped Maria Esdale Farrell, an education adviser to the outgoing councilor, 54.5% to 45%.

Arroyo, a 32-year-old public defender, is the son and brother of former councilors. His brother, Felix, was the last Latino on the legislative body, in 2013.

District 5 is the southernmost in the city, covering most of Roslindale, Hyde Park and Mattapan.

After the result, Arroyo talked about his priorities come January, including public transit equity and "looking for ways to ensure that affordable housing is being built."

District 8

Another newcomer, Kenzie Bok, won the open District 8 seat, easily besting Jennifer Nassour, a former state Republican Party chair.

Bok, most recently a Boston Housing Authority official and earlier budget director for Councilor Essaibi-George, took 70% of the vote in the district, which runs from the West End, through Back Bay, and to Mission Hill.

District 9

The final open seat was in District 9, which covers Allston and Brighton. There, physical therapist Liz Breadon, an immigrant from Northern Ireland, beat Craig Cashman, a former state legislative aide, by a margin of 58.5% to 41%.

In other contested races, incumbents Andrea Campbell, in District 4, and Kim Janey, in District 7, easily topped their opponents to win re-election.

Boston was one of 58 communities with a municipal election on the rainy Tuesday. Turnout was light in Boston, with 16.5% of voters casting ballots.

This article was originally published on November 05, 2019.

This segment aired on November 6, 2019.


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Benjamin Swasey Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.


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Simón Rios Reporter
Simón Rios is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.



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