Election is canceled—mostly

September 7, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

The Sept. 25 preliminary election for at-large seats on the Boston City Council has been canceled, according to the Boston Election Department.

But, confusingly, there will still be a preliminary election that day for the District 7 City Council seat, which includes part of Egleston Square.

In all races the Nov. 6 final election is still on as planned.

The controversial cancellation—finalized in July but only announced this month—is intended to save the city money. The preliminary would have narrowed the field of nine at-large candidates by only one under city election rules. Stephen Murphy, an incumbent in the at-large race, argued that was wasteful.

Now, all nine candidates will go straight to the final ballot.

The City Council, Mayor Thomas Menino, the state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick all approved the cancellation in quick succession in July.

But it was not without controversy. Incumbent at-large candidate Felix Arroyo, a Jamaica Plain resident, refused to vote, calling it “conflict of interest” even to consider changing election rules midstream.

And local District 6 City Councilor John Tobin voted against the cancellation, saying it is unfair to change the rules so close to an election.

The other two at-large councilors, Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, also voted against the proposal.

The cancellation idea appeared to spring from a July 2 Boston Globe article that quoted unnamed “political observers” as urging lesser-known at-large candidates to drop out to save the city the expense of the preliminary election. Tobin suggested that such a line of thought is disrespectful and improper when the candidates have followed the rules and made the ballot.

For unexplained reasons, the proposal did not include the District 7 preliminary, which will also narrow a field by only one candidate. In that race incumbent Chuck Turner is facing Carlos Henriquez and perennial candidate (and former one-term state representative) Althea Garrison.

Henriquez, the 30-year-old former constituent services director for at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty, said Roxbury needs more of a plan for its long-time problems with street violence, high drop-out rates and what he said is a relative lack of basic city services.

“I think Councilor Turner is a great activist, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a great politician,” Henriquez said.

Henriquez is also not a fan of the election cancellation. “It definitely decreases turnout all over the city,” he said, adding that he sees the point about saving money but worries that it reduces campaign forums and general “democratic process.”

Also unaffected by the preliminary cancellation is the multiple-candidate preliminary for the Allston/Brighton District 9 seat.

Thrown into the mix in some districts outside of JP are two special primary elections for state Senate and House seats.

In a press release last week, Election Department head Geraldine Cuddyer called the election schedule “confusing” for voters and “challenging” for the department.

For more information, contact the Election Department at 635-3767 or www.cityofboston.gov/elections.

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