A Boston prelim primer: The 4 City Council races to watch Tuesday

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Boston City Council campaign signs outside of an early voting center in Hyde Park. (Walter Wuthmann/WBUR)
Boston City Council campaign signs outside of an early voting center in Hyde Park. (Walter Wuthmann/WBUR)

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It’s (maybe) election day for you!

If you’ve tuned out the offseason municipal preliminary election so far — Mayor Michelle Wu isn’t up for reelection until 2025 — you’re probably not alone. The last time Boston had a preliminary election during a non-mayoral election year (2019), the turnout was just 11%. That gives us a lot of room for improvement!

Today’s vote is important; it decides which two candidates move on to the Nov. 7 general election in four City Council races. Here’s what you need to know:

First, some housekeeping

Four of the Council’s nine district seats are on the ballot today, and there’s no preliminary for the four at-large seats (there are only eight candidates, so they all go straight to the general election).

  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. — and if you still have a mail-in ballot, you have to return it to one of the city’s 21 drop boxes or the Election Department at City Hall by 8 p.m.

The four Boston races

District 3: City Councilor Frank Baker, who’s earned a reputation as the most conservative member of the increasingly progressive body, is leaving office — and there’s an open, seven-way race to take his place. It’s the only race this cycle with no incumbent, one that has seen the likes of Marty Walsh and Deval Patrick weigh in to persuade voters.

  • Who’s voting: District 3 includes the eastern half of Dorchester, plus some of the South End (not to mention the Harbor Islands; that means you, Laurel!) Here’s the map.
  • Go deeper: The Dorchester Reporter sent policy questionnaires to all seven candidates. You can read more about each hopeful and see their responses here.

District 5: Embattled incumbent City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo is fighting off three challengers — two of which have some high-profile support. Wu has endorsed progressive candidate Enrique Pepén, her former director of neighborhood services. Meanwhile, retired Boston Police officer Jose Ruiz is running with the support of Walsh and the City Council’s more moderate members. Jean-Claude Sanon, a longtime Haitian activist and radio host, is also in the race.

  • Who’s voting: District 5 includes Hyde Park, plus parts of Mattapan and Roslindale. (It’s Wu’s home district.) See the map.
  • Go deeper: WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann recently joined Arroyo on the campaign trail and found voters were more concerned about policies like school bus pickup and speed bumps, than the councilor’s recent bad headlines. Read Walt’s full story here.

District 6: It’s a similar story in District 5. Facing criminal charges for a recent car crash, Councilor Kendra Lara has two credible opponents. William King, an IT director for a local nonprofit, is running with the support of two of Lara’s more conservative colleagues. And labor attorney Ben Weber is running with the endorsement of The Boston Globe editorial board. But some big local progressive groups are also still standing behind Lara.

  • Who’s voting: District 6 largely comprises (mostly progressive) Jamaica Plain and (more conservative) West Roxbury. Check out the map here.
  • Go deeper: All three candidates took part in a forum last month, and Lara and Weber often sided to the left of King on the issues. Universal Hub has full coverage here.

District 7: First-term Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson has endured bad press in the past year for hiring family members on her Council staff. But unlike Lara, her challengers have garnered far less institutional support. Her four opponents include perennial candidate and former councilor ​​Althea Garrison, fellow frequent candidate Roy Owens Sr., and anti-vaccine activist Padma Scott.

P.S.— For more on the election, Walt joined Dorchester Reporter managing editor Gin Dumcius on Radio Boston yesterday to talk about the political battles being waged for City Council and what they’re hearing on the campaign trail. Listen here.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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