Mayoral Campaigns Heating Up
Without a Menino Endorsement, the Election is Still Open
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 23:09
For the first time in a generation, the people of Boston will not see a familiar name on the ballot in November’s mayoral election.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, plagued by lingering health issues in recent years, will not seek re-election for a sixth term, and the 70-year-old incumbent’s departure from City Hall paves the way for a new face to lead the city forward.
In the past months, 12 local political, business, and community leaders have entered a wide-open mayoral race, hoping to fill a position that has been defined over the last 20 years by Menino’s hands-on approach to governing and achievements in neighborhood revitalization and educational improvement.
Without the name-recognition that Menino has incurred during his tenure, voters will be forced to sort through a slew of comparatively unknown candidates. The Sept. 24 preliminary election will cut the field, which includes five current city councilors, to two ahead of the Nov. 5 general election, yet no contender has attracted more than 12 percent of support so far, according to a poll conducted by Boston political consulting firm Sage Systems.
That 12 percent was garnered by City Councilor John Connolly, BC Law ’01, who made his intention to run—whether Menino chose to seek re-election or not—clear from the start, announcing his bid for the mayoralty in February.
Second in the poll behind Connolly with 11 percent of voters is State Representative Martin Walsh, a lifelong resident of Dorchester who followed his father into the trades, working as a laborer at the Boston seaport. Walsh earned a degree from Boston College in 2009 after taking classes at night while serving in the legislature, where he was a leading advocate for workers.
Suffolk Country District Attorney Daniel Conley is polling third at 9 percent. Conley succeeded then newly-elected Menino as Boston City Councilor for Suffolk in 1994, serving until 2002 when he was appointed to his current position.
Other names receiving attention in the race are City Councilor Rob Consalvo and Boston housing chief Charlotte Golar Richie, who each earned 7 percent of voter support in the Sage Systems poll, and councilors Michael Ross and Felix Arroyo, who earned 6 percent each.
Thirty-five percent of voters, however, are said to remain undecided, according to The Wall Street Journal, leaving the race’s outcome uncertain in the final weeks before the preliminary election. The Boston Globe has reported that the “splintered” electorate indicates that a margin as slim as 25,000 votes could be decisive in determining the final two candidates who will face off in November.
The top three polling candidates—Connolly, Walsh, and Conley—also lead the race in campaign cash, with Conley sitting on the biggest war chest of over $1 million. Walsh raised the most in campaign contributions in the month of August with $383,000, though his cash on hand only stands at around $700,000. Connolly brought in $245,000 in August, with his campaign reporting $589,000 remaining on hand.
Walsh is also set to receive support from outside interests, including the political action committee American Working Families, who plan on running television ads on his behalf, according to The Globe. Connolly, on the other hand, has made clear his wishes to reduce financial influence from outsider groups, reportedly stating that he did not want the educational advocacy group Stand for Children to spend $500,000 campaigning for him.
The most prominent political issues raised by many of the candidates thus far have included public safety, school reform, affordable housing, and economic development for a city that has made strides in these categories under Menino. In a survey conducted by The Globe, every responding candidate agreed that the city should allow developers to build taller buildings and permit corporate sponsorships to fund improvements in the Boston Common. Also unanimous was support for extending operating hours for bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses, with many candidates advocating for extended MBTA service as well.
When asked how they plan to perpetuate—or perhaps, deviate from—Menino’s legacy, the top tier of candidates recognized the strong leadership the city’s longest-serving mayor has provided, yet also gave ways they will establish their own foundation for the future. Conley and Connolly both vowed to maintain fiscal stability, while Conley further acknowledged differences between his and Menino’s temperaments and management styles.
Connolly, a former teacher, proposed that he will bring renewed energy to positively transform Boston Public Schools, a central platform of his campaign, and Walsh pointed to maintaining quality services for the elderly as an issue of particular importance.
In announcing his plan to leave his post as mayor, Menino cited his inability to lead the city in his own way, on his own terms, due to his health struggles as cause for reevaluating his future. He has stated that he will not handpick his successor, yet made one request in his March speech before a crowd at Faneuil Hall, saying, “I just ask that you choose someone who loves this city as much as I do.”