In September, Boston voters cast their ballots in the mayoral primary election. Or more accurately, less than 15 percent of Boston voters cast their ballots. This vote, though marked by low turnout and high disinterest, determined the two candidates that would go head to head in the upcoming general election for mayor: City Councilor Tito Jackson and Mayor Martin Walsh.
Next week, voters will take to the polls to make their final decisions, but in many ways, it feels like Bostonians still haven’t decided what differences define these two candidates. Heading into the election, the number one question in Boston after “Wait, what election?” is “So what’s the difference between Jackson and Walsh anyways?”
In some ways, it’s true that the two candidates aren’t so different from one another. Both are Democrats running on similar platforms, and both hold similar priorities. They even grew up just a few miles apart. But there is a stark contrast between Walsh and Jackson when it comes to how they hope to address these issues, and it all boils down to one key difference.
Walsh is reasonable.
That sounds like a lukewarm endorsement, but it couldn’t be further from it. We could use a lot more reason in our government these days. Walsh has big dreams for Boston, but they are all dreams within reason. He promotes reasonable policies and sets reasonable goals. Walsh’s campaign was a smart and level-headed one — and it has showed.
What we’ve seen this election has been a reflection of the candidates themselves. Jackson has led a campaign with a lot of bark and very little bite. His tone has been inflammatory, and his goals for Boston are not realistic ones.
Jackson may be fighting for all the right things, but going about it in all the wrong ways. He’s even lost his own district because of it. He puts down Walsh every chance he gets, and plays the race card far more frequently than he should. He deserves a lot of credit for embarking on such an ambitious campaign, but the closer we get to the election, his attacks on Walsh are becoming even more harsh and even less called-for.
Walsh doesn’t fight that way, he never has. And that’s not just an effect of his incumbency — it’s fundamentally who he is. He doesn’t call names or point fingers. His campaign is not against Jackson, it’s for the people of Boston.
In his mayoral tenure of almost four years, Walsh has made his mark on the city. You can’t accomplish an infinite amount in such a short period of time, but you can start. And Walsh has gotten some great things started. From his work to curb climate change to his Imagine Boston 2030 campaign, Walsh has established a number of long-term initiatives and goals for the City — he has laid the groundwork for big things to come. Walsh is showing the people of Boston that his work here is just getting started.
Walsh is business-friendly and innovation-minded. In his time in office, Boston has seen things like General Electric’s new headquarters coming to town, and the creation of the citywide HUBweek festival. And that’s not to mention the way he’s been promoting Boston’s bid for Amazon HQ2. Boston has been ranked the best city for startups two years running, and the kind of leader that Walsh is has played a big part in making that possible.
But these pushes for innovation and technology haven’t distracted Walsh from prioritizing the people who actually live here. Issues like homelessness, housing and education remain at the heart of his administration. Walsh has made affordable preschool and community college critical to his campaign. He has been tackling Boston’s crises in homelessness and housing since ever since he took office, as well as many, many more.
And all of this has been done against the backdrop of a quickly changing political landscape. In the face of Trump’s tirades on immigration, Walsh made Boston a sanctuary city. He has made it more than clear ever since Trump’s inauguration that no matter what kind of fear-mongering was happening in Washington, it wouldn’t affect Bostonians.
That’s not to say that Walsh has been the best advocate for immigrants and minorities. Walsh is far from perfect, and race relations is one of the areas where he needs the most work. There’s a reason a black man from Roxbury got so much traction running on a platform not all that different than Walsh’s own. People of color are looking for more representation in Boston. This was made especially obvious with the dismal report card of the Walsh administration recently released by the NAACP. Race is a big issue in Boston, and it’s something that Walsh could stand to pay a little more attention to.
Sometimes, incumbents are the right choice for no better reason than “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is not one of those times. That can of course be said of Walsh’s office, but so much more can be said too.
Marty Walsh is Boston. He even has the accent to prove it. Walsh is a child of immigrants, he grew up in Dorchester — 39 percent of Bostonians have even met him personally. He has a unique ability to make Boston feel like both a small town and a major metropolitan hub.
When it comes down to it, we’re pretty impressed by what Walsh has done these past four years, and we’re excited to see what he’ll do with four more.