At-large field cut to eight in low turnout preliminary election

Graph courtesy Kristin Johnson/

Wu, Essaibi-George, Flaherty, and St. Guillen lead the pack

Three incumbents and a first-time candidate with City Hall experience cracked into the top tier of at-large candidates in Boston’s preliminary election for City Council on Tuesday. Barely one in ten (eleven percent) of eligible Boston voters participated in the election, which narrowed the field of 15 hopefuls down to 8 who will compete for the four at-large seats in a Nov. 5 run-off.

Michelle Wu topped the citywide field ticket once again, finishing with 19 percent of the votes cast. She was followed by Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty, who each amassed just under 14 percent. Alejandra St. Guillen, a former member of Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration, captured the fourth slot with just under 9 percent.

Competition for the fifth position was fierce between Julia Mejia (7.7 percent), incumbent Althea Garrison (7.09 percent) and Erin Murphy, who ended up with 6.84 percent. David Halbert earned himself a spot on the November ballot by securing the eighth position at 4.76 percent.

Essaibi-George, a Dorchester resident who placed fourth in citywide balloting in 2017, watched the results come in throughout the night with family members and supporters at her Mayhew Street home. She ended up moving into the second slot— with 18,993 votes.

"I am anxiously optimistic about our finish tonight,” Essaibi-George told the Reporter. “I think that we obviously have quote unquote 'won' in this preliminary and we'll make it to the next round…. For me this is a momentary celebration and the work continues tomorrow morning.”

"Honestly, I think there were a few people that would have liked to see me beat today,” she added. “I think it's because I've demonstrated a commitment to honesty, a commitment to transparency, a commitment to action, a commitment to not just engaging with the voters and representing them vocally and in a very active way, but in a very honest way. I don't paint a pretty picture. I can put on a fancy dress, but the work is hardcore, the work can be gritty, and as a Dorchester girl, I'm pretty okay with the gritty, and happy to show up at work every single day, and I do that very proudly and happily and without any bashfulness."

Garrison, who finished fifth in the last city election and thus secured a council seat when now-US Rep. Ayanna Pressley left last January finished sixth in the balloting yesterday. Garrison’s “fourth seat” has been a target for new challengers in the field in this election— and on Tuesday it was Alejandra St. Guillen who claimed the slot.

"I am shocked and thrilled by this result, which I owe to the hard work of our amazing team of volunteers and supporters,” St. Guillen said in a statement released by her campaign. “I ran inspired by Ayanna Pressley, and other women of color who opened the path for candidates like myself. I hope to show our diverse residents that an LGBTQ Latina candidate can have a chance to represent the city of Boston. But there is still much work to do, we have a short time, and a long path to November 5, and can't take our foot off the gas."

Julia Mejia, who lives in Dorchester, was the fifth-place finisher— a result that thrilled the first-time candidate who moved to Boston as a child from the Dominican Republic.

“Today’s results are a clear message that the residents of Boston want real change. Voters want a Boston where all voices are part of the decision-making process in our city government, and elected officials in City Hall are held accountable,” Mejia said in a statement. “I’m proud of all the volunteers who are behind this campaign, and the many who are not typically involved in the political process or tied to a vast network of Boston’s political insiders.”

Dorchester’s Erin Murphy also punched her ticket to advance to the November finals with a seventh-place finish on Tuesday. She celebrated with family and supporters at the Industry in Adams Village.

“We crushed Dorchester and Southie,” Murphy said to the gathering. “Dorchester definitely put us over the top. I heard in City Hall they’re shocked by how [well] I did.”

“I’m feeling great! We’re still trying to get all the numbers in and see where we landed but overall. I think that Dorchester and our home-base really helped. We can only go up from here.”

“We’ve had no big help from other candidates,” she added. “I’ve been doing this all by myself and I’m going to keep working hard. I’m really looking forward to it,” Murphy said.

The final council election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. There will be several opportunities in the coming weeks to see and meet candidates, including a forum organized by Dorchester civic groups set for Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at Florian Hall.

This story was reported by Reporter staff Katie Trojano, Daniel Sheehan, and Bill Forry.


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