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Boston seeks to nix special mayoral election requirement

February 3, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Boston leaders are looking to bypass the city’s special election requirement as Mayor Marty Walsh prepares to join President Joe Biden’s Cabinet as labor secretary.

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a home rule petition asking the state legislature to eliminate the local requirement this year if Walsh steps down before Mar. 5.

The request now goes to Walsh for his signature. It will also need to be signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker if approved by the legislature.

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Walsh’s office said Wednesday it would review the final language of the approved petition before commenting.

Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, who proposed the change, argues its needed to prevent multiple costly elections as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Holding an unnecessary and redundant special election for the position of Mayor of Boston would endanger the health of Boston residents during a deadly pandemic, exacerbate an already uncertain financial future for the City, and contribute to existing inequities often seen in special elections that contribute to the disenfranchisement of immigrant, low-income, disabled, Black, and Latinx communities,” he said in a statement.

Boston could have as many as four mayoral elections in less than a year, depending on when Walsh steps down.

If he departs within 16 months of the last citywide election — earlier than March 5 in this case — the city charter calls for a special election be held within 120 to 140 days.

If there are more than two candidates or the office, there would be a preliminary race, followed by an election between the top two vote-getters.

The process would be repeated for the regular citywide election, which includes a September preliminary race and then the final Nov. 2 election.

Arroyo’s proposal has the support of the Boston branch of the NAACP and other community organizations representing Latinos, Asians, business owners and other groups. The state’s top election official, Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin, also supports the idea.

Walsh, a Democrat first elected mayor in 2013, has said he will leave office when the U.S. Senate confirms his new post. A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on the nomination Thursday; the full Senate would likely vote in the coming weeks.

Council President Kim Janey, a fellow Democrat, is set to become acting mayor — the first Black person and first woman to hold the office.

If Arroyo’s proposal is approved, she would serve until the November election results are certified, rather than the remainder of Walsh’s term.

Councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, all Democrats, are running for mayor this year. Janey has said she’s also weighing it.