With all votes accounted for, top two vote-getters Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George will face off in the general election to become Boston's next mayor.
The second spot toggled for much of the morning between Essaibi George, acting mayor Kim Janey and city councilor Andrea Campbell as results slowly trickled in.
Wu, a city councilor, easily won Tuesday’s preliminary balloting. Wu greeted and thanked voters at the Forest Hills T station Wednesday morning, looking ahead to her work on the campaign trail.
"We are seven weeks from the election, but we are in a moment of time where we have to act as a city," Wu said. "We're in a crisis when it comes to public health, when it comes to rebuilding our economy, investing in our schools and making sure that every single person has a voice in the city."
Janey and Campbell both conceded defeat late Tuesday night, despite partial results showing a tight race for the second slot.
All four are candidates of color, as is John Barros, Boston’s former economic development chief and the only man in contention. Barros trailed well behind the four women.
Results slowly trickled in for the final round of the Boston mayoral race to winnow the field of five hopefuls down to two. As of 10 a.m., with 100% of precincts reporting, Wu took the lead with 33% of the vote, followed by Essaibi George at 22% with Janey and Campbell near tied at 19% and Barros at 3%.
The results were not complete until Wednesday morning. State election officials explained that the delay had to do, at least in part, with ballot drop boxes, one of the ways voters were encouraged to return their ballots this year.
Despite the incomplete number of votes tallied at the time, Wu and Essaibi George claimed they were the top two vote-getters on Tuesday night. Both held events to thank supporters Wednesday morning, with Wu speaking at the Forest Hills station and Essaibi George greeting residents at Mike’s Diner in Boston's South End.
The results usher in a new era for Boston, which has elected an unbroken string of white men to be mayor in its first 200 years.
"It's been an honor to be part of this historic field," Wu said Wednesday. "And for the last year, we have seen an incredible conversation all across every neighborhood across every community, so I'm humbled to be part of this moment in Boston."
"It’s certainly pretty exciting, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet," Essaibi George said of being one of two female candidates. "To have this success indicates that things have changed, but there’s also a lot of work to do."
Wu thanked her supporters Wednesday for giving her the votes to make it to the general election.
"I am grateful for every single person who came out to participate in the election, grateful for the chance to continue on in asking for votes but asking for partnership from all across the city and making sure we're building the city that we dream of," the Boston city councilor said.
Essaibi George also claimed victory as one of the top two vote-getters during her speech Tuesday night, though she did caution there are still votes that need to be counted.
"I would’ve liked those results to come in a bit earlier but we’ll do a bit of a post-mortem to see how we do this better for the November election," Essaibi George said Wednesday.
As Essaibi George reflected on the work ahead, she said, "It’s about meeting with Bostonians and understand the work they want me to do."
If elected, she said Tuesday night, she will not govern in a bubble. "Boston needs a leader that recognizes the value and importance of inclusivity and perspective, experience, neighborhood and community."
Essaibi George also praised the other members of the historic field of candidates, particularly Janey, who became the first Black Bostonian and first woman to occupy the city's top office after Mayor Marty Walsh stepped down earlier this year to become President Joe Biden's labor secretary.
"She has shattered a glass ceiling that was left intact for far too long," she said.
Shortly after midnight, Janey's campaign put out a statement conceding to Wu and Essaibi George.
"I want to congratulate Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George on their victories this evening," she said. "This was a spirited and historic race,and I wish them both luck in the final election."
"While tonight hasn’t ended how we hoped, we have so much to be proud of," she added. "On the campaign side we built a multi-racial, multicultural, and multi-generational coalition committed to making Boston a more just, more equitable place to live for every single resident."
Campbell also conceded the race in a speech to supporters on Tuesday night.
"It's not the result we wanted. It's not the result we expected. But we should be extremely proud of our work," she said.
But Campbell said she believes "fiercely" that her campaign was victorious because of the support she received in a "historic field" of candidates. She said there is an appetite for change in the city, and her candidacy helped greatly in that regard.
"Thank you for your faith in me, thank you for your faith in my candidacy and thank you for everything you did for this campaign," she said. "Something will come next, and we'd better be prepared."
Barros did not speak Tuesday night, but sent a reflective tweet:
Tuesday's vote was the the first preliminary election in Boston history to allow mail-in voting. The contest also allowed for early voting last week.
Secretary of State William Galvin said Monday that he was optimistic the city would have a decent turnout, offering a "best guess" that Boston would see slightly more than 100,000 votes cast.
Municipal elections were also held in 14 other cities and towns on Tuesday, including Lynn and Somerville.