^ “the next mayor has to come in dedicated to bridging the equity gap” — John Connolly speaking at a huge rally in Jamaica Plain tonight

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NOTE : Here and Sphere has endorsed John Connolly for Mayor. I’ve done my best to be objective in this report. You decide.

Two weeks ago, as Marty Walsh struggled to become something other than “the union giuy” and as John Connolly began to amass a large and diverse war chest of people and money, it looked as if the November result would be not close. The prospect looks different now. Walsh found a way to change the conversation — instead of “the union guy” he is now “the progressive tribune of workers’ rights” — and four major Boston politicians of color (three of them former Mayor candidates) have endorsed him, with more such to come soon. Which has forced Connolly to change HIS conversation too.

Until Walsh’s change began to show itself, Connolly had been “the education candidate.” As Boston public schools are by far the largest and most expensive city function, and as there are some 57,000 Boston Public School parents, being “the education candidate” seemed a shrewd choice. It was. It got him into the November Final. But being the education candidate is no longer big enough, and Connolly has had to expand his message hugely.

It has taken him two weeks to do so. I think that he has been stunned, after all the years of bold outreach to Black Bostonians (less apparently so to Boston’s Hispanics), to watch as one after another Black politician endorses his opponent. Yes, his campaign kept on reaping that outreach; yes, it has won him many endorsements by Black religious leaders and by some political action committees. In particular, almost the entire campaign apparatus of Charlotte Golar-Richie joined his campaign, and some supporters of John Barros as well, even a few supporters of Felix Arroyo. But his campaign to Boston’s communities of color has proved much harder than seemed likely a month ago, and Connolly has had to change his approach. I think this has saddened him; one hears it in his remarks. I don’t think he is happy to compass winning by the votes of upscale white people. It’s not what he spent years preparing to be.

as he worked to speak to the changed electoral landscape, Connolly’s speeches stayed close to the education theme. But then came the big break-through : almost the entire leadership of Boston’s “Italian” wards came aboard his campaign. And though the endorsers talked not about issues specific to their neighborhoods — no bread and butter city administration stuff — but about better schools, in speeches that often sounded canned, a smile returned to Connolly’s cheeks and an excitement to his voice.

The endorsements of Connolly by Councillor Marc Ciommo, former Councilo candidate Philip Frattaroli, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, former Councillor Paul Scapicchio, North End State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and — most importantly of all — by Councillor Sal LaMattina (East Boston State Representative Carlo Basile had early on joined the Connolly side) strengthened Connolly’s hand considerably. He was no longer just the candidate of mostly white young techies and concerned publiic school moms. News came of a fundraiser hosted by said Carlo Basile at which, it was said, $ 100,000 was donated to the Connolly brand. At the same time another fundraiser, by Roslindale real estate developer Vinnie Marino — said to be very close to Mayor Menino — raised yet further funds, and it was announced that Connolly had imbibed a whopping $ 610,000 total during the two weeks just ended.

This turned many heads. What the turned heads now s aw — and heard — was a Connolly on wide angle. Jobs — he said “careers” — safe neighborhoods, all of us connected to one an other, it was all part of his new speech. In the First Debate, on Tuesday night, the new, confident, bold Connolly was on full display as, in a voice pitched high and somewhat melodic — his passion voice =– he spoke of education, certainly ( and often ) but even more masterfully about city finances, revenue, union contracts, and budgets. Suddenly listeners saw not “the education mayor” but the Master of City Money. At many turns in the city finances discussion he had Walsh on the ropes.

This was a surprise to me — probably to many. At numerous Mayor Forums and at “Mondays with Marty” I had heard Walsh speak authoritatively about many city issues and, of course, State House legislation. Less so at the First Debate. He seemed cautious — as well he might be after Connolly’s revelation of a bill that Walsh has filed, five times, to take away from City Councils the power to review labor arbitrators’ contract awards. For that revelation has been at least as significant in moving Connolly beyond being a mere “education Mayor” as any other move he has made or that has been made on his behalf. At the Debate, Walsh could not escape its implications. the mire that moderator Jon Keller asked city budget questions, the ,more that Walsh’ s union-friendly legislation came to mind.

But at street level, Connolly’s attack on Walsh’s labor legislation has opened him to accusations by Walsh supporters that he is “not a progressive,” maybe even a “Mitt Romney in Robert Kennedy words,” as one notable Walsh spokesman said. That the attack has hurt was seen tonight when, at a huge rally in Jamaica plain, Connolly said “I’m sick of being told I’m not a progressive ! Giving a good education to every child in the city, that IS progressive !”

It was a superb speech, the best i have heard Connolly give. He spoke of careers; of “bridging the equity gap”; of the City being “two different cities, one safe, one unsafe.” He made fun of himself. He talked of his teaching career (“despite what you see about me on the internet, yes, I was a teacher,” he grinned.) He talked of restaurants and liquor licenses; of streamlining the city bureaucracy; and, yes, of school reform in all its details including, pointedly, a longer school day. The crowd cheered him; cheered each of his points — and well they ought, because he stated them with a clarity I had yet to hear him bring so much of. He sounded less the slogan-eer, more like… a Mayor. It was a speech just that commanding, pitched perfectly at his fan base of upscale young urbanites and concerned school parents.


^ the Mayor of upscale young urbanites and concerned school parents greets his voters at tonight’s Jamiaca Plain rally

This speech, along with his campaign tactics talks (brimming with insight and laughs) to supporters at donation gatherings, bring Connolly a conversation changed utterly. It’s big presence, a podium persona. Can Walsh raise his game to this level ? we shall soon find out.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ 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.


^ 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


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^ casino = construction jobs — East Boston’s State senator Anthony Petrucelli endorsing Marty Walsh (backdrop : the City Hall that Walsh wants to sell, on the Plaza he proposes to develop)

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However many East Boston voters you thought would turn out on Mayor Election Day, double it. For “Eastie” November 5th isn’t simply going to be about choosing a new mayor, important though that is for the only Boston neighborhood that has to pay a toll to get into “town.” Much bigger a deal is the Suffolk downs casino project, approval — or not — of which only East Boston will vote upon. The casino is a huge game changer for Eastie. It will likely employ over 4,000 people, many of them surely from the neighborhood. There’ll be much traffic, lots of excitement, entertainment, tourism, the works.

“NIMBY” people hate the idea. So do the busybodies who think that gambling is evil and want to prevent the rest of us from doing it. They’ll be voting in big numbers on referendum day. But so too will the project’s supporters. Already the campaign signs — “It”S ABOUT THE JOBS” and “VOTE “YES” FOR SUFFOLK DOWNS” — have arisen on many many East Boston houses and lawns.

The mayoral campaigns have taken notice and profited by it. Yesterday State Senator Anthony Pettrucelli endorsed Marty Walsh, who as the candidate of labor, including construction workers above all, is all for the casino project. It will give jobs to Walsh’s stand-out volunteers, door-knockers, and contributors — and to Senator Petrucelli’s constituents. This is a political marriage almost ideal for both men. As Walsh lost East Boston on Primary day by a significant percent, the endorsement by Petrucelli, plus a huge vote turnout, can only boost Walsh’s campaign significantly.

Yet John Connolly is not without his Eastie strength. He supports the Suffolk Downs casino project as much as does Walsh : it gives the City $ 55 million (at latest count) in “mitigation” money. Connolly was endorsed by East Boston State Representative Carlo Basile before the Primary; and Connolly carried the Ward. Often a neighborhood’s State Representative is “closer to the ground’ than its State Senator, who has an area six times as large to cover. It is hard to imagine Basile not commanding a strong and much larger poll on November 5th and, other factors being equal, winning for his candidate over Petrucelli’s.

Carlo Basile 1

^ East Boston’s State Rep Carlo Basile : endorsed John Connolly in July

D 1 sal LaMattina and Mayor

^ Sal LaMattina, East Boston’s City Councillor is ….said to be close to…..

One major political voice of East Boston remains to be heard : East Boston’s City Councillor, Sal LaMattina. (He also represents Charlestown and the North End, but those neighborhoods aren’t voting in the casino referendum.) LaMattina is said to be close to Mayor Menino. The rumors about Menino’s feelings with respect to this election have already gone public. I can personally attest two indications that Menino is giving assistance to John Connolly : (1) for the vacant District Five Council seat, city worker Tim McCarthy is receiving assistance and support from state Rep. Ed Coppinger, Connolly’s top campaign chief and (2) Vinnie Marino of Roslindale, a real estate developer said to be very close to Mayor Menino, is hosting a fund-raiser for John Connolly next week.

So what of Sal LaMattina in that equation ? Surely his supporters will be wanting jobs at the Suffolk Downs casino as surely as Basile’s and Petrucelli’s. Will he be helping Connolly win East Boston’s big November vote ? After all, Menino’s support for Connolly is sai to come, in part, because he wants “his” people “protected” in the jobs they now hold. Or maybe moved comfortably to the casino ? It does happen. I wanted to ask LaMattina his opinion on these matters; but he has not, as of this writing, returned my phone call.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPATE : I should probably include in this East Boston gumbo Patty Campatelli, who last year won election as Suffolk Register of Probate — defeating Sal LaMattina, in fact, by 800 votes. Campatelli had been unknown politically prior to running for that office; yet she won. She lives in “Eastie.” i wonder whom she is going to support in this showdown. So far, not a clue.

SECOND UPDATE : Boston, October 9th, 10.20 AM : we are informed that Sal LaMattina will endorse John Connolly at a press conference today, along with two other major endorsers.  We will be reporting from that conference. — MF