Flaherty, Menino to fight for Mayor’s Office

September 25, 2009
By

John Ruch

Arroyo wins big in City Council race

Incumbent Thomas Menino and challenger Michael Flaherty will face off for the Mayor’s Office on the Nov. 3 final ballot after winning Tuesday’s primary election. Candidates Kevin McCrea and Sam Yoon were on the losing end.

Menino came out on top with more than 41,000 votes in a high-turnout election—more than the total number of votes cast for all candidates in the 2005 city preliminary. Menino won JP in a close battle with Yoon, according to informal reports. On the other hand, his razor-thin majority citywide—50.52 percent of the vote—beat “anybody but Menino” by fewer than 900 votes.

Menino told the Gazette the day after the election that with four candidates for mayor and high voter interest, “All Boston is better for this.” After his preliminary win, “It’s the second half to play,” he said.

“I only say we’ll continue to have a progressive campaign and a positive campaign and an inclusionary campaign,” Menino said when asked about Flaherty and his criticisms. “Boston has been moving progressively…Some people have jumped off the train.”

Jamaica Plain resident Felix Arroyo was a big winner in the at-large (citywide) Boston City Council race. He earned more than 25,000 votes, putting him in third place behind the two incumbents—John Connolly and Steve Murphy—and far ahead of the rest of the field.

“It says that our message of collaborative politics is resonating, that there’s an appreciation for a people’s campaign,” Arroyo said of the results in a Gazette interview. Informal reports say he easily topped the JP vote.

There are now eight candidates vying for four at-large City Council seats on the November ballot. In order of preliminary vote totals, they are: Connolly, Murphy, Arroyo, Ayanna Pressley, Andrew Kenneally, Tito Jackson, Doug Bennett and Tomás Gonzalez. Another JP resident, libertarian Sean Ryan, finished out of the running along with six other candidates.

In the District 7 (Egleston Square-area) City Council race, incumbent Chuck Turner will face longtime foe Carlos “Tony” Henriquez on the November ballot. Turner, who is under indictment on federal corruption charges, won a comfortable 53 percent of Tuesday’s vote, followed by Henriquez with 23 percent. The losing candidates were Althea Garrison and Roy Owens.

While Turner’s court case has been big news, voters did not seem to give special attention to the District 7 race. About 6,000 ballots were cast in the race, roughly the same amount as in two other district council races on the ballot in other neighborhoods. Turner previously told the Gazette he will be shooting for at least 80 percent of the vote in the final election to demonstrate his innocence in the “Court of Public Opinion.”

“I don’t think that’s overwhelming,” Henriquez told the Gazette about Turner’s margin of victory in the preliminary. For the final election, Henriquez said the main theme is “trying to get people, and the press included, focused on issues” rather than on Turner’s “43 years as a Boston resident…and whether the feds are out to get him.”

Henriquez said the main issues are basic city services and public safety. He said Egleston Square business owners recently told him they are still waiting for beat cops to patrol the area, and that the gutters near Turner’s Roxbury office were filled with trash two days before the election.

Voter turnout was high for a city preliminary—23 percent, or more than 81,000 voters. The competitive mayoral race and a large, diverse City Council field sparked voter interest. It also resulted in residents being bombarded with campaign ads, door-knocking candidates and pre-recorded phone calls.

“Thank God for caller ID,” a man remarked to a friend in Monument Square on Election Day, describing the attention he gets from being on the active-voter list.

Despite the high turnout, JP polls did not appear to suffer long lines. Curtis Hall in Monument Square, the polling place for Ward 19’s Precincts 8 and 9, was once again a popular spot for campaign volunteers to corral potential voters, both because of the high-voting neighborhood and the building’s prime location fronting on South Street.

Among those volunteers were workers collecting nomination-paper signatures for US Senate candidate Martha Coakley—a hint of the fast-moving Senate race that could partly overshadow the city elections. The Senate election will take place only five weeks after the Nov. 3 city final election.

Meanwhile, Flaherty and Menino are preparing for battle. Menino is presenting himself as pragmatic and positive, boasting of the city’s low crime rate and high bond ratings. Flaherty is presenting himself as a kinder, gentler version of Menino, pointing to the incumbent’s penchant for behind-closed-doors deal-making and reputation for holding grudges.

In previous elections, Menino has always done well in JP, even when local challenger Maura Hennigan took a bite out of his vote totals in the 2005 race. While Yoon seemed to be a favorite among JP’s prominent progressive voters this year, Flaherty has also done relatively well here in his City Council campaigns, often finishing among the top four local vote-getters.

But to beat Menino, Flaherty will need the support of all of Yoon’s and McCrea’s voters, and then some. It remains to be seen whether the final election will energize voters the way the crowded preliminary did.

Perhaps the biggest—if least-noticed—surprise of the race was a Republican candidate making the cut in a Boston election. Bennett, a Republican former Nantucket selectman running in the non-partisan City Council race, seems to have convinced voters in part with a marathon door-knocking campaign that covered more than 80,000 homes. (He also had a massive phone-message campaign.) He campaigned heavily in JP, even door-knocking the Gazette office.