Whether 15 candidates qualify for the Primary ballot or some number less, it looks as though there’ll be far too many aspirants presenting themselves to Boston voters for anyone but political junkies to even know all the names, much less what they’re about.
Meanwhile, the primary vote, which will eliminate all but two candidates, takes place less than four months from now. This puts a premium on long connection; and long connection favors the most stable city communites. Hello, East Boston, much of Charlestown, Southie, South Dorchester; upper Roxbury, Readville, Fairmount Hill,Moss Hill, White City, West Roxbury, Roslindale, Brighton; see ya, Allston, Fenway, Back bay, downtown, the South End, Mission Hill, north Dorchester (Blue Hill Avenue), Mattapan, and much of Jamaica Plain.
To put it on political junkie terms, Hello wards 1, half of Ward 2, 6,7, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, and 20; see ya, most of Wards 3 and 5 and almost all of Wards 4, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, and 21.
Given the huge field, those candidates who can add any significant bloc to his or her long connected base has a huge leg up in this situation. It can be a geographic bloc, an interest group — labor union, especially — or an “issues constituency.” So far, Dan Conley — presently Suffolk County District attorney — leads the issues campaign with two strong agenda points: gun control ordinances and a citywide casino vote. Meanwhile State Rep Martin J. Walsh and Councillors John R Connolly, Rob Consalvo, and Felix G Arroyo seem to be harvesting voters blocs outside their respective “base.” Arroyo has strong union support; Martin Walsh, the backing of progressive Jamaica Plain state Rep. Liz Malia; John Connolly, dots of strength all over the city. Rob Consalvo, an opening to East Boston, partly resulting from Dan Conley’s rejection of an East Boston-only casino vote.
As for Charlotte Golar Richie, currently an official in Governor Patrick’s administration, she has garnered significant bloc support outside her own base and also demonstrated an effective street-level campaign by collecting some 8,100 nomination signatures.
None of the above successes by these contenders should surprise. Conley, Consalvo, Connolly, Arroyo, Walsh, and Richie are the obvious leaders of the pack. Campaigns often reveal the “obvious leaders” to not be as leading as the common wisdom expected; in this election, the common wisdom so far has it right.
What of the other names that will surely be on the ballot ? Who is going to be voting for Bill Walczak, John F. Barros, John G. Laing, David G. Portnoy, Charles L. Clemons — and City Councillor Charles Yancey, if he runs ? And how about City Councillor Mike Ross, who by all measures looks less vote-getting than the six “majors” ? It’s hard to say what they will do, but one factor we know : all come from the 70% of the ciy that is “new Boston.” None of these other candidates, except possibly Bill Walczak, who is well known in the stretch of Dorchester between the Polish-American Club on Boston street and Codman Square — is likely to draw even a soupcon number of votes from the “traditional” candidates Walsh, Connolly, Conley, and Consalvo. To the extent that these “extra six” (or seven) candidates hurt anyone, it will be Arroyo and Richie.
Turnout will be a factor. With so many mayor hopefuls joined by a large crowd of candidates or city council, it would surprise few if 40% to 50% of Boston voters — say 125,000 to 160,000 — show up at the polls in September.
Supporters — including this writer — of “new Boston” finally having its turn to elect a mayor may not like this prospect. Not to worry: in recent years, turnout among people of color has risen sharply, in some cases surpassing the turnout percentage of “traditional” voters. There seems scant reason for a “new Boston’ candidate to feel bearish about who will vote in September. The major hurdle will be to convince “new Boston” voters that a “new Boston’ candidate can actually win . Candidates perceived as winnable generate much larger voter participation than candidates sen as losing.
So, can a “new Boston” hopeful win ? Yes, most definitely so. Clearly Arroyo or Golar Richie have all that it takes to win the entire prize.
The only way that neither Arroyo and Richie get into the “final,’ as this writer sees it, is if they divide the “new’ vote fairly evenly while one or more of the “traditionals” generate a large voter turn out from their bases.
This outcome could happen. For example, there’s no candidate from South Boston. No region of the city turns out voters as numerously as Wards 6 and 7. Trust me: 8,000 votes in the “primary” from South Boston would surprise no one. If a “traditional” can dominate these 8,000 votes — nobody expects a “new Boston” candidate to do that — added to his base, he will surely win the “primary” and gather strong further support for the “final.”
It is THAT prospect that Walsh, Connolly, and Conley, especially, as Irish-name candidates, are now fighting for. It is why on April 30th, when Southie participated in electing a new State Senator for the First Suffolk District, Dan Conley spent the day greeting voters at Southie polling places. South Boston will get plenty of candidate attention during this next month.
But so will Mission Hill, the South End, Back Bay, and the new Downtown, Navy yard, and Seaport. A gold mine number of voters — at least 40,000 total, in wards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 — resides here, many of them high income, highly educated — exactly the sort of motivated and progressive voters that any “new Boston’ candidate shares political DNA with. All that’;s needed is for “hew Boston” candidates and “new Boston” voters to find each other.
That is what the month of June will surely be about in the heart of our City.
After that, the campaign changes. It spreads out, putting a premium on large organizational effort. Many Boston people go to Cape Cod for the summer or on every summer weekend. Candidates will almost certainly be seen meeting and greeting at Falmouth happy hours, Hyannis lawn parties, and Dennis clam shacks. Sign holders will line the Sagamore and Bourne bridges and the sides of routes 28 and 6. Meanwhile, other volunteers will be canvassing stay-at-homes in the more voter- accessible neighborhoods, shaking hands at senior citizen centers, greeting revelers at outdoor festivals, and phone-banking the less accessible. Campaigns’ social media overseers will be working overtime. Here too, chance favors the “major” candidates. “Their” voters are used to seeing mayors and mayor hopefuls all the time and know who is who and who isn’t.
Enormously so. But that’s for July and August. Meanwhile there’s June, a month of campaigning everywhere inside the Boston city limits during which a last pre-primary effort will be made to reach out and touch voters not yet committed to, or even focused on, any candidate. Expect agenda announcements galore and the beginning of what will eventually be an avalanche of “key’ endorsements.
———- Michael Freedberg, “Here and Sphere”