Rep. Pressley backs move to override Boston's special election rule

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley. WBUR photo by Robbin Lubbock.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley supports the push to skip a special election for a successor to Mayor Walsh, President Biden’s Secretary of Labor-designate, and stick with regularly scheduled elections later this year.

“I think Lawrence has given us a great model to replicate,” said Pressley in an interview with the Reporter on Thursday, referring to that city’s petition to the Legislature to override a special election to replace Mayor Dan Rivera, who resigned this month to take a new role as president and CEO of Mass Development. “They did that recognizing that it’s often a way of disenfranchising many voters. I certainly ran a campaign that was committed to and successful in expanding the electorate.”

The Boston City Council is still weighing the merits of a Home Rule Petition introduced on Jan. 8 by Councillor Ricardo Arroyo that would, if approved by both state and city leaders, override Boston’s city charter, which calls for a mayoral successor to be elected in a two-phase special election if Walsh, who is waiting on a confirmation vote in the US Senate, resigns before March 5.

Arroyo’s petition is waiting for a hearing before the council’s Government Operations Committee before it can be advanced to a vote. The measure will also need the support of Walsh, the Legislature, and Gov. Baker, who has indicated he would sign such a bill if it was sent to him.

Pressley, who sees support for Arroyo’s petition from groups like MassVote, Right to the City, and the Chinese Progressive Association as validation for her position, told the Reporter, “I think we should follow the will of the people and it seems at this point that it’s the popular opinion in the name of public health and voter access and enfranchisement, and also in cost savings for the city.”

In the interview, Pressley praised Biden’s nomination of Walsh as the next Labor Secretary: “I’m excited for this kid born and raised in Dorchester, Marty Walsh, and looking forward to working with him in Washington. He’s making history in his own right, this son of Dorchester. And he’ll be the first union representative to serve in that role. So I’m excited to work alongside him and fight for the working people.”

Pressley is maintaining a neutral posture in terms of the still-developing mayoral field, but said she is “overjoyed for my sister in service, Kim Janey,” who will take over as acting mayor when Walsh resigns. “It was an honor to serve with her,” Pressley said of Janey. “And now she's making history once again, as Boston’s first- ever Black mayor and woman mayor. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that she is successful as acting mayor.”

Pressley also said that she is “very encouraged by the diversity in the field” that is still in formation. “The representation, the leadership, of Councillors Wu and Campbell, my former colleagues, both extraordinary public servants, their candidacies are historic as well.”

She added: “So, I'm excited to see the direction of the city. It is going to be a robust campaign, important conversations about the future of our city. I'm looking forward to seeing just how things unfold and how we just all do our part in advancing equity and justice for every person who calls Boston home.”

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