Boston City Council Debates Process for Replacing Mayor Walsh

The council met Tuesday for a public hearing on the possibility of changing the rules that require a special mayoral election if Mayor Marty Walsh resigns prior to March 5

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The Boston City Council held a hearing Tuesday afternoon that could have an impact on the process on replacing Mayor Marty Walsh.

The council met for a public hearing on the possibility of changing the rules that require a special mayoral election if Walsh resigns prior to March 5.

Walsh was recently appointed by President Joe Biden as his Secretary of Labor, and the mayor has not said when he plans to step down from his current post.

"It's becoming a bit more complicated," said associate professor Leanne Doherty, who chairs the Department of Political Science at Simmons University. "I think folks are posturing for the best place to be in this election."

What's clear is that once Walsh leaves, City Council President Kim Janey will take over. But what happens next was the focus of a city council hearing Tuesday afternoon.

If Walsh leaves office after March 5, Janey will remain acting mayor until the end of the term. But if he leaves before that date, city rules call for a special election this summer.

"What we can control is whether we, as a community, want to have a special election or not," said City Councilor Lydia Edwards at Tuesday's hearing. "That's what this conversation is about."

Some on the council argue that a special election should not be held during the pandemic, putting people at risk and costing money, and they'd like to skip it.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he is getting ready to work for the American people as President-elect Joe Biden announced him as his choice for labor secretary.

But without a special election, Janey might have an advantage if she chooses to run for mayor in the fall.

"Ultimately, our focus must be on what's best for the residents we represent and serve," said Janey at the Tuesday hearing. "Not what will help or hurt council candidates."

And with some council members, including Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, already in the race for mayor, there could also be conflicts of interest in even deciding whether or not to forego the potential summer election.

"It's become political, as everything does with elections these days," said Doherty. "There is scrutiny around who will be doing what, and who's deciding if there will be a special election or not."

Others who are reportedly considering a run for mayor include Marty Martinez, the city's health and human services chief, and William Gross, the city's police commissioner.

Other potential candidates to keep an eye on include Janey; City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty, state Sen. Nick Collins, Boston economic development chief John Barros, and state Rep. Jon Santiago.

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