BOSTON MAYOR RACE : INTO THE FAR TURN NOW

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^ a John Connolly – Marty Walsh final ?

August will arrive this week, leaving only seven weeks until Primary day, at which the two Boston Mayoral Finalists will be chosen. At this point the preliminaries are over; the race is taking on a distinct shape; and those on the wrong side of the taking are beginning to get shelved. It’s the beginning of crunch time. Where does the race stand as the crunch starts ?

Polls have been taken and published. These show that John Connolly, Marty Walsh, Dan Conley, and Rob Consalvo occupy a “top tier” — grabbing from 8 % to 12 % of the assured primary vote — and that Felix Arroyo, Charlotte Golar Richie, and Mike Ross make a “second tier,” each at 5 % of the assumed vote. Four other candidates, Charles Yancey, John Barros, Bill Walczak, and Charles Clemons, also draw a measurable vote.

No surprises in any of this — nor is it a surprise that the “new Boston” candidates are splitting among themselves a vote that, if unified, would assure such candidate making it to the Final.

Arroyo, Ross, and Golar-Richie, their support totaled, easily top the “traditional” field. Indeed, their potential vote should be larger than polled: because the polls taken have tended to concentrate on the most assured voters — namely, the “traditional” voters. Surely, if one or other of the “new Boston” candidates is seen as having a solid chance of winning, “new Boston” voters will turn out in larger than polled numbers. Being seen as a solid potential winner is the major indicator, in almost every election, of a candidate’s ability to turn out voters.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo : solid contender if the “new Boston’ vote unifies

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : a sure winner in November If she can get to the Final

Unhappily for “new Boston,” this Primary  offers no fewer than six viable “new city” candidates. None has made a move to drop out. The six probably draw about 20 % of the polled sample, and on Primary day might garner measurably more. It will do no good, however, if all six continue in the race. All six will lose. This is a disappointing prospect and one that we at Here and Sphere decry. We feel that it is time for Boston to elect a “new Boston” Mayor, “new” voters representing at least two-thirds — probably more — of the entire city vote.

If no “new Boston” candidate withdraws soon, before the ballot is printed, the chances are strong that the Final will choose between two “traditionalists.” Currently the top two candidates in polls are City Councillor at Large John Connolly, at 12 %, and state Representative Marty Walsh, at 11 %. We feel that’s an accurate picture. Walsh, a four term Representative, has a solid Dorchester base extending strongly now into South Boston and, somewhat less strongly, into Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Roslindale. He has won the backing of Local 18, the Boston firefighters’ Union. As for John Connolly, son of former Secretary of State Michael J. Connolly, he lives in Ward 20 — which will likely cast ten to 12 % of the entire Primary vote — and has shown broad city-wide support besides. Connolly is waging an active house party and issues campaign, focusing on Boston Schools parents. He can also count on much trust from city workers and their families gained during his terms on the Council.

Dan Conley, the Suffolk County District attorney, has by far the most money, but his city wide support seems surface at most; huge publicity for him, thanks to the many murder investigations under way, does not seem to have added anything to his image as a possible Mayor. Crime, after all, is a huge issue, but not a big Mayoral issue. Schools, development, zoning, and culture seem the issues most germane to the mayor’s office. (NOTE : a report in today’s Herald opines that Conley might switch to run for Massachusetts Attorney Geerral if Martha Coakley, as expected, declares for Governor, Conley has not responded yet.)

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^ superb campaign but not enough ? Rob Consalvo

Then there’s Rob Consalvo, who holds the district Council seat that Mayor Menino held from which he won election as Mayor. Consalvo has the problem of bringing together a widely dispersed — and much less ethnic than it used to be — “Italian” vote, from East Boston, the North End, and Hyde Park, and of lacking much city-wide familiarity. That he has nonetheless managed to poll close to the top vote-getters is a credit to the detail and mastery of his very professionally directed campaign. Can Consalvo, thus well directed, perhaps make it into the final ? Probably not.

Which leaves Boston to choose between two men as different as similarly backgrounded people can be. it will, actually, somewhat resemble the 1983 race between David Finnegan and Ray Flynn to choose who would face “new Boston” candidate Mel King. Finnegan lived in West Roxbury, Flynn in South Boston, and as one shrewd observer said, it was a race between “discount store cashiers” and “Boston Latin School.” The same class gulf may well apply to a Walsh versus Connolly Final. The Flynn and Finnegan fight was heated and often bitter — the two men seemed to despise one another. Expect nothing less if a Walsh versus Connolly Final imposes itself on a City that can use some drama not arising, thank goodness, from murder indictments and trials.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE 2ND MONTH STARTS

Boston Mayor 2013 – candidates of color

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”