COUNCIL DISTRICT 1 : A PERSONAL VIEW

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^ East Boston, Precinct 8 — the heart of “Eagle Hill,” bellwether of the District. No contest.

—- — —-

Courtesy of a Frank Conte tweet, here’s the result on September 26th, by precinct : http://www.eastboston.com/Elections/YR2017/2017HowEastBostonVotedforDistrict1CityCouncilPreliminary2017-0926.pdf

Many of you know that I played a personal part in the campaign to elect a new Councillor from Boston’s District 1. I consulted to Margaret Farmer and also worked one of its 25 precincts at street level. In that vein, what I am about to write will be my personal assessment of the contest and what I think will happen in November.

I was thrilled when Margaret Farmer asked me to head up her campaign. Two thirds of one’s job as a campaign consultant is to pick the right candidate, and that’s what she was. Margaret knew the main issues well and in detail because as President of the Jeffries Point Neighborhood association for five years, she had faced them directly and constantly. A month of door knocking, and she acquired all the skills it takes to meet voters one at a time at the door and interact with them about the issues they care about.  At the door and in candidate forums Farmer proved to me again and again that she voices the concerns of District One voters with authority and conviction. Those who came out to the forums saw it too.

Unfortunately, the campaign’s mistakes made Farmer’s candidate excellence secondary : first, she began her campaign a month late, when many major activists had already committed to on or other of our two opponents; second,  that and the late entry set back our ability to fund-raise; third, Farmer the community activist had almost no acquaintance with the political community, and it took almost the entire campaign time for they and her to get to know each other.

Because she could not raise anywhere near sufficient funds, she could not do even one general mailing, much less the two or three done by Stephen Passacantilli and Lydia Edwards. Many voters went to the polls not having heard of Margaret despite our intense door-knocking and “lit drop” efforts. This was a shame. In the three voting precincts where Margaret was known — and became much better known by way of well focused and sustained precinct work — she won a respectable vote. Of her 522 votes District-wide, 223 came from those three precincts.

The voters of District One will now choose between Passacantilli and Edwards.

He won 3624 votes, she 3547. Clearly no decision was made. Yet I feel reasonably certain of the outcome. I think Lydia Edwards will win, maybe by a significant number.

Why do I say that ? Simple : Lydia drew votes from many different paths of voters whose votes expressed several different motives. Steve drew basically one sort of voter.

Lydia had run for State senator in the 2016 special election to choose Anthony Petrucelli’s successor. In that race she campaigned as the champion of progressive agendas. In this campaign she held most of that constituency — Farmer won some of it — and added to it two entirely different sorts of voters : one, opponents of the ubiquitous housing developments popping up all over East Boston; two, Charlestown residents who opposed Mayor Walsh in 2013 — he lost Charlestown badly — and still find the Mayor’s methods not to their liking. Many of these voters fall quite to the “right” on national issues; so why would they vote for a “progressive” ? My view is that their most fundamental political view is anti-establishment, and because Steve is the Mayor’s chosen candidate — and his campaign is visibly led by Walsh activists — he was the living embodiment of an establishment these anti-establishment voters oppose.

There is also a huge gender gap going on. Time and again I could see it : Steve is the candidate of guys, Lydia (and Margaret) the candidate of the women. As women are about 52 percent of the voters, men only 48 percent, a candidate supported by women has an advantage. But, say you, it wasn’t quite enough top overtop Steve’s vote. To which I respond: watch what happens next.

Steve needs to remake his campaign message and structure. He is badly boxed in by having raised almost $ 300,000 — way more than needed — and most of that from developers and developments people (attorneys, architects, brokers, investors and such) at a time when constant overreach by an avalanche of developments loom over almost every section of East Boston, the neighborhood in which Lydia lives and which is likely to turn out at least 50 percent of the November vote.

Steve also needs to achieve some kind of organizational independence from the Mayor. It sent a wrong message that many of his house sign location s became Walsh sign locations as well in the last week of the run-up. Though Walsh will win his own race easily, and by huge margins in District One, that result arises from the utter inadequacy of his opponent. Worse for Steve is that because voters cannot express opposition to Walsh’s agenda by voting against him, they sure can do so by voting against his Council candidate.

Meanwhile, Lydia will likely win a clear majority of Margaret’s 522 voters, many of whom are as opposed to unrestrained development in East Boston as Lydia’s “anti” voters.  That Lydia is a woman of color helps her too. What better way to scold a traditional kind of white-guy Mayor than by voting for his color and gender opposite ? Made all the easier by Lydia’s being quite knowledgeable about the major City issues and very likeable, where Steve has a tendency to avoid the issues (as, given his developer money, he almost has to) and to front his campaign with unsmiling faces. The menace that I felt in much of Steve’s campaign was almost perfectly summarized on election day at the polls, most of them, bullied by Steve billboards peppered with numerous smaller signs. Wouldn’t no billboards, and maybe two ordinary signs have been enough to remind people that you are asking for their vote ?

You can NOT bully the voters. You have to coax them.

In short, Lydia has a much easier path. All she has to do is continue the road she is on, continue being who she is; whereas Steve needs to change his campaign’s tone and image. The voters who did not vote on primary day but will vote in November will decide. A strong Steve person tells me that many Steve voters didn’t bother to vote because they thought him a shoo-in will now vote. I agree; but doesn’t the same rule apply to Lydia voters who may have thought she had no chance and so stayed home ? In any case, I think most of the new November voters — maybe as many as 4000 overall — are unlikely to be Walsh loyalists even if they cast a “default” vote for him. Thus the September 26 version of Steve will not cut it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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