Wu And Campbell Lead Fundraising In Boston's Mayor Race, But Others Are Catching Up

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Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell. (Elise Amendola/AP and Jesse Costa/WBUR, composite image)
Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell. (Elise Amendola/AP and Jesse Costa/WBUR, composite image)

City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell are leading the fundraising race in their bids to become Boston's next mayor, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the state. But other candidates are gaining ground.

Wu and Campbell, who were the first to jump into the mayor's race, have more than a million dollars each in their campaign accounts, which gives them an important advantage in a crowded field.

"I think Michelle and Andrea...are really demonstrating the benefit of having started early," said political strategist Wilnelia Rivera said.

In a race where almost half of registered voters were undecided just a month ago, according to a WBUR poll, money is critical. It helps candidates build name recognition and present their visions for the future of the city.

The crowded field also includes Acting Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, the city's former economic development chief, John Barros, and State Representative Jon Santiago.

Wu says her lived experience is the heart of her campaign: She's the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who, in her early 20s, became the primary caregiver for her two younger sisters after her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"Knowing what it's like to be up all night in the emergency room waiting for the mental health bed to open up for my mom, or opening a small business with so many hoops and barriers to jump through — and so many other people in similar situations were struggling with that," Wu said.

Andrea Campbell, who joined the race about a week after Wu, also has a story to tell about her life that is central to her campaign: She had a twin brother, who like her was the product of Boston Public schools. But she went on to Princeton University and UCLA Law School, while her brother was accused of terrible crimes, cycled in an out of the criminal justice system, and died while in custody.

"Sadly, it's not a story that is [just] familiar to me," Campbell told WBUR. "It is familiar to many thousands of residents in the city. And so my about eradicating those inequities and breaking cycles of poverty, trauma, criminalization. And so, I'm excited to run for mayor."

While Wu and Campbell benefitted from being first to join the race, others are  catching up. That includes City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who has about half as much cash on hand as Wu and Campbell. But since the start of this year, Essaibi George raised more raised more than everyone else, except for Wu.

"I'm excited about that because that helps me spread the word and reach more voters," said Essibi George, a small business owner and a former high school teacher. She's running as an ally of former Mayor Marty Walsh, representing a kind of continuity at City Hall.

"I am very proud of my relationship with former Mayor Walsh and what I was able to do in partnership with him," she said. "[That includes] my commitment to education, our commitment to our most vulnerable residents, especially when we think of homelessness, when we think of those dealing with substance abuse disorder; that's important to me, and I want to continue that work."

Meanwhile, State Rep. Jon Santiago has about a half million dollars of cash on hand — about the same as Essaibi George. John Barros has about $300,000.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey has less cash than all of her rivals. That's partly because she only declared her candidacy last month, not long after she succeeded Marty Walsh. But in April, she raised more than $200,000 — more than anyone else in the race. And of course Janey has an advantage beyond money.

"You refer to her as 'Mayor Janey,'" said Tito Jackson, who ran for Mayor of Boston unsuccessfully in 2017. Jackson pointed out that as Janey can rollout initiatives as acting mayor and talk about them at daily press conferences — giving her front-runner status.

"This should be a race about who has the best vision for the next generation of the city of Boston," he said.

But Jackson is heartened that all six major candidates are people of color — focusing one way or another on racial inequalities in the city.

The candidates have four months to make their pitch to voters before the preliminary election in September.

Do you live in Boston? We'd like to hear your thoughts on the mayor's race by using the survey below. Can't see the survey? Click here.

This segment aired on May 6, 2021.


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Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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