BOSTON (CBS) – This is it, the day of decision.
In Boston, voters will make a choice that will have a profound effect on the city’s future. Or, at least a few of them will.
The buzz within local political circles heading into Tuesday has not been about the race itself, but over speculation that the pitifully-low turnout in the preliminary may have been a harbinger of an anemic showing today. So with all due respect to the accomplishment of Tuesday night’s winner (if it’s Michelle Wu, the payoff of a decade’s worth of skillful political organizing; if it’s Annissa Essaibi George, the most spectacular poll-defying comeback in modern political history), we’re likely to be spending time talking about the yawning apathy of Boston voters.
How to explain it?
That will depend to some extent on what happens and where it happens. For instance, a drop off in the traditionally high-voting wards of Dorchester, West Roxbury and South Boston might reflect an electorate deterred by Essaibi George’s lagging poll numbers and resigned to a Wu mayoralty; a poor showing by black voters might convey disgust over the failure of any black candidate to make the run-off along with despair at the prospect of real change.
We’ll see. Some observers suggest the pandemic is suppressing the vote, but given the multiplicity of voting options, the lack of long waits at the polls and the relative easing of virus fear, that seems like a reach. And while the race itself has hardly been a barnburner, the competence and appeal of the two candidates is not in question.
But one thing is clear – the new mayor, who takes office just a couple of weeks from today, will have her hands full. Clearing out the tents at Mass and Cass won’t clear up the social issues that led to its creation. Gentrification and the lack of affordable housing are persistent problems that campaign rhetoric won’t fix. Decisions over how to spend the one-time windfall of federal aid heading Boston’s way will be contentious, especially if voters approve the ballot question ceding significant mayoral control over the budget to the City Council.
And there are political questions raised by this election’s outcome: will the new mayor enjoy the same close working relationship with Gov. Baker that the previous one did? Will she be a player in next year’s governor’s race, which may or may not include Baker? Has this race exposed racial, ideological and class divisions in the city that the new mayor will have to find a way to bridge?
A poor turnout Tuesday would be depressing, but it will be what it is. Here’s hoping the residents of the world’s greatest city are poised to deliver a pleasant surprise by seizing full control over their city’s future.