It’s down to two

October 22, 2010
By

David Taber

O’Malley, Hennigan prevail in local council race

JP resident Matt O’Malley and West Roxbury resident James Hennigan were the top two vote-getters Tuesday in the preliminary District 6 special election to replace former City Councilor John Tobin.

The district includes most of Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury, and a small part of Mission Hill. The two candidates will face off in a special final election Nov. 16.

Over half of the 7,203 ballots in the Oct. 19 preliminary were cast for O’Malley, who received 3827 votes—53.17 percent of the total according to unnofficial results provided by the City Elections Department. But he would have come in second if the only people who had voted for him were the 750 who showed up at his September campaign kick-off, presuming they were District 6 residents.

Hennigan received 2196 votes for of 30.5 percent of the total. Third place finisher, JP resident Sean Ryan got 611 vote for 8.49 percent.

The fourth and fifth place finishers, Kosta Demos and Chun-Fai Chan, received 349 votes for 4.85 percent and 198 votes for 2.72 percent, respectively.

“It’s a big win, a great win. We won West Roxbury and JP by huge margins,” O’Malley told the Gazette in a phone interview.

“Congratulations to Jim. He is a good guy, and we wish him well. It’s going to be a tough campaign,” O’Malley said.

For his part, Hennigan came out of the preliminary swinging. “Now there are two candidates, and there is going to be a very clear choice for people to make—between an insider and a neighborhood candidate. I am the candidate who is a community activist in the neighborhood with the people, not sheltered in a political cocoon” he told the Gazette.

Hennigan was immediately endorsed by two of the candidates he bested—libertarian Ryan and progressive reform candidate Demos. Ryan and Demos are both from JP.

“I am voting for him [Hennigan], for sure,” Ryan told the Gazette. Ryan said he is not sure how active a role he will play in Hennigan’s campaign, but he plans to meet with the candidate later this week.

Speaking to the Gazette, Demos reiterated claims he made on the campaign trail that, “The election was clearly set up to be a handover to Matt O’Malley,” adding, “I like Jim, we agree about a lot of stuff.”

At a candidates’ forum hosted by the JP Progressives last month, Hennigan quietly indicated that he might support sweeping charter reform efforts—efforts to reorganize the city’s governmental structure, which some now criticize as giving the mayor too much power, and which was one of Demos’s signature issues. When asked at the forum if the City Council should have more power, he said, “Absolutely…and not only with the budget.”

O’Malley said at the forum that he would support limited charter reform including giving the City Council more power to shape the City budget, and turning the school committee from a mayor-appointed committee into a hybrid elected and appointed committee.

Chan told the Gazette he currently has no plans to endorse either candidate.

O’Malley—who has run for city council twice before, and has spent most of his professional life in politics—was endorsed by Tobin. He has also spoken at the JP Progressives candidates forum about his friendship with Mayor Thomas Menino.

O’Malley has been endorsed by City Councilors John Connolly and Rob Consalvo and Mike Ross, the current City Council President; local state Rep. Liz Malia; Lt. Gov. Tim Murray; and his former boss, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral.

Hennigan comes from a political family. His father, James Hennigan Jr., was once an influential state senator. His grandfather, James Hennigan, is the namesake for the local Hennigan Elementary School. And his sister, JP resident Maura Hennigan, is the current clerk of Suffolk County criminal courts and the former holder of the District 6 seat.

Hennigan has been endorsed by At-Large City Councilors Felix Arroyo—a JP resident—and Steve Murphy.

Both candidates have also been endorsed by a number of trade unions.

In the Oct. 19 vote, JP liked O’Malley better than the district as a whole. He won 58 percent of the votes cast in JP precincts, compared to 49.9 percent of the votes cast in West Roxbury. His best precinct was JP’s Ward 10, Precinct 7, where he took 79.71 percent of the 69 votes cast.

Hennigan, who often talks on the stump about having grown up in JP, did not fare as well this end of the district. He was beat out by Demos in Ward 11, taking 11.92 percent of the vote compared to Demos’s 15.7 percent of the 688 votes cast. That ward was the only one where Demos’s percentage reached double digits.

Overall, Hennigan won about 20 percent of the JP vote compared to 37.23 percent of the West Roxbury vote.

And West Roxbury residents more than pulled their weight getting the vote total to a fairly respectable 15.22 percent of registered voters. West Roxbury polls fielded 4,351 voters, about 60 percent of the 7,203 total voters. JP residents cast 2,852 ballots.

Ryan told the Gazette he would likely seek elected office again. Demos said he and his campaign volunteers are discussing parlaying his campaign organization into a sustained advocacy effort to reform city government. Chan said he plans to refocus his energy on his work as a public school teacher.

Correction: The on-line version of this story omits a phrase reffering to Hennigan as “new to politics.” As the Gazette previously reported, Hennigan ran unsuccessfully for a state rep. seat in the 1990s.