In the wake of Mayor Martin Walsh deciding to join the Biden Administration in Washington, D.C., everyone quickly wondered who would be a candidate in any Special Election, which would be required if Walsh left office before March 6 – which he is expected to do.
That said, the proper question this week wouldn’t be who is running, but rather who isn’t running.
Filling Mayor Walsh’s seat could likely mean a workout for voters at the polls in 2021. Were there a Special Election in June as required by the City Charter, that would mean there would also be a Preliminary Election in September and a General Election in November. The City could potentially have four mayors in one year in some scenarios. Were things to change after November with the shifting political sands nationally and at the state level, it could even mean another Special Election sometime thereafter.
In the South End, the major story brewing right now is what looks like it could be a serious effort by State Rep. Jon Santiago to run for mayor.
“I am weighing my options,” he told the newspaper on Sunday.
On Monday, he also told television news stations that, as an Emergency Room doctor, leading the City through the pandemic is appealing.
“This election will be the most consequential race in the city of Boston,” Santiago told Boston 25 news. “And we are in a crisis of epic proportions that has ravaged the economy and the public health system. And I think the opportunity to lead the city through this end of this crisis is incredibly appealing. And I also think that my experience in government, medicine and the military really lends itself towards that.”
Santiago is a shooting star type of candidate in that he has succeeded in so many arenas, including politics, very quickly. Just starting his second term as a state representative whose territory includes the South End, Lower Roxbury, and parts of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, he is also a captain in the Army National Guard and returned from a deployment to the Middle East in mid-December. Also an Emergency Room doctor at Boston Medical Center, he chronicled on social media his walk through a blizzard in December – one day after returning from his deployment – to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Through his deployment, he said he had never missed a vote in the State House.
Prior to that, he also worked the front lines during the surges of COVID-19 at BMC and also at the South Boston Convention Center’s Field Hospital.
His interest draws into question the reported interest of North End/South End State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz – chair of the powerful Ways & Means Committee and a potential Speaker of the House in the future. Michlewitz was said by sources close to him on Thursday evening that he was interested in making a run for mayor in a Special Election.
However, some sources this week have indicated that Michlewitz wouldn’t run if Santiago were to run. With Santiago seemingly very interested, some say that counts Michlewitz, who is positioned very well at the State House, out.
Michlewitz didn’t respond to the newspaper on Wednesday after confirming his potential interest late last week.
Already in the race are At-Large Councilor Michelle Wu, who announced last fall that she was running. District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell also entered the race last fall, and has shown great momentum lately in gathering support and raising money.
Both Wu and Campbell have been making the rounds for some months in the neighborhoods – with Campbell speaking in late November at the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) meeting, and Wu always enjoying established support in the South End and Back Bay since living there some years ago.
Potentially jumping into the race on Monday was Police Commissioner Willie Gross, who said he is giving deep consideration to a run. Gross would be an intriguing candidate who has been popular in the neighborhoods and would generate lots of law enforcement support. Gross has been routinely visible over the past few years as Commissioner. Having grown up in Boston and spent most of his adult life in the Boston Police Department, he has made a recognizable name for himself. However, in the current police-community climate, it is uncertain if his support would spread citywide.
“It’s an honor for people to think of you in that capacity when you’re Police Commissioner,” he said on Monday afternoon. “There’s a lot of anti-police sentiment. We know why. We’re working on reform. It’s such an honor to be thought of in that capacity. I can’t give you an answer 100 percent. Out of respect, I’m going to give this deep consideration. If there’s one thing that is true, I would never be as presumptuous to throw my hat in the ring when the mayor just made his announcement…I will talk to my family, the mayor and my friends about this. You can’t decide this in three days.”
An experienced mayoral candidate is at-Large Councilor Michael Flaherty, who told the newspaper Wednesday he is also considering a run for mayor. Flaherty ran against the late Mayor Tom Menino in 2009, and said he isn’t ruling out another run this year.
“I can say on the record that I am weighing all of my options,” he said. “There are a lot of factors to consider, including who enters the race and whether we have a Special Election or not. Our City needs a Mayor and leaders in each elected position that are fully committed to both bringing our City through this pandemic and continuing the work of making Boston a better, more resilient and equitable place for all its residents.”
Meanwhile, others on the Council, and some others in the Boston state delegation, are at first-glance considered potential candidates.
Some names floated around off the bat are Council President Kim Janey, South Boston State Sen. Nick Collins, Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, District 2 Councilor Ed Flynn, Beacon Hill/Back Bay State Rep. Jay Livingstone, Dorchester State Rep. Russell Holmes and former Dorchester State Sen. Linda Forry.
On the other side of the coin are those that are not running – which in this case has also made big news.
State Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz – who represents Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and the South End – had been rumored to be lining up support in her part of the City, but on Friday she told the newspaper it wasn’t true.
She is not running, she said.
“I am focused on state-level policy and implementation as a lever for tackling the big challenges facing us–from coronavirus response, to racial and economic justice, to climate change, to economic growth,” she said. “I haven’t been making calls about running for mayor and I’m not planning to run for mayor. I congratulate Marty Walsh on this exciting new chapter, and I’m overjoyed that the City of Boston will get Kim Janey–who’s been my sister in service since before either one of us was in elective office – as its next mayor.”
District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards confirmed almost immediately she will not run in a Special Election.
“I am not running for mayor in no way, shape or form,” she said. “I’m interested in the City staying stable and focused and getting it through one of the most difficult times ever, which is the pandemic and a potential economic recession. People need to stay focused and do their jobs now.”
Charlestown State Rep. Dan Ryan also said he isn’t interested in running either.
Any Special Election would mean candidates could run without consequence of losing their Council or Legislative seats, which prompts what is expected to be a large field for any Special Election.