Though he had a gleaming resume for the job of mayor, South End State Rep. Jon Santiago’s campaign never took a strong foothold citywide and never caught the momentum needed to show strong in September, and as a result he ended his campaign for mayor on Tuesday morning.
His move to end the campaign leaves five announced major candidates still in the race, including Acting Mayor Kim Janey, Councilor Michelle Wu, Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, Councilor Andrea Campbell and John Barros.
Santiago had significant support in the South End from several community leaders, including State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and several neighborhood associations in the South End as well.
Santiago has had a great run as a state representative in the South End, and was a natural fit when he announced for mayor. However, polls continued to indicate that he was running too far behind other candidates to likely catch up.
“When I announced my campaign for Boston Mayor, it was with optimism, energy, and a sincere desire to serve the people and families I see every day across our city,” he said. “Today, I announced that I am ending my mayoral campaign. But my intention to serve remains as strong as ever. Service has taught me so much about life, Boston, and myself. That drive to give back led me to serve my country in the Army and as a Peace Corps volunteer. It gave me an opportunity to provide medical care for patients in the most difficult of times. And it inspired me to represent my community as a state representative in the Massachusetts Legislature. These experiences in service are what drove me to launch my campaign for mayor.
“I’m deeply proud of the impact our campaign was able to have, the relationships we’ve built, and the race we’ve run,” he continued. “It was a true honor to join a historic field of candidates, and I look forward to supporting the first elected woman of color to lead Boston.”
Santiago sent out a letter to his campaign team and supporters thanking them for their work and contributions to the campaign over the last six month. He also thanked his wife, Alex, for standing by him since day one. Beyond that, Santiago – having been re-elected last year to the state rep seat – will return to the State House to resume his duties there having learned a great deal about the residents outside his district. He said he would be a tireless advocate for issues such as the opiate epidemic at Mass and Cass and other inequities even though his mayoral race has concluded.
“My campaign for mayor may be ending, but let me be clear: The work to address our systemic inequities and crises like Mass and Cass has never been more urgent,” he said. “You have my commitment to remain a tireless advocate on these issues as we move forward. But, for now, my message is simply thank you. I’m full of gratitude and optimism, and I look forward to talking soon.”
South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox was backing Santiago for mayor, and he said Santiago had been a great voice in the race to promote the critical issues and solutions for the Mass/Cass opioid issues.
“Jon has been an incredibly dedicated state representative and had forward thinking and realistic plans to wisely address the most critical issues facing the city such as the opioid and homelessness crisis of crucial importance to the South End, Roxbury, and Newmarket,” he said. “That voice will be missed on the campaign trail.”
Santiago’s home neighborhood association, the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) didn’t officially back Santiago, and doesn’t endorse, but said many of his plans for the opioid epidemic in their neighborhood hit all the right buttons.
“We were all surprised at the lack of traction that Jon’s campaign received, but perhaps that is because we know him so well and thus are confident that he would have made a great mayor, especially given the moment,” said President George Stergios. “WSANA does not endorse candidates, but we do encourage anyone who pays any attention to us, to look carefully at their plans for Mass and Cass, and especially if they have a history of advocating for opening the same sort of facilities we have in Mass and Cass in other neighborhoods of the city.”
Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell – formerly Santiago’s opponent in the mayoral race – issued a statement immediately thanking him for his advocacy.
“I am grateful for the unique experience and passion for service that Representative Santiago and his team brought to this race,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to work in partnership to move our city forward.”
Many wonder where Santiago’s supporters might turn in the wake of him leaving. In his base of the South End, many have already turned support to Councilor Annissa Essaibi George due to her long-time advocacy for Mass and Cass opioid issues. Meanwhile, other support is likely to go to Campbell and Wu and Janey.