Annissa Essaibi George Vs. Michelle Wu: Your Guide to Boston's Mayoral Election

City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George have advanced to Boston's general election for mayor in November

Annissa Essaibi George (left) and Michelle Wu (right).
Getty Images

It's official: Boston voters will choose between Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George to be the city's next mayor.

The preliminary election on Sept. 14 saw the field of five mayoral candidates cut down to two. City Councilors Wu and Essaibi George earned the most votes, eliminating Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilor Andrea Campbell and John Barros from the race.

Wu and Essaibi George will face off in the general election on Nov. 2. If you don't know who to vote for yet, we have some resources to help.

Get to know the candidates

Wu, 36, was the first Asian American woman to serve on the Boston City Council, having first been elected in 2013 at the age of 28. She became the first woman of color to serve as council president when she was elected in January 2016.

Her parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the early 80s, before she was born. She is fluent in Mandarin and Spanish.

Wu graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. It was while she was a student at Harvard, as her parents were separating, that Wu noticed her mother showing signs of mental illness. Shortly after graduating, just months into her new job, Wu was called home to Chicago by her younger sister, with their mom in a full-blown mental health crisis.

After stabilizing her home life, Wu moved the entire family back to Boston, where she began to attend Harvard Law School. Wu believes the move saved her mother's life. Her mom was diagnosed with late onset schizophrenia and was inpatient at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Wu got her start in City Hall working for Mayor Thomas M. Menino as a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy. She later served as statewide constituency director in the U.S. Senate campaign of her former law professor, Elizabeth Warren.

She is a former restaurant owner, legal services attorney, and legal guardian of her younger sisters. She also has a background in community advocacy, having worked at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain and at the Medical-Legal Partnership at Boston Medical Center.

Wu lives in Roslindale with her husband, Conor, and her sons, Blaise and Cass. Wu and her family share a two-family house with her mother.

Essaibi George, 47, is also the daughter of immigrants — her father, Ezzeddine, immigrated to the U.S. from Tunisia in 1972, and her mother, Barbara, was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. She grew up in Dorchester and was elected to the Boston City Council in 2015.

She graduated from Boston Technical High School, going on to earn a bachelor's degree in political science from Boston University and a master's of education from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Starting in 2001, Essaibi George taught economics, business management and health and human services to juniors and seniors at East Boston High School. She also served as the assistant softball coach.

Essaibi George is also the founder and owner of Stitch House in Dorchester — a brick and mortar retail shop that sells yarn and fabrics. It also offers classes in knitting, sewing, quilting and crochet — all hobbies Essaibi George has enjoyed since childhood.

She and her husband, Dorchester native Doug George, have four boys together: Douglas, and triplets, Charlie, Kayden and Samir.

Watch the debate

Six days before the preliminary election, Wu, Essaibi George and their three former opponents took part in an hourlong debate hosted by NBC10 Boston, NECN and Telmundo Nueva Inglaterra.

The wide-ranging discussion touched on many issues facing Boston.

The candidates were asked to grade Boston's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wu gave the city a C+, saying that "we need to do better about closing the gaps and addressing the issues that this pandemic has exacerbated, but were already present in our communities for a long time before."

Essaibi George gave Boston a C. "Certainly we have to do more across our city," she said, adding that she'd like to see testing ramp back up as breakthrough cases continue.

Both stressed the importance of vaccines and masks in reference to keeping children safe from COVID-19 in Boston's schools.

Essaibi George touted her position as the only candidate on stage who has worked as a teacher, spending 13 years in the classroom grading students.

"We've got to exist in reality. The masks aren't coming off this school year. I think it's important when we make decisions that we're basing it on the science," she said.

"I do support ensuring that we continue to mask up, and that we are using every bit of our public infrastructure to continue closing vaccination gaps," Wu said. "When that approval comes for children under 12, we should use our schools as a platform to be able to vaccinate, so that we can meet families right where they're at."

Another topic discussed was police reform, with Essaibi George — a more moderate candidate who was endorsed in May by former Boston Police Commissioner William Gross — calling to hire more officers, staking out a position in contrast to her opponents.

"I am the only the candidate on this stage, on this panel this evening, who is committing to investing in public safety for our city," Essaibi George said. "As mayor, I am committed to having a safe city — not defunding public safety in this city. We can talk about real reallocation, we can talk about reinvestment, that's just another word for defunding public safety in this city."

"We know that these issues are not new, activists and community members have been talking about them for years," Wu said of the issue. "We need a wholesale new approach to the structures of our police department and the culture of how we interact with our residents to build trust across our communities."

Here are some more key takeaways from the debate.

You can watch the full debate below:

Kim Janey, Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George and John Barros took part in a debate Wednesday night ahead of the preliminary election for Boston mayor.

A look back at the preliminary election

September's preliminary became a race for second place, with Wu heavily favored in the polls before election day. After the votes were counted, she led Essaibi George by an 11-point margin. But 45% of the vote went to other candidates, and Secretary of State William Galvin said 108,181 votes were cast — representing just a quarter of Boston's 432,097 registered voters — so the race remains wide open.

The city was slow to provide official results, but Wu was the first candidate to speak on election night, expressing confidence to her supporters in Roslindale that she had enough votes to advance.

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu told supporters she's confident she has enough votes to make it through to the general mayoral election in November.

Essaibi George struck a celebratory tone as she addressed her supporters in Dorchester after Campbell conceded.

Hours after polls closed in Boston's mayoral race, Annissa Essaibi George struck a celebratory tone in a speech to supporters.

The following morning, Wu hit the campaign trail once again, speaking at the Forest Hills MBTA station in Jamaica Plain.

"I'm excited to have the chance to continue this conversation with voters. We are seven weeks from the election, but we are in a moment of time where we have to act as a city," she said. "I'll continue to do what we've been doing from day one, a year ago today."

Democrat Michelle Wu spoke briefly Wednesday morning as she greeted commuters at the Forest Hills T station, emerging as the top vote-getter in a runoff election for the next mayor of Boston.

Essaibi George did the same, greeting supporters at Mike's Diner in the South End, criticizing some of Wu's plans as "unrealistic."

City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George took a shot at her opponent while greeting residents at Mike’s Diner in Boston's South End Wednesday, the morning after she declared victory in Boston's mayoral preliminary election.

Watch the interviews

NBC10 Boston and NECN have interviewed Wu and Essaibi George multiple times. Below, you can see what they told Alison King, Sue O'Connell and Kwani Lunis.

NBC10 Boston's Alison King sat down for a 1-on-1 interview with Michelle Wu, who is in the race to be Boston's next mayor.
Ahead of the Boston mayoral race, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George sat down with NBC10 Boston.
Sue O'Connell sat down with Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu to talk about why she is running for mayor.
Sue O’Connell sits down with Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George to discuss her mayoral campaign.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu shares why she's running for mayor in Boston and what she plans on improving if elected into office.
Annissa Essaibi George currently serves as an at-large member of the Boston City Council. The former Boston Public School teacher joined Kwani A. Lunis to share why she’s running for mayor.
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