Connolly and Walsh Take Top Spots in Mayoral Race
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 22:09
In the race to succeed outgoing five-term Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the seemingly wide-open field has narrowed to just two candidates following Tuesday’s preliminary election, from which City Councilor John Connolly, BC Law ’01, and state Representative Martin Walsh, BC ‘09, emerged victorious.
With 100 percent of voting precincts reporting, Walsh received the most votes, garnering 18.5 percent of the electorate, and Connolly followed closely behind with 17.2 percent of votes. The city reported that approximately 30 percent of Boston’s 368,000 registered voters turned out to cast their vote in the preliminary election.
Both men had attracted attention among voters throughout the preliminary race, with Connolly drawing particular notice for declaring his candidacy in February before Menino announced that he would not seek re-election. A former teacher, Connolly, has promised transformation in Boston’s public schools should he win in November’s final election, proposing measures such as lengthening the school day. Throughout his campaign, Connolly repeatedly stressed his message that better schools lead to better neighborhoods and better jobs.
“We think the future starts with safe schools, but it connects to the need for safe streets, healthy neighborhoods, and good jobs—and that’s what this campaign is all about,” Connolly told Boston.com after his victory speech Tuesday night.
The 40-year-old Connolly, son of a former Massachusetts secretary of state and a former chief justice of the state’s district courts, has been reelected to the city council twice since first winning a citywide council seat in 2007.
While Harvard-educated Connolly touts education as his signature platform issue, Walsh, 46, is seen as a representative of labor, himself a former laborer and union official. A Dorchester native, Walsh has attempted to reach out to an increasingly diverse Boston electorate.
“This is a race about who we are—about values, and about whether Boston will be a city for all its people, in every neighborhood, not just some,” Walsh said in a speech to supporters. “Tonight’s a great start, but it’s only a start, and we have a lot more work to do over the next six weeks.”
Walsh was first elected as a state representative in 1997 and has served nine terms, earning a degree from Boston College in 2009 while serving in the legislature.
Of note is that, no matter which man wins in November, Boston will return to a period of male, Irish-American leadership that has characterized the city for most of its history. Menino, an Italian-American, broke that tradition when he was first elected in 1993, the first non-Irish mayor since 1930.
With a preliminary field that included five African-Americans, one Latino, and one woman, many had speculated whether the city might this year see a changing tide that reflected the growing diversity of the population.
“This has to be regarded by many as a disappointment,” Paul Watanabe, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, told The New York Times. “The ‘new Boston’ is based on the fact that this has become a majority-minority city.” The Times also reported that 53 percent of Bostonians identify with a race other than non-Hispanic white.
Charlotte Golar Ritchie, the former city housing chief and lone woman in the race, finished third in the preliminary race with 13.8 percent of votes, and other minority candidates who emerged as legitimate contenders, including City Councilor Felix Arroyo and community activist John Barros, won 8.8 percent and 8.1 percent of votes, respectively.
An additional focus of the race has been on spending from outside political groups. Connolly, in accepting the endorsement of education reform group Stand for Children, asked that they and other groups not spend money on his behalf, turning down a $500,000 campaigning boost.
“My remarks on that have been clear, and I stand by them,” Connolly told Boston.com on whether he would alter his stance on funding from outside interests for the final election. “I don’t want outside money to decide this race. The voters ought to decide this race, and the candidates and campaigns will decide it.”
Walsh, on the other hand, has not pledged to refuse interest group funds, with nearly $700,000 being spent on his behalf during the preliminary election, mostly from labor groups.
Ultimately, with Connolly and Walsh advancing to the final election, Boston voters are faced with choosing a new direction for the city following Menino’s long tenure and lasting impact. Both represent a younger generation who are at last able to release pent-up political ambition that has grown throughout the Menino era, and each has a distinct vision for Boston’s future.