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Why a contested mayor’s race in 2025 would be a good thing

Nothing against Mayor Michelle Wu, but the city is better off when voters have real choices at the ballot box.

Josh Kraft, left, president of the New England Patriots Foundation and son of billionaire Robert Kraft, posed for a selfie with Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia after speaking at the Marcus Anthony Hall Educational Institute graduation ceremony on May 19.Ken McGagh for The Boston Globe

Hard to believe this needs saying, but here goes: Competitive elections are a good thing.

The fact that philanthropist Josh Kraft is said to be considering a mayoral run next year against incumbent Michelle Wu is the talk of the city’s politicos, whose general consensus is that he might need to have his head examined if he thinks he can oust an incumbent mayor.

But whether it’s Kraft or someone else, a competitive mayor’s race in 2025 would be good news for the city. That’s no rap on Wu, who hasn’t formally announced she is running for reelection. When elections go uncontested, incumbents are more likely to switch to cruise control or let their attention drift to higher offices. Even successful incumbents need opponents to keep them on their toes.


The Globe certainly isn’t endorsing any candidate at this stage. But we heartily endorse the idea of serious contenders throwing their hat in the ring.

They might take encouragement from last year’s City Council elections, in which two incumbents were defeated (in the preliminary stage, no less). It can happen.

In Boston’s nonpartisan election system, there are no party primaries. If more than two candidates run, there is a preliminary election, and then the top two finishers advance to a final vote in November.

Politically, the 57-year-old Kraft hasn’t run for office before and is something of blank slate — it’s not clear how, or even whether, he differs with Wu on key issues facing the city. The city faces big challenges, including a school system with middling results and too much capacity, and plunging office values downtown as more employees work from home.

Kraft’s history in the community — although he only recently established residency in Boston, he knows the community well as the former head of the Boys & Girls Club of Boston and current chair of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts — would be a political asset. His money and name recognition — he’s the son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft — would give him a head start of one sort and a handicap of another: The ads against wealthy self-funded candidates write themselves, and such candidates have a mixed record in Massachusetts politics (see Shannon Liss-Riordan).


But win or lose, running would be a public service. Like all elected officials, Wu should have to defend her record, account for how she’s living up to the campaign promises she made in 2021, and make a forward-looking case for a second term.

It would also be a step toward reversing a disturbing trend. Massachusetts has had an abnormally high number of uncontested political races, which means that voters often have no real choices on Election Day. That’s in part because of campaign finance and ballot rules that convey such an advantage to incumbents.

There is still more than a year until the election and for now, Kraft is being coy. “I’m looking at a lot of opportunities now, and I have nothing to report,” he told a Globe reporter who tracked him down at an event. The Kraft Group did not respond to an email from the editorial board seeking to talk to Kraft.

Wu has a lot of political strengths, and running against her would be a tough job for anyone. But if Kraft ultimately decides against a campaign, hopefully some other ambitious politician will step up. Boston’s voters deserve a real campaign, with real choices, in 2025.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.