Bringing to the table a wealth of experiences from the State House, the emergency room and overseas deployments in the military, South End State Rep. Jon Santiago announced on Tuesday his intentions to run for mayor.
Santiago has been considering run since January, and has said as much in the media, but not made an official announcement until now. He has been surveying resident groups on Zoom and in other forums privately for the last month, and was even known to be on several Zoom meetings in Charlestown lately with a core group of early supporters in the Town.
He made the announcement in a two-minute video available in English and Spanish.
He comes into the race as the only major male candidate in a field of three women from the Boston City Council, including Councilors Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu.
More importantly, though, Santiago said he comes into the race ready to listen and engage, he said. As a doctor in the emergency room at Boston Medical Center, a physician in the Army Reserves and a state representative, he said his approach has always been to engage and listen to people first. That, he said, will be more important than ever in what he said was an historic, open-seat election for mayor.
“I think this mayor’s race will be the most consequential mayor’s race in our City’s history,” he told the paper, noting issues of COVID-19, health care, good schools and a revived economy.
“We are a City of neighborhoods and many are different, but I’m hearing from everyone that they want to come back building a better and stronger Boston,” he said. “That message is resonating all over the city. I feel comfortable going to Southie and West Roxbury and having conversations because they are about the same things as in Roxbury and Dorchester. People all want good schools, housing options, good transit, access to vaccines and they really want to be heard. My goal is to reach out to each and every area of this city…The people of Boston need someone ready to serve…That’s the way I’ve always done medicine and politics. My first state rep race I knocked on 9,000 doors…I think right now people want someone who will bring them together and engage and listen and be respectful.”
That approach – which he hinted would be different than many polarizing forces nationally – has been honed at the State House, where he has been trusted early with key positions advising on COVID-19. Also, it has come in the emergency room as he has embraced solutions to the recovery and opioid epidemics he sees at the hospital daily. With the Mass/Cass area in his district, and seeing its effect on people every day at work, Santiago said there is no other candidate that is as equipped to understand the opioid epidemic and to forge real solutions to combat it.
“I live a block from Mass Ave and walk to work every day and I understand what it’s like to find needles in your front garden, people passed out on your front steps or someone overdosing and needing help,” he said, noting that he has already secured more than $1 million in state funds to address the epidemic. “I’m proud of those victories, but we have a lot more work to do. I’m the best candidate to understand the situation and to live the situation.”
Santiago also credits his military service in the Army Reserves, where he is a captain, as forming how he would lead as mayor. In fact, after working on the COVID front lines at the Boston Hope Hospital in the South Boston Convention Center, Santiago was deployed to the Middle East as a physician treating soldiers and allies in Kuwait. He returned from that deployment in December.
“Many Puerto Ricans joined the military as a way to do something with their life and to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he said, noting his uncle and grandfather were also in the military. “I joined seven or eight years ago…It taught me about leadership and bringing folks together…I’m very proud of that. The military will teach you how to get things done.”
In his announcement for mayor, Santiago stressed that the next mayor will write a “new chapter” for all of Boston. He said that new chapter would include a more equitable City for everyone.
“We are living through an unprecedented crisis, the impact of which will last far beyond today,” said Santiago. “It’s a turning point for our city, but in it I also see great possibilities. I see and hear it in the voices of my neighbors, patients, and constituents. I’ve spent my life in service to others and now I’m running for mayor to lead us through this moment and to a recovery rooted in equity and opportunity. I will bring our city back, stronger than ever.”
Santiago added, “Today, we set out to bring neighbors together to write the next chapter of our Boston story.”
Santiago is currently serving his second term as the State Representative for the 9th Suffolk District representing the South End, Roxbury, Back Bay, and Fenway neighborhoods of Boston. He is an emergency room physician employed at Boston Medical Center, the city’s safety net hospital. He serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and has deployed overseas. Prior to these experiences, Santiago served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. He lives in the South End with his wife, Alexandra.