With help from Rishika Dugyala, Alexander Nieves, Peter Canellos, Ming Li, Lisa Kashinsky and Teresa Wiltz
What up Recast family! Welcome to Election Day on this second Tuesday in September! Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder is testing whether his listeners will turn into voters in California. In Michigan, Detroit’s former top cop James Craig makes it official, seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. We kick things off with the battle for Beantown. Let’s jump in!
Boston voters are on the verge of making history.
After polls close tonight in the citywide mayoral primary, Bostonians will in all likelihood select two women to advance to the general election in November.
Four of the five top-tier candidates, Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, Kim Janey and Michelle Wu are women of color and served together on the Boston City Council. Even if former economic development head John Barros, who is Black, catapults ahead of three of his rivals, the primary contest will still be groundbreaking.
Boston is one of the nation’s oldest cities, tracing its founding to 1630. And though it’s long been considered a bastion of liberalism, residents have always elected white male mayors.
Many hope this election will finally shed Boston’s dogged reputation for being racially unwelcoming, to put it mildly.
“If not quite a racial reckoning, it’s a critical moment for Boston,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham earlier this month.
Nearly all the polls have Michelle Wu with a commanding lead. She’s almost assured to nab one of the two general election spots. A recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey found 31 percent of voters favored her. That represented a nearly double-digit rise from a poll conducted in June.
That same poll found Janey was slipping. Janey became the first African American and first woman to serve as acting mayor when she took office in March following the departure of Mayor Marty Walsh, now President Biden’s Labor secretary.
That dip in voter preference is odd, given that the poll found that Bostonians give Janey high marks for her performance as mayor, with 61 percent overall job approval ratings and 80 percent of voters supporting her stances on mask mandates and vaccinations in the fight against the coronavirus.
But another survey found Janey with the highest unfavorable rating of any of the top-tier candidates.
Whatever perceived advantages of the incumbency, Janey is in a statistical dead heat with Campbell, who is also Black, and George, who is the daughter of Tunisian and Polish immigrants.
The final spot could be determined by the turnout of Boston’s Black vote, which could end splitting between Janey and Campbell.
We’ll be keeping tabs on this race. But one outcome is already clear: After tonight, Boston will be one step closer to rewriting its history books.
All the best,
The Recast Team
Power dynamics are changing. With The Recast, you’ll get a twice-weekly breakdown of how race and identity are the DNA of American politics and policy. Stay tuned for fresh analysis, scoops and new voices.
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For more analysis on the mayoral race in Beantown, we turn to Lisa Kashinsky, a POLITICO reporter and author of Massachusetts Playbook. Also joining the conversation is Saraya Wintersmith, Boston City Hall reporter for GBH News.
THE RECAST: The candidates vying to be the next Boston mayor each have a chance to make history. Has that dynamic been at play in the final push of the campaign?
WINTERSMITH: The candidates have each in their own way played up what might make them THE historic first. Acting Mayor Janey has done the best job at it from her temporary perch. You’ll constantly hear her refer to herself as a mayor who looks different and has a different life experience than any of the duly elected Boston mayors before her.
Wu and Essaibi George point to their experiences as progeny of immigrants — a powerful thing here in Boston where there’s a large immigrant population. Campbell and Barros have also pointed to their experience as Black people who grew up in Boston and understand a need for fostering greater equity.
KASHINSKY: It’s omnipresent. All five major candidates would be a historic first for the city, which has only elected white men for nearly 200 years. It’s also something that’s weighed, in some cases heavily, on voters’ minds as they try to choose between several qualified candidates who would all break barriers in the mayor’s office.
The field is dividing progressive activists and key players in Boston’s Black establishment, who have worked decades to elect one of their own to the city’s highest office. Progressives appear to also split between Wu, Janey and Campbell.
THE RECAST: When Janey was sworn in earlier this year she received a lot of fanfare for her appointment as the first Black mayor of Boston. Will there be any fallout among Black voters and the political establishment in Boston if she doesn’t make the final two?
KASHINSKY: One state representative from Boston, who is Black, often says Janey represents a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to mobilize folks in the city’s historically disenfranchised — and largely Black — neighborhoods and that Janey is helping soften cynicism that Black people can’t wield real power in Boston.
So I think some of that optimism could get lost if Janey doesn’t make it through, and especially if neither she nor Campbell do.
WINTERSMITH: There is already a movement to revive a defeated question about bringing ranked choice voting to elections in Massachusetts, but I’m not sure that coincides with Boston’s Black voters wanting to ensure change.
Black voters who invested money in Janey will be sad to see her lose, especially since she had what many consider the advantage of pseudo-incumbency as acting mayor.
THE NUMBERS GAME
The Supreme Court effectively killed President Joe Biden’s broad executive order last month maintaining the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium. That unsigned 6-3 ruling from the Court means millions of tenants are at risk of being booted from their homes.
There is, however, a patchwork of local and state protections remaining temporarily in place. A POLITICO analysis of the most recent data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found two-thirds of renters live in states with no eviction moratoria. When broken down by race, just a quarter of Black renters and 46 percent of Hispanic and Latino renters live in states with eviction moratoria.
Los Angeles County has the highest numbers of White (924,000), Hispanic or Latino (760,000), and Asian (230,000) householders who rent. There are 212,000 Black renters there, but that number is topped by Cook County, Ill., home to the most Black renters in the country (more than 280,000) in Chicago and its surrounding areas.
California’s eviction ban will last through Sept. 30, and Illinois’ is expected to last through Oct. 3.
MEANWHILE, IN OTHER ELECTION NEWS….
Larry Elder, the syndicated conservative radio host and provocateur, is using the Trump playbook to raise baseless claims of election rigging in his bid to replace Gavin Newsom as California governor, reports POLITICO’s Alexander Nieves.
The top Republican candidate in California’s recall election has consistently been at odds with the majority of liberal elected officials and voters on issues like income inequality, climate change and abortion. He has a history of making controversial and derogatory comments about women and has argued that there should be no minimum wage.
But it’s Elder’s statements about race, policing and America’s legacy of slavery that have long shocked many people of color. Elder has mocked the idea that systemic racism exists in police departments despite extensive data showing this is the case, instead focusing on “Black-on-Black” violence.
He has made a habit of criticizing Black leaders like former President Barack Obama and Rep. Maxine Waters for “playing the race card.” (He argues George Floyd would still be alive if Obama didn’t “consistently play the anti-cop race card.”) Elder just last week argued that slave owners were owed reparations.
“Like it or not, slavery was legal,” Elder said in an interview with conservative talk show host Candace Owens. “Their legal property was taken away from them after the Civil War.”
The GOP candidate tried to woo voters of color during the campaign, arguing that expanding access to private and charter schools, cutting taxes and opposing Covid-related business restrictions will benefit Black and brown people. He has rolled out Spanish-language ads and stumped with Asian American business owners in an attempt to court those constituencies.
Those messages seem to have fallen flat. A poll released Friday by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that 73 percent of Black, 70 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander, and 67 percent of Latino voters support keeping Gov. Gavin Newsom in office.
If Elder wins, he’ll likely do so with the support of a small percentage of white voters — thanks to the quirks of California’s two-question recall process. Under this system, if a majority of voters decide to recall Newsom on the first question, the candidate who receives a plurality of support will become governor.
CHATTANOOGA CONFRONTS ITS RACIST PAST
The Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga, Tenn., was built in the 1890s and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It received a multimillion dollar makeover recently. A local tourism site calls the structure “a favorite of residents and visitors alike” and brags it’s “now dog friendly!”
The site bears no mention of the bridge’s connection to the city’s troubled past, where the lynching of Ed Johnson, a Black man, took place more than a century ago. POLITICO’s Peter Canellos picks up the story from here about the murder’s connection to the Supreme Court — and how the city is moving to right that injustice.
Ed Johnson, a 24-year-old Black laborer, spoke those stunning words to a mob of hundreds of white people, seconds before they hung him, shot him and left him for dead on the Walnut Street Bridge.
It was March 19, 1906. Days earlier, Johnson was sentenced to death for allegedly raping a white woman, following a deeply flawed trial. One justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — John Marshall Harlan, known as the lone dissenter in cases depriving African Americans of their rights — shocked the community by ordering a federal review. Local officials were so affronted that they deliberately left the jail unguarded, letting a mob carry off Johnson to his death.
Today, Johnson’s spirit is alive again on the streets of Chattanooga, as a decadeslong grassroots initiative this week celebrates his legacy, culminating in the dedication of a memorial to him and the pioneering Black attorneys who defended him.
The statue will be erected beside, yes, the Walnut Street Bridge. It’s still the city’s most iconic space and now is a pedestrian walkway connecting the city’s downtown with its North Shore over the Tennessee River.
As Chattanoogans of all races grapple openly with their city’s history, the leaders of the Ed Johnson Project are trying to provide a blueprint for America on how truth can lead to reconciliation.
They were fortunate in their mission to have a lengthy record of the facts. That’s in part because the U.S. Supreme Court, at Harlan’s urging, sat as a trial court for the first and only time in its history to hold accountable the local sheriff and others who helped bring about Johnson’s death.
ICYMI AT POLITICO
Over the weekend, the nation marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. POLITICO’s Ruby Cramer writes about how former President Donald Trump marked the occasion: He started the day dinging his successor for his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal — and ended it as a paid commentator at the Evander Holyfield/Vitor Belfort fight.
Speaking of Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken threw jabs back at the Trump administration, telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee the current administration inherited the pending disaster, reports POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio.
POLITICO’S Marianne Levine and Sabrina Rodriguez report that Democrats’ latest immigration push hinges on a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, who happens to be a former immigration attorney.
THE RECAST RECOMMENDS
Don’t miss Jelani Cobb’s latest about the work of the late Derrick Bell in The New Yorker. You may not know Bell’s name, but his work is front and center of the national discourse these days. His ideas from the 1980s lay the foundation of what is known today as critical race theory.
Check out a profile in The Athletic of “The Truth,” aka Celtic great Paul Pierce, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.
Hannah Giorgis of the Atlantic goes deep on Hollywood writers’ rooms and the “negotiated authenticity” that has defined Black TV: “it’s still white people determining what the Black experience is and then hiring Black writers to authenticate it.’”
Drake has a new album and it’s a blockbuster. “Certified Lover Boy” debuted atop the Billboard charts, breaking records and trouncing Kanye West, his sometimes collaborator/competitor/nemesis.
TikTok of the Day: Speaking of Kanye … In this edition of Sing or Swim…
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