No issue was more defining for Annissa Essaibi George in Boston's preliminary mayoral election than her support of police.
In a race where the candidates agreed on most key issues, the city councilor's commitment to hiring more police stood out — as did the very public and well-funded support of former Boston Police Commissioner William Gross.
The police angle proved valuable to Essaibi George in appealing to voters unsure about reallocating funds away from police. But now, facing just one challenger — fellow City Councilor Michelle Wu — how will it play in the general election?
"I think if you're Annissa, you have to run to your strength, and you can't try to be something you're not," said 2013 Boston mayoral finalist John Connolly. "She should, as she did in the prelim, say 'I'm proud to support the police.'"
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Essaibi George has not backed away from her stance, but she is working to clarify the nuances, knowing that some have labeled her the "police candidate," implying she would not be as committed to transparency or social justice reform.
"It makes me nuts. I am the candidate for the people of Boston," Essaibi George said. "I am committed to doing both."
She was asked if that separates her from her opponent.
"Oh, it absolutely separates me from Michelle Wu, because this is a conversation around public safety and social justice," she said. "And I am a huge proponent and supporter of community policing."
Essaibi George was also asked if she believed Wu was not a supporter of community policing.
"I believe, absolutely, she supports community policing. But, community policing that's invested in, community policing that is supported and uplifted," Essaibi George said. "And when we talk about defunding the police, we are talking about walking away from our commitment to public safety as a city."
Essaibi George is confident she will be able to fully communicate her position on police and public safety as she campaigns across the city over the next six weeks.