^ gulping down face to face the nectar of Negative Punch : Marty Walsh vs. John Connolly

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A month ago I wrote that the Final campaign had to go negative. 65 % of those who voted on Primary day did not vote for either Walsh or Connolly; each, and certainly the winner, would get the big majority of his votes from people who did not want him.

Last night at Debate Number three we saw that negative, at the beginning and at the end. It bookmarked the debate. Clearly both men were determined to assure that, of two men not liked by most voters, his opponent would be liked less.

Walsh attacked Connolly as a “corporate lawyer” and for not doing anything as a City Councillor. “Name one thing you have done,” Walsh challenged. “Did you as a Councillor bring any jobs at all to Boston ?” Connolly had a strong answer to that. Three strong ones, in fact.

Connolly attacked Walsh far more cogently, or at least I thought so. He cited Walsh’s now infamous House Bill 2467, which would take away City Councils’ power to approve or turn down labor arbitrators’ awards, and, at the end of the debate, he noted that Walsh, as chairman of the House Ethics Committee, “took no action” – Walsh’s own words, when asked — despite “one legislator going to jail,” as Connolly noted.

Listening to this attack, Walsh’s face grew grim, his eyes grimmer. If looks could kill…but he did not lose his temper, did Walsh, although at the grimmest point he seemed about to. He is said to have a terrifying temper. We almost saw it.

His record is open to substantial question; but so far the voters do not seem to care about what he has been and done. They want to know what he is going to DO. And during the middle of the debate — really more a Forum, with questions being asked by the moderator, than an actual debate — Walsh talked on and on about his policy proposals, numerous proposals — almost a policy wonk. It was very effective, because what newly watching voter expected “the union guy” to talk in detail about parks, young violence, the BRA, enterprise, budgets, etc etc ? Walsh talked abut them all. He sounded like a Mayor.

Connolly sounded like an insurgent; a challenger; the underdog. It was a shrewd role for him to adopt, as he did the day before the debate on the wings of his internal poll showing the race tied 43 to 43. It was also shrewd because the Walsh campaign’s attacks on Connolly, fueled by huge money, mailings, and an army of union door-knockers, had succeeded in getting voters to care a lot about what, said Walsh, Connolly has been and not much at all about what he would DO as Mayor. At the debate, Connolly time and again had to reassert that he is a City Councillor with a strong record of accomplishment.

It is never good when, at a campaign’s final debate, the man who looks like the challenger has to fend off accusations from the man who looks like the incumbent. But in this case, the man who talks like the incumbent isn’t. He doesn’t have a record to defend. Thus Connolly was punching not a bag but a might-have-been.

Today we found out, at 1:00 PM, exactly what the debate portended : a new UMass Poll finds Walsh now leading Connolly 47 to 40; that people really do believe that Connolly is a corporate lawyer, not a City Councillor; and that Walsh represents the poor and middle class.

Connolly’s hope is knowing that that poll did not take into accoungt the strong questions that he raised at the third debate about Walsh’s record and connections. Unhappily for Connolly, the poll does take in Walsh’s very weak performance at the second debate. If voters watching that debate did not decide for Connolly,. how will they decide for him now, after Walsh’s best debate performance of the three ?

Connolly has six days to change voters’ perception, to get them thinking about Walsh’s status quo attitude, his army of one interest group, his base in the city’s most unreconstructed communities — hardly a home plate whence to hit a home run for the future city. Can Connolly do it ? It’;s all up to him at this point.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ a fighting reformer, a transformer even : John Connolly addresses supporters at last night’s Debate watch party at Merengue on Blue Hill Avenue

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As this year’s race for mayor of Boston approaches voting day, it has become ever clearer that we are beset by the grip of old politics. We must shake off this dead hand, and do it now. Old politics thrives in old institutions set up long ago to address long-ago challenges. unhappily, the institutional drag survives long after those challenges have been met, its vested interests a grievous obstacle to progress. Such is the case in Boston’s mayor race. It’s why the Marty Walsh campaign looms large as we head to voting day.

Old politics are a curse. We have seen how old, reactionary politics of the Tea party have almost devoured the GOP, rendered it practically useless to most Americans. In the same way, as we wrote over a month ago, the campaign for Mayor has split the Democratic party between Obama Democrats and the Left. That split has now become as clear as the hulk of Godzilla stalking a japanese movie.

We like President Obama because he speaks for the innovation society that is already here and for the rise of new leadership from it, leadership that now takes on the task of transforming our schools, careers, social connections, lifestyles.

This innovation politics has, however,m divided the Democratic party, just as the rise, a decade ago, of pragmatic conservatism split the GOP.

In Boston, the Marty Walsh campaign has made its pact with the Left and its money. Granted that it had no choice. Facing John Connolly, a quintessential Obama Democrat, Walsh by himself had the votes only of union households and the City’s oldest political community (and not even all of that). Thus his move, after the Primary, using his leadership position in Boston Organized labor to bring to his side politicians with large numbers of Union households in their Districts, and, at the same time, union money and door-knockers from everywhere.

Walsh’s army is motivated by people who dare not risk what they already have. But people cannot just cling to what they have or know, because the economic and social world is changing faster than a speeding bullet. It is upon us all, and all of us must begin to move even faster.

This entails some risk; but the risk of not innovating, re-imagining, everything — schools, work, careers, connections, entrepreneurship — is far far greater.

The new economy is much, much bigger than the Democratic Left’s constituencies. Union households comprise about 14 % of all workers. Most work coming into being today is not union-appropriate. The careers of today and tomorrow come in small business units, laboratories of innovation, connected by co-operative competition. They aren’t assembly line. They aren’t low-skill.

We agree that low skill work needs enactment of a living wage, so that people who work such jobs can participate fully in the economy — and so that we the public aren’t forced to subsidize slave wage employers who need EBT and welfare in order to survive because hey aren’t paid enough. But the minimum wage is a State Legislature matter, not a mayor’s.

The mayor of Boston has a different mission : to guide the innovation economy into being, including innovated schools, policing, health care, social connectedness and an end to social segregation.

This is John Connolly’s message. It’s why today we proudly confirm the endorsement we gave to Connolly on October 7th.

John Connolly’s open door message  means innovation supporters as well. One of the features we most applaud about the John Connolly campaign is the newness of his following, Few of Connolly’s people have any history at all in Boston politics. Some come from the Obama campaign, some too from Senator Warren’s, and, yes, some from (Republican) Paul Cellucci’s years. But by far the most are brand new to political combat, and most of these come from communities themselves new to the arena. this we like. Like it a Lot. The newer the better, in fact. Because that’s what America is, at its finest : new, new, tomorrow, a future goal. Morning in America, as Ronald Reagan put it.

Morning means change and the unexpected, even the unpredictable. Into this morning, the politics of the Left needs to step, together with the Obama Democrats whose agenda the Left now recoils from, ominously.

And finally, as a coda to our endorsement, let us add this : the Democratic party cannot be split. Today it’s the only feasible party of national government. It needs to hold together, in Boston and nationally, to direct the new economy, the new society. Until such time as the GOP returns to the field of common sense and forward, splitting the Democratic party, as the Left seems now intent on doing, really is playing with fire.

— Michael Freedberg, editor in chief / Here and Sphere