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Essaibi George announces mayoral bid

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Essaibi George announces mayoral bid
Annissa Essaibi George announces her mayoral campaign in front of East Boston High School, where she previously worked as a teacher. COURTESY PHOTO

At-large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George announced her candidacy for mayor last Thursday, with East Boston High School as a backdrop amid a light snowfall.

Essaibi George said her experience as a teacher at the school has given her insights to the problems facing Bostonians, including housing and homelessness, food insecurity, poor access to transportation and the need to juggle multiple jobs.

“The roadblocks in this city are real,” she said. “The inequities persist. We have to face them head on and fast.”

Her entrance into the race ups the number of declared candidates to three. At-large Councilor Michelle Wu and District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell entered the race last year, challenging outgoing Mayor Martin Walsh, who grew up on the same Dorchester Street as Essaibi George and has long been a political ally of hers.

Walsh won the mayor’s office in 2013. In a crowded race, he leaned heavily on the predominantly Irish-American and conservative voting bloc in South Boston and Dorchester, edging out a diverse field of candidates in the preliminary. During the final, he was able to capture Black, Latino and white progressive voters to defeat former at-large Councilor John Connolly, who drew votes from several predominantly white neighborhoods, including West Roxbury, Charlestown and Back Bay.

With three women in the race so far, and a potential run from City Council President and soon-to-be Acting Mayor Kim Janey, the dynamics of this year’s race will likely be quite different than in 2013. Others expected to join the race include state Rep. Jon Santiago of the South End and former Police Commissioner William Gross, who announced his retirement from the police department today.

While Wu and Campbell have each raised more than $500,000, Essaibi George reported $110,251 on hand Dec. 31, the last filing date made public on the Office of Campaign and Public Finance website. But she appears to have a powerful ally in Walsh, two of whose former operatives are working on her campaign.

Candidates will face an uphill battle getting their message across to voters this year if pandemic restrictions continue through summer, with large public events canceled and traditional campaign outreach tactics such as door-knocking rendered virtually impossible. The mayoral race may hinge more heavily on targeted mailings and advertising than in ordinary campaign cycles. Thus, campaign finance will likely be more important this year than in past mayoral elections.

Race, ethnicity and ideology will also likely play out differently this year than in years past.

Essaibi George, whose father is Tunisian, identifies as Arab-American and has caucused with Black, Latino and Asian elected officials. On the council, she has often aligned with the white members. Last year, when councilors of color voted against the mayor’s budget, demanding funds be cut from the police budget and added to social service programs, Essaibi George voted in favor of the budget.

She also parted with councilors of color on the issue of BPD’s gang database (she supports it) and a return to an all-elected school committee (she’s against it).

Facing Wu, Campbell and possibly Janey — all of whom have cleaved to the left wing of the council during the last two years — Essaibi George may have difficulty appealing to Black, Latino and white progressive voters who were seen as essential to Walsh’s 2013 victory over Connolly.

Essaibi George and the other mayoral candidates will likely continue to face the conflicting interests of police and voters seeking police reforms, the interests of real estate developers and those of low- and moderate-income renters, and the interests of the city’s business community and those of unions and workers’ rights advocates.

In her address last week, Essaibi George suggested she would be a bridge between the city’s conflicting interests.

“I believe in a Boston that sees growth and inclusion,” she said. “Justice and safety. Wealth and equity. These things are not mutually exclusive. Boston can do this.”