People who follow Boston politics made two big assumptions heading into the Boston’s September 26 mayoral preliminary election, which winnowed the field of four candidates down to two. First, both current Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor Tito Jackson would make it through to the final election on November 7. And second, Walsh would beat Jackson by a dauntingly large margin.
Turns out, that’s exactly what happened.
Marty Walsh cruised into the mayoral final Tuesday, getting 63 percent of the vote to Tito Jackson’s 29 percent. Between them, the other two candidates — ex-Boston police officer Robert Cappucci and healthcare customer-service rep Joseph Wiley — got just eight percent.
When Walsh gave his victory speech, at a union hall in Dorchester, he managed to make his landslide win seem totally logical.
“We added more than 60,000 new jobs and cut the [un]employment rate in every single neighborhood,” Walsh said.
“We’re ranked number one in the country for energy efficiency, and we were named the most innovative city in America,” he added. “So when people tell us Boston’s not on the rise, you can’t argue with those numbers right there!”
Still, Walsh also indicated that he’s not taking victory in November for granted.
“In the next six weeks,” Walsh said, “we’re going to continue this conversation in every corner of our city, in every neighborhood of our city…. I ask all of you for your vote on November 7.”
If Walsh truly believes the election is still up for grabs, Jackson made it clear in his election-night speech that he fervently agrees — repeatedly shouting to his crowd of supporters: “Are you ready to win?”
But on election night, that’s where the common ground between the two candidates ended. While Walsh painted a picture of a booming Boston earning national recognition, Jackson suggested it’s really becoming two cities, with one thriving and the other falling behind.
“From Roxbury to Back Bay, there’s a 33-year difference in life expectancy,” Jackson said. “People in Back Bay live to 91.9 [years of age]. People in Roxbury live to 58.9…. In my administration, we’ll make sure that a life on Blue Hill Avenue will mean the same as a life on Commonwealth Avenue.”
While that argument didn’t seem to resonate Tuesday, Jackson predicts it’ll get more traction now that the number of mayoral candidates has been halved.
“What you will see is that it mushrooms and our message begins to spread, now that it's a two person race,” Jackson said.
Still, moving forward, Jackson has some undeniable disadvantages. He’s got about $60,000 in the bank, compared to over $4 million for Walsh. Also, it’s been nearly 70 years since an incumbent Boston mayor actually lost.
But history could also help Jackson. He’d be Boston’s first African-American mayor if elected, a potential distinction he thinks will draw attention and money to his campaign.
“I do bring something new, different and I believe more vibrant to the table,” Jackson said.
For his part, Walsh will likely benefit from his frequent criticisms of President Trump, which have endeared him to Boston liberals and earned an election-night reference of their own.
“A little girl asked me, ‘Is the president going to take my mother away from me out of this country?’” Walsh said. “Not if I have anything to say about it! We’re not going to let it happen!”
Walsh’s biggest challenge might be figuring out how to engage Jackson over the next few weeks. Too much, and he risks giving Jackson’s campaign oxygen; too little, and he risks looking arrogant. But judging from Tuesday’s results, it’s Jackson who has little or no margin for error.