Former mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea today endorsed challenger Michael Flaherty based on his commitment to open government—less than 24 hours after telling the Gazette he was “not convinced” by Flaherty and unlikely to endorse him or incumbent Thomas Menino.
Flaherty and McCrea are technically still on opposite sides of a government-secrecy lawsuit that is under appeal. And Flaherty’s would-be “deputy mayor,” Sam Yoon, apologized to McCrea for describing his vote-drawing ability to that of Donald Duck in a Gazette interview earlier this month. But government transparency is more important than those disputes, McCrea indicated.
McCrea said today that he decided last night to endorse after speaking with his wife. “She reminded me of how much I really think the BRA [Boston Redevelopment Authority] is the root of all evil in the city,” McCrea said. “Flaherty has absolutely pledged…that he’s going to eliminate the BRA.”
Menino has pledged to retain and expand the BRA. McCrea’s endorsement was announced at a Downtown Crossing press conference with Flaherty and Yoon at the site of the former Filene’s store site. Now a half-demolished building, that controversially stalled project was approved deliberately by the BRA without the required financial statements and full review process, the Boston Globe reported earlier this year.
“I think Kevin McCrea has raised a lot of serious issues in this election [campaign],” Flaherty spokesperson Natasha Perez told the Gazette. She said that Flaherty feels that, “Frankly, Kevin made him a better candidate.”
Perez said the endorsement shows that the Flaherty/Yoon administration would be “a different kind of administration, where people’s ideas and even different views are embraced. [Flaherty has] a willingness to listen to people who have really disagreed with him in the past.”
The two men indeed have had disagreements. In 2005, McCrea was the lead plaintiff on a successful lawsuit that found the Boston City Council repeatedly violated the state Open Meeting Law. Flaherty was president of the council at the time, and the lead defendant in the case.
The city is still appealing the lawsuit, but Flaherty had acknowledged his positions were wrong. He has credited the lawsuit with making him an open-government activist.
“I’ve sued the mayor, too. I’m an equal-opportunity pointer-out of [problems],” McCrea told the Gazette. “To Michael’s credit, he’s come out and admitted [he was] wrong, which is more than any of the other guys would do. Was that political expediency? Maybe. All you have to go on when electing people is what they say they’re going to do.”
McCrea noted that Flaherty has said he will open up government in various ways and dismantle the BRA. But if Menino wins, “people may not be able to see meetings” or crucial documents, McCrea said. “That’s the way this guy runs the city,” he said of Menino.
Coincidentally, McCrea said he happened to meet Jim Spencer, Yoon’s former campaign manager, a few weeks ago in New Orleans, where McCrea has some business interests. “Jim Spencer and I had dinner on Bourbon Street,” he said, noting his own ability to get along with former rivals.
McCrea and Perez both said that there has been no discussion of giving McCrea a specific role in a Flaherty administration. McCrea did not even speak to Flaherty again since a meeting shortly after the September preliminary, instead notifying Flaherty’s staff of his endorsement decision.
The endorsement was an abrupt shift from just hours earlier. The day before the endorsement announcement, McCrea told the Gazette that he had met with both Flaherty and Menino, but was unlikely to endorse either one. He added that he doubted the significance of endorsing.
“I offered my services to both,” he said yesterday, explaining he offered to help Menino with his administration’s problems with deleted e-mails, and Flaherty with dismantling the BRA.
But, McCrea said yesterday, Menino appeared uninterested. And, McCrea said, he was “not convinced” about Flaherty and Yoon’s commitment to transparency and feared that “they might just rename the BRA” rather than replace it with something better.
McCrea said today that after speaking with the Gazette and another unnamed person yesterday, he discussed endorsements with his wife and decided he felt “obliged” to make one. “I’m reluctantly, I guess, an influence-maker,” he said.
“I objectively looked at the two guys’ positions,” McCrea said, “and essentially it came down to two things—the BRA and transparency, especially the BRA.”