Women top vote-getters in Boston at-large city council election

Martin Desmarais | 11/13/2013, 11:15 a.m.
When Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and City Councilor-Elect Michelle Wu topped the ballot for two of the four at ...
Michelle Wu was elected to the Boston City Council in last week’s election. She is the First Asian-American women elected to citywide office in Boston. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Wu)

When Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and City Councilor-Elect Michelle Wu topped the ballot for two of the four at-large council seats in the election last week, the prevailing political wind was one of change with two women of color leading the way and drawing the most votes.

Pressley’s reelection was no surprise, nor was her spot as the top vote-getter — she has now won her third term and topped the tickets in her last run as well. However, political rookie Wu’s strong campaign and victory is one that has many considering the implications about Boston’s voting public.

The 28-year-old Wu, who is the Chicago-born daughter of Taiwanese parents, is the first Asian-American woman elected to citywide office in Boston history. She moved to Boston less than a decade ago after graduating from Harvard University and made waves on the Boston political scene when she nabbed fourth place in an at-large city council preliminary in September that had 19 candidates — and did so with an impressive 13,000 votes more than the fifth place finisher.

She bested that in the primary election by moving up to the second spot behind the popular Pressley.

More impressive is that Wu has no prior political experience, beyond working in the administration of Mayor Thomas Menino — helping create the city’s food truck program and streamlining the process for permitting the trucks and restaurants by switching from paper to electronic submissions.

Her success shows that voters responded to her highly visible campaign efforts and her message of the greater need for city government to support healthy communities and stable families.

Priti Rao, executive director of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, said that the results in the city council at-large election, with women leading the way, are a great thing for the advancement of women in politics.

“This is a huge day for us. We have been wanting this for years,” Rao said. “The fact that in Boston you have two women of color topping the ticket is a huge thing.”

The women’s caucus has been working for over four decades to increase the participation of women in the political progress and to increase the number of women appointed to elected public office, so Rao said the organization feels Pressley’s and Wu’s success as their own.

In fact, both Pressley and Wu have been previously involved in the women’s caucus. Pressley served on the board and Wu as a member of the young professionals committee.

According to Rao, the success of the women in the city council election shows that the wants of the voters are changing. She says that more and more voters want to see women in government – they want to see representatives that look like them, and focus on the issues that impact their daily lives.

Rao also points out that this is reflected at the highest level of politics with some women politicians playing big roles on the national scene with the federal government. She also says that as more and more women’s issues rise to the forefront, more voters will want women in office because they feel that they will address these issues more effectively than their male counterparts.