Boston voters delivered a stunning rebuke to two incumbent city councilors Tuesday, denying both District 5 Councilor Ricardo Arroyo and District 6 Councilor Kendra Lara the chance to keep their seats later this year.
Both Arroyo and Lara conceded in their respective races shortly after 9 p.m., after falling short by what seemed to be wide margins.
According to unofficial returns from the Boston election department, with 60% of precincts reporting in the District 5 race as of 10 p.m., Arroyo had received just 19% of the vote, trailing Enrique Pepén with 41% and José Ruiz with 29%. A fourth candidate, Jean-Claude Sanon, was at 10%.
Ruiz, a former Boston police officer and political moderate, was boosted by support from former Mayor Marty Walsh. During Walsh's mayoralty, Ruiz served on Walsh's dignitary protection unit.
Pepén, a progressive who's served as Mayor Michelle Wu's director of neighborhood services, was boosted by the endorsement of Mayor Michelle Wu. On Tuesday night, about an hour before polls closed, Wu joined Pepén at St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church in Roslindale, urging voters to greet her preferred candidate as they headed inside.
Around that same time, Pepén predicted he would advance to the final.
“Feeling really good,” he said. “We feel like we really did leave it on the field. We’ve knocked on over 9,000 doors, made thousands of phone calls. We just gave it all we had.”
Arroyo, who is known both as one of the council's most progressive members and as a prolific legislator, is a scion of a well-known Boston political family and the first person of color to represent District 5, which includes Hyde Park, Roslindale and Mattapan. But in 2022, when he ran for Suffolk County District Attorney, the Boston Globe reported on two sexual assault allegations against him that dated back to his teenage years. Arroyo was never charged and has maintained his innocence.
Earlier this year, federal investigations into former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins revealed that during the district attorney race, Arroyo had pushed Rollins to take official action aimed at damaging his opponent, Kevin Hayden. Also this year, Arroyo acknowledged an ethics violation and paid a fine for representing his brother in a lawsuit involving the city.
Lara, whose district is anchored by Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, was trying to advance to the final following a June car crash that damaged a Jamaica Plain home, injured her 7-year-old son, and resulted in multiple criminal charges.
Unofficial results at 10 p.m. showed Lara with 21% of the vote with two-thirds of all precincts reporting, trailing labor lawyer Ben Weber, who had 41%, and IT director William King, who had 38%.
Lara, a progressive and self-identified socialist who is also the first person of color to represent her district, has pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from her crash, and recently released an accident report which she says shows police significantly overestimated her speed at the time of the crash. In an interview with NBC Boston, she acknowledged driving without a valid license, but suggested that choice was forced on her by unwieldy government bureaucracies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
At the Mary Curley School in Jamaica Plain Tuesday evening, as volunteers for Weber and King greeted voters, several voters told GBH News they had just cast votes for Lara.
"I think she's done a great job in our district, and I'm really disgusted with, I guess, how stridently and how inaccurately people have smeared her in this election," said Natalie Shure.
"She's been a good city councilor," said Ray Stockwell. "She made a mistake. And I believe you should give a second chance occasionally."
A third progressive incumbent, District 7 Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, advanced to the final with little difficulty Tuesday. With 93% of precincts in her district reporting, she had 58% of the vote. The next highest vote-getter was Althea Garrison with 21%. None of the three other candidates running had more than 10%.
Fernandes Anderson is the city's first Muslim American councilor, and represents a district that includes Roxbury, the Fenway, and parts of Dorchester and the South End. She, too, acknowledged an ethics violation and paid a fine earlier this year after hiring family members to work in her office, but was not considered as vulnerable as either Arroyo or Lara prior to the election.
Another race, in Dorchester-heavy District 3, featured seven candidates looking to succeed outgoing councilor Frank Baker, a combative conservative who is exiting the body after this term. Unofficial returns showed one of those candidates, city employee John FitzGerald, firmly in control. With 97% of precincts reporting, FitzGerald had 44% of the vote, far ahead of every other candidate in the field.
FitzGerald is personally close to Walsh and has the former mayor's public backing, which was seen as a significant advantage in a crowded race.
Last-minute outside spending may have helped pave the way for Arroyo's and Lara's defeats. Recent campaign filings show that the Forward Boston super PAC, largely bankrolled by New Balance chairman Jim Davis of Newton, spent nearly $100,000 since late August to boost both FitzGerald and Ruiz, as well as William King and Ben Weber, the two candidates challenging Lara in District 6. However, spending on Weber's behalf seems to have stopped since he publicly asked the group to cease supporting him.