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The Hourglass Guide to the 2019 City of Boston Preliminary Election

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Ah, fall. Cool breeze. Bright leaves. Endless pumpkin spice memes, and the crisp smell of civic duty in the air. That’s right—election season is upon us!

Today is the Boston City Council preliminary election, which will narrow down a large field of candidates to the ones that will be on the ballot in November. We know, you’re busy, there’s a lot going on. BUT. It’s super important and badass to vote in local elections! So many policies that affect our everyday lives get decided at the municipal level: housing, transit, schools, parks, public art, local recycling, support for entrepreneurs and more, all of this gets hashed out at the local level.

For us, it’s especially important to understand which candidates are going to be good for artists. Some of these candidates are great, and some are blatantly terrible for building the kind of creative, welcoming, sustainable, affordable city that we know our community needs. So here’s our guide to this year’s Boston City Council primary, with a focus on the issues that affect artists the most.


Here’s the basics. Boston has four (4) councillors at-large, which means that their role is citywide, and nine (9) district representatives, who are responsible for certain neighborhoods. Not all of these are up for reelection right now, but a lot of them are, since several previous councillors are retiring.

City Council has two really important functions that you should care about:

  1. They approve the city budget, which means that you want someone who will vote to invest in solving issues you care about,

  2. and they are great at making a ruckus, keeping the Mayor, your state reps, the press, etc, aware of the issues that matter to you and your community.


Boston has four (4) at-large city council seats, and all of them are up for re-election right now. These seats are important, and there is a lot of prestige associated with an at-large seat. These are also candidates that are likely to run for Mayor in the future, since their voter and donor bases are citywide.

This preliminary election today will narrow the field from fifteen people to eight, and the final four will be elected in November. Here are our picks:

  1. Michelle Wu. She is the Current City Council President, a proven and experienced civic leader, and her platform focuses on economic mobility, racial equity, and climate justice. She fights against fare hikes on the T, and has authored successful legislation for paid parental leave, healthcare equity prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, procurement reform creating equity in opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses, language access, and healthy food purchasing. She’s a WOC, a child of immigrants, a parent, and a dedicated civil servant. All aboard the #WuTrain! (that’s her Twitter handle, not just us making a lame joke) :)

  2. Annissa Essaibi-George. A Dorchester native and the daughter of Tunisian and Polish immigrants, incumbent Essaibi-George originally decided to run for office after working as a Boston Public Schools teacher and deciding she wanted to do more about the systemic issues she was seeing. Her platform primarily focuses on education, public health with a strong focus on mental health, and housing/homelessness. And her website is pink…we didn’t count that TOO heavily, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t like it.

  3. Julia Mejia. She is an Afro-Latina single mother who came here when she was five from the Dominican Republic, and talks in her campaign video about the experience of breaking the cycle of poverty in her family. The first paragraph of her voter issue page talks about how political systems are designed to keep people like her out of the decision-making process, and that’s why she is running. Her main issues are poverty, racial justice, and gentrification leading to housing displacement.

  4. Alejandra Nicole St. Guillen. Another child of an immigrant family, a queer WOC, and a parent, St. Guillen’s super detailed policy platform reflects a very strong hold on the issues. Her policy approaches on gentrification and affordable housing are super detailed and commonsense, including support for rent control, expansion of community land trusts, and fees on luxury real estate flips. Her positions on immigrant rights and education are similarly well-developed. We stan an organized civic queen.


This is one of the most heated races, with tons of candidates and a really hot focus on housing affordability as longtime artist haven Allston-Brighton begins to be seriously reshaped by Harvard and other developers. This was a tough pick, but since the candidates are pretty much all aligned on the key issue, housing, it came down to other issues and level of detail in the policy proposals.

Our pick is…

Liz Breadon. Her policy pages are so detailed that it’s really clear she’s spent a lot of time not just politicizing the issues, but finding concrete ways to address them. A queer homeopathic and physical therapist, Liz has a well-developed affordable housing approach, and a very detailed artist-focused policy agenda, including financial support and grants for artists, supporting and creating more small performance venues, tackling displacement and more.


District 8 is sort of a wild geography, stretching from Beacon Hill across Back Bay over to Mission Hill and also pulling in Bay Village and the West End. This race also has a number of contenders—here’s our pick.

Priscilla Kenzie Bok (goes by Kenzie). We are really big fans of Leslie Knope, and Kenzie Bok’s extreme level of detail in her policy proposals really reminds us of our favorite Pawnee heroine. Sitcom comparisons aside, Kenzie’s platform is thorough and well-developed—this is a person who has really immersed herself in the issues and civic process and has a clear plan for what needs to happen. That matters, because she can just hit the ground running without needing to get up to speed. As a housing expert, her affordable housing policy plans are extremely well-developed, and her platform also foregrounds immigrant issues, racial equity, and LGBTQIA+ rights. And she has a whole pages just dedicated to Neighborhood Services—concrete proposals on trash pickup times, composting, brick sidewalk repairs, dog waste receptacles, and even better distribution of parades. Phew. That’s a lot! Go Kenzie!


This race is a lot less complex: Kim Janey is the incumbent, and likely will win again, given the fact that her two opponents are not particularly well-funded or organized. This is a good thing—she’s a tested leader with experience and momentum, a longtime resident, and her policy positions are unsurprisingly detailed and well-developed. Her priorities are economic opportunity, racial and economic justice, educational equity, secure and affordable housing, and more.


Finally, our farther-flung neighborhoods! District 5 is the southernmost tip of Boston, and the race here is pretty heated. However, reviewing the candidates positions was a bit surprising—a lot of the policy platforms seemed underdeveloped compared to the positions of candidates in other districts. On that basis, one candidate rose to the top of our list:

Mimi Turchinetz. Her website is so chock-full of information on her positions and strategies that you can really see how she would attach each issue specifically, not just in general terms. Mimi also has a good track record of creating helpful civic programs, namely the Boston Tax Help Coalition, an organization with 25 free tax sites that help residents take control of their finances, protect the elderly and low-income families from predatory financial practices, and bring money from tax refunds and credits back into the local economy. Her site also has pages written in Spanish and Creole, showing a dedication to language accessibility.


The preliminary elections are TODAY, Tuesday September 24th, and polls close at 8 PM.

If your neighborhood was listed in one of the Districts above, then you’re voting for your local District Councillor today (not every neighborhood has one of these races).

Everyone who lives in the City of Boston can (and should!) vote for At-Large City Councillors. That means if you live in East Boston, North End, Downtown, Charlestown, Chinatown, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South End, South Boston, Seaport, Mission Hill, Allston, Brighton, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Roslindale—any of those, you can vote in the At-Large election.

To figure out where to vote and check your registration status, just go to the state election info website and type in your address. So easy!!

Remember, municipal elections REALLY MATTER. And so few people vote in them, especially primaries, that your voice can genuinely, truly make a difference.

GET OUT THERE AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!!! And here’s an extra incentive—if you vote today and send us proof, we’ll send you a free gift. Email us at, or DM us a photo, and we’ll make it happen. VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Nicole Fichera2 Comments