Menino won JP-area vote

John Ruch

Gazette Photo by John Ruch Mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty 9right) and his “running mate” Sam Yoon (center, in suit) talk with residents in front of J.P. Licks on Centre Street during a campaign stop on Oct. 2.

Flaherty far behind; Yoon voters to be key in final

Incumbent Thomas Menino barely won the Jamaica Plain area in the Sept. 22 mayoral preliminary election with 43.1 percent of the vote—a margin of only 25 votes over Sam Yoon. Challenger Michael Flaherty, who won second place citywide and is facing Menino on the final ballot, was a distant third in the JP area.

Because some JP voting precincts overlap other neighborhoods, and with the Menino-Yoon margin so close, it is impossible to say which of the two candidates literally won JP proper.

Now that Yoon is running as Flaherty’s “deputy mayor,” the local numbers look better for Flaherty. [See related article.] Together, Flaherty and Yoon took about 53 percent of the JP-area vote.

JP’s vote should be a big, and unpredictable, prize in the Nov. 3 final election.

Local resident Felix G. Arroyo swept JP in the crowded at-large City Council race, taking almost a quarter of the local vote and winning every precinct. As usual, JP had some different preferences than citywide voters, putting newcomers Tomás Gonzalez and Ayanna Pressley ahead of incumbent Steve Murphy in the at-large race.

At around 24 percent, JP’s voter turnout was about the same as the citywide rate. That is high for a city preliminary, but hardly the burst of new and progressive voters some observers predicted. Ward 19 (Pondside/Jamaica Hills/Forest Hills) had JP’s, and one of the city’s, highest voter turnouts at over 30 percent. But JP’s turnout was well behind such neighborhoods as West Roxbury.

The mayoral race clearly was the main draw. Out of about 7,200 JP voters, only 13 of them did not cast a vote in the mayoral race—a virtually unheard-of rate.

Menino and Yoon essentially tied for the JP vote, respectively getting 43.1 percent and 38.9 percent. But the closeness of those numbers hides a bigger failure in Yoon’s electoral strategy.

A progressive reformer and the first Asian-American candidate for the Mayor’s Office, Yoon was counting on his ability to energize liberal, minority and new voters, especially in JP. But Yoon actually did best in JP’s wealthiest, least-minority sections, while Menino won lower-income, higher-minority areas. Voter turnout was nothing special overall, and, as usual, had lower rates in lower-income and higher-minority areas.

Menino handily won in the JP part of Ward 10 (Hyde/Jackson Squares) and barely edged Yoon in Ward 11 (eastern JP/Egleston Square). Yoon trounced Menino in Ward 19 (Pondside/Jamaica Hills/Forest Hills).

Flaherty took only about 14 percent of the local vote, failing to win a single precinct. The other mayoral candidate who lost citywide, Kevin McCrea, took 4 percent of the JP vote.

JP is covered by the following voting districts: Ward 10, Precincts 6-9; Ward 11, Precincts 4-10; and Ward 19, Precincts 1-9 and 12. Ward 10’s Precincts 6 and 8 include parts of Mission Hill, and Ward 11’s Precincts 4 and 5 include parts of Roxbury.

JP’s vote will still be a crucial part of the winning candidate’s strategy. With Menino winning the JP area by a plurality, and citywide by only 50.52 percent, the new Flaherty/Yoon ticket is smelling blood in the water.

“When I look at the numbers of voters in JP and Mission Hill, they voted for change,” Flaherty spokesperson Natasha Perez said. “Almost 50 percent of the city voted for change…and they’ll still have the opportunity to get there [with Flaherty].”

Menino, on the other hand, told the Gazette the day after the election that his momentum is moving like a train that some people are unwisely jumping off of.

Menino spokesperson Nick Martin said that Menino will continue reaching out to people who may have voted for another candidate, and those who did not vote in the preliminary.

“Mayor Menino has said all along, this race isn’t about politicians, it’s about people,” Martin said in an e-mail to the Gazette. “He received a tremendous amount of support citywide in the preliminary, and he’ll continue to speak with people across the city about how we build on the progress we’ve made for the future.”

City Council races

Arroyo was a big winner citywide with the sort of victory that makes political observers sit up and take notice. He won more than 25,000 votes, finishing just behind incumbents John Connolly and Murphy, and far ahead of the rest of the field.

Arroyo’s JP win was just as impressive, as he finished far ahead of any other candidate in local voting.

Citywide, a field of 15 candidates was narrowed to eight by the preliminary election. The winners, in order of citywide vote totals, were: Connolly, Murphy, Arroyo, Pressley, Andrew Kenneally, Tito Jackson, Doug Bennett and Gonzalez.

But JP voters would have preferred to see Bennett and Kenneally out of the running. Instead, the local top eight included JP libertarian Sean Ryan and Dorchester accountant Hiep Nguyen.

JP’s top eight voter-getters were, in order: Arroyo, Connolly, Gonzalez, Pressley, Murphy, Jackson, Nguyen and Ryan.

Gonzalez, a Hyde Park resident, has JP roots. Born and raised in Egleston Square/Brookside, he remains active in the neighborhood with such programs as youth sports.

While Gonzalez just squeezed into the top eight citywide, he clearly found a base to build on in JP, where he earned more than 11 percent of the vote.

“I’m humbled and honored to have so much support in the neighborhood I grew up in,” Gonzalez told the Gazette.

Gonzalez gave one of the more interesting performances at the neighborhood’s only City Council candidate forum so far, held this summer by Jamaica Plain Progressives. He showed personal familiarity with JP issues, while also challenging the “progressive” voters in the room, asking how they differ from “liberal Democrats” like himself and noting that the group appeared to lack minority members.

Gonzalez also has good political connections from his former City Hall jobs under Menino. Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez backed him as well.

Gonzalez said he will be touting his City Hall connections as the reason he is the “most qualified person out there” in an election that has been “a lot about name recognition and popularity” rather than experience in serving constituents.

The dubious distinction of last place in the at-large race went to Scotland Willis citywide. In JP, it went to Bill Trabucco.

In the Nov. 3 final election, the top four vote-getters will win at-large City Council seats.

In the District 7 (Egleston Square/Roxbury) City Council preliminary, incumbent Chuck Turner topped the vote comfortably with 53 percent, followed by his main challenger, Carlos “Tony” Henriquez at 23 percent.

In the single JP precinct of Egleston Square that falls under District 7 (Ward 11, Precinct 5), Turner’s support was 7 points lower than it was district-wide, and Henriquez’s support was 10 points higher.

Turnout in the JP section of the district was average, and the amount of blanked votes was high at 22 percent. Another 20 percent of the vote went to the losing candidates, former state Rep. Althea Garrison and Roy Owens.

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