BOSTON MAYOR FINAL : THE ITALIAN VOTE ? YES INDEED

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^ Two Sal’s Two : John Connolly receives the Yes — at Warren Prescott School in Charlestown

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Today at 1:30 PM John Connolly received endorsement from two Sal’s : State Senator Sal DiDomenico, representing Charlestown and parts of Allston-Brighton, and District One City Councillor Sal LaMattina. Aboard the Connolly campaign they join State Representative Carlo Basile of East Boston, former District One Councillor Paul Scapicchio, District Nine Councillor Mark Ciommo, the North End’s State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Susan Passoni, and top Menino fundraiser Vinnie Marino of Roslindale.

Yes, dear reader, as you can see, there is an “Italian vote” even in supposedly Irish Boston. And it counts. But first, indulge me in a little trip through Boston social history :

1. Voters of Italian name continue to reside, chiefly, in most of the Boston places that their grandparents lived in : much of the North End; half of East Boston; Readville; one precinct of Ward 6 in South Boston; a significant scattering in Roslindale, Fairmount Hill, and West Roxbury; and a tight little area hard by Brighton Center, to which Italians from the region of Frosinone and San Donato came, three generation ago, to work in quarries. They amount to about 14 percent of all Boston voters.

2. Because the ancestors of most Boston voters of Italian name arrived in Boston later than the forbears of most Bostonians of Irish name, voters of Italian name still show some connection to ethnicity.

3. Since voters of Italian name proved strongly outnumbered by those of Irish name, the custom grew in Italian-name neighborhoods of backing for Mayor not an Italian candidate –who was presumed unlikely to win — but an Irish name candidate who would make a deal with the Italian communities — by way of their political leaders. Italian-name voters tended to vote as a family group; and, not knowing particularly well the Irish-name candidates — who almost always lived elsewhere in the city — they followed their leaders’ recommendation. More than once, the “block” vote in Boston’s Italian-resident areas won the Mayor’s office for the Irish name candidate -chosen by those leaders. It was stupendously true in 1959 — when Collins beat Powers -and importantly so in 1967, when Kevin White beat Louise Day Hicks.

Scroll forward again to now. We have John Connolly and Marty Walsh. Walsh lives in Dorchester, far from any Italian-name neighborhood. John Connolly lives in West Roxbury, at opposite remove from most Italian-name sections of the City. It is a very 1959 situation.

Yes, via social media and a flood of news sources almost every italian-name voter of 2013 knows at least something about both men. Yet few voters know them well. In this voting situation, sponsorship by a trusted local leader can still make a difference. One or two such sponsorings might not turn many heads in this the internet era; but six or seven leaders of same heritage banding together — plus an issue; in this case, school reform — surely will turn lots of noggins.

There was an issue in today’s Sal and Sal endorsement. The event took place outside Charlestown’s \Warren Prescott school, and both Sal’s talked of their working together with Connolly on school reform agendas.

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^ LaMattina — Connolly — DiDomenico

Connolly’s band of Italian name pols may even arouse the really BIG Italian name I have yet to mention, a guy you are probably already thinking : Tom Menino, the only Italian-name Mayor that Boston has ever had. What will he do in this election ?¬†Will he do ANY thing at all in it ?

I think that he will. I think that he is already doing it. The events taking place seem to prove that he is involving himself mightily. They cannot be an accident. One endorsement, maybe. Seven ? Not just chance. Menino is indeed involved. And not just among “The Italian vote.”

Did I say “just” the “italian vote” ? It matters a lot more than “just.” Come to the Columbus day Parade this Sunday as it winds through the North end, and you will see much. Come to the after-party at Filippo Restaurant (hosted by Philip Frattaroli, who was a City Council candidate this year). But most of all, think of the families that stand out. In Brighton, Salvucci, Mummolo and Cedrone; in the North End, Passacantilli, Anastasi, Coppola, Anzalone, Langone; in East Boston, Buttiglieri, Aiello, Aloisi, Mangini, Lanzilli, Faretra, Marmo. Readville : Scaccia, LoConte and Pulgini. Fairmount : Pagliarulo and of course Rob Consalvo. From Roslindale, Vadala, Iantosca, and Ferzoco; from West Roxbury, Settana. And the Iannella’s….

So what’s it all add up to ? Pretty basic if you ask me. Yes, the race between Walsh and Connolly is turning into a battle of economic classes (as we all knew it would be). But not every Boston voting bloc identifies by economic class. The “Italian vote’ has almost always — as my list above shows — identified by family and neighborhood. John Connolly is smart to pursue, in this matter, the strategy that won the 1959 race for John Collins and the 1967 race for Kevin White.

Come to think of it, Kevin White looked a lot like Connolly, lived in the same area, pursued a “new Boston vision” just as Connolly is doing, talked the language of “downtown,” and — again like Connolly — came from a family long involved in Boston politics. And had the good sense to court East Boston’s Mario Umana. For the Kevin White of 2013, it’s “so far, so good.” Only 26 days remain until we know if it’s good enough.

Tomorrow : The Walsh strategy

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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^ City Council colleagues : LaMattina and Connolly

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE FIRST MONTH

Mayor connections : Hyde Park’s Rob Consalvo at BAGLY (Boston Area Gay & Lesbian Youth) event

Mayor Tom Menino’s more or less last minute announcement that he would not be running for re-election set of what has turned out to be a mad scramble, by a hurrying multitude, to get to the “final” in which only two will face off. To date there are twenty-four (24 !) candidates signed up, making 1967’s eight look sparse. Could 24 people actually all have a chance to get past the September primary ? The answer is yes, for most: because in a four and a half month campaign, anyone can shape up. Usually a run for an office as powerful as Boston Mayor begins well in advance — at least a year before, maybe two. Indeed, as any veteran campaigner in Boston knows, your whole life — maybe also those of your parents and grandparents — goes into making you strong on vote day. Still, all that life history of connections and re-connections needs to be organized and called upon. That this year a candidate will get only 20-odd weeks, no matter who he or she is, grievously levels the odds.

Some things remain the same, however. Candidates holding current office already have made their connections and reconnectiions. They are combat ready. The first battle is to collect 3,000 certifiable nomination signatures. Large organization in place makes it easier to collect at least 3,000 signatures — and to submit them first, because if a voter signs more than one Mayoral nomination paper — and many do — only the first submitted counts. Consider also this : for 24 candidates to qualify for the ballot, at least 72,000 signatures will need to count. that is fully 20% plus of ALL Boston voters. The City has probably never seen such a huge street-level effort.

Probably half the 24 will actually make it onto the ballot. So what comes next ? Already the major eight or so candidates are running all over the city; marching parades, meeting and greeting at eateries, shaking hands at festivals and crowd gatherings, congratulating park League sports teams; holding coffee parties in neighborhoods; advancing an agenda. But does any of this even matter on vote day ? Not many voters give their vote, in a multi-candidate field, to a candidate they happen to meet once, or even twice. Likely they have already known at least one of the “major 8” already and have interacted with him or her. It is difficult for another candidate to overtop a voter’s long experience of another candidate. Truly, in local politics, it’s an axiom that the longer that one has known a candidate, the more likely he or she is to vote for that candidate.

The force of this axiom is likely why the “major 8′ are spending so much time right now acmpaigning to communitiues of voters — LGBT and allies, Haitians, Cape Verdeans, Asians, “new Boston — who for the most part do NOT have long connection with Boston politics. If the long-connected voters — the “traditional” voters of Wards 6, 7, 16, 19, 20, and half of 18; and the “new Boston” voters of Wards 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 21 — are pretty much already “in the bag” for one or another of the “majors,” then it makes sense for them to seek out whatever they can bag up from the less connected communities.

Less connected voters also means “issues” voters. Voters who may not be able to say to a “major”, “geez, I knew your Daddy back in the West End — great guy,” for example, can judge that candidate’s stand on the issues. Thus the rolling out of agendas, that we have already seen from the canniest candidates: Dan Conley (gun control; citywide casino referendum), Felix Arroyo (labor rights), and Marty Walsh (education).

Canny candidates have also sought, smartly, to demonstrate that however they may be “based” in a long-connected community, they have the respect and support of leaders of the less connected. thus Charlotte Golar Richie, African-American of Dorchester, parades endorsements by State Reps. Michael Moran of Ward 22 and Aaron Michlewitz of Wards 3 and 8, and the Callahan Brothers of Ward 2. Likewise Marty Walsh, Irish-American from Ward 16, has the support of openly gay State Rep. Liz Malia of Jamaica Plain. City Councillor John R Connolly, too, strongly based in ward 20, has a house-sign campaign going on all over the city. Almost certainly the other “majors” will, if they can, announce similar cross-community support.

Ward 16’s Marty Walsh greeting City Life / Viuda Urbana supporters at the SEIU Hall.

This, then, is the exciting phase of the Boston mayor campaign. watching the city’s long-connected candidates dig deeply into its less-connected communities enhances the city’s togetherness and makes everyone feel that he or she counts in the halls of power. It is “retail politics” at its truest. It’s also a campaign phase that didn’t exist until Ray Flynn made it happen in 1983, as a South Boston guy campaigning among Jamaica Plain lefties. Before Flynn, Boston mayor races were combats of the powerful versus the powerful — the less so didn’t matter much and were, in fact, often pushed out of the city entirely by “urban renewal.” And Flynn himself had already worked with Jamaica Plain activists on Logan Airport issues, specifically approach run overflights of residential areas. This year, the “majors’ are seeking out the less connected voters no matter what, for their own sakes. This year, the less connected are being welcomed into the halls of city power.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere