Incumbents win City Council races

November 18, 2011
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By John Ruch and Rebeca Oliveira

The incumbent candidates won all of the at-large and local district Boston City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election.

Jamaica Plain once again had some of the city’s highest voter turnout, and voters here largely agreed with the citywide ballot choices.

In the at-large race, JP resident Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, Council President Steve Murphy and Ayanna Pressley retained their seats. Challenger Michael Flaherty finished a close fifth in the balloting. Will Dorcena and JP resident Sean Ryan finished far behind.

Incumbent Councilor Tito Jackson held onto the District 7 seat, which includes part Egleston Square and Parkside. He defeated challenger Sheneal Parker in a landslide, with more than 84 percent of the vote.

Jackson said he is “very excited” by the results and will continue “creating jobs and getting people back to work and bettering our school system.”

“I worked really hard. I can say I put my all into it,” Parker told the Gazette in a phone interview on Election Night.

“I’m grateful I got another term,” Arroyo said, adding that he will continue his agenda of supporting young people and working families.

A major focus for Arroyo is his “Invest in Boston” ordinance. It requires banks to demonstrate local lending and foreclosure prevention work if they are going to have the City of Boston as a depositor.

Ryan, who also ran unsuccessfully for council seats in 2009 and 2010, said he is “disappointed” in the results, but that his slice of the vote is increasing.

“I have no plans to run again yet,” Ryan said. Meanwhile, he said, he is continuing his political activity, which includes regular visits to the Occupy Boston protest to support and help define it.

Councilor Matt O’Malley, a JP resident whose District 6 covers most of the neighborhood, ran unopposed. So did Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square.

“After a hard-fought campaign last year, it’s nice” to run unopposed, O’Malley told the Gazette. He said he still wanted to win voter support and was actively campaigning. He ended up earning more votes than any other unopposed councilor—more than 7,600—but also the highest number of blanked ballots and write-ins.

“Ideally, democracy should have spirited races,” Ross told the Gazette, saying that running unopposed is “not something to celebrate.” But, he added, “I’m honored to represent this community.”

The only change on the 13-member council will be the addition of Frank Baker in the Dorchester-area District 3 seat, which was vacant.

Citywide voter turnout was about 18 percent, which is relatively good for a so-called off-year election with no higher offices on the ballot to pump up the excitement.

Overall JP turnout was a bit higher at around 19 percent. But Ward 19 (Pondside/Jamaica Hills/Forest Hills) saw about 25 percent of its voters come out, with one precinct at nearly 34 percent. At the same time, Ward 10 (Hyde/Jackson Squares) was subpar at about 12 percent voter turnout.

Curtis Hall, the South Street community center that usually hosts some Ward 19 polls, was once again closed for renovations this Election Day, with no signs explaining that the temporary polling place was the nearby Agassiz School. A Gazette reporter encountered one confused voter wandering South Street and directed her to the school.

In the at-large race, JP voters selected the same winners as everyone else, though with a slight difference in order: Forest Hills resident Arroyo was slightly more popular than Pressley, topping the local results. Pressley came in first citywide, followed by Arroyo.

Incumbents typically win in off-year elections. But this year, Pressley was seen as vulnerable due to a thin record as a first-term councilor and a weak voter base. Meanwhile, Flaherty—who gave up his seat in 2009 to make a strong but unsuccessful run against Mayor Thomas Menino—was expected to threaten Pressley for the seat.

But Pressley drew attention with an identity politics appeal—she will be the only woman serving on the council. Connolly joined her in a mutual campaign. And Menino was said to be providing ground support to all of the incumbents to keep Flaherty off the council.

In the at-large race, the top four vote-getters win seats. Pressley topped that list with more than 37,500 votes. Arroyo was second, followed by Connolly and Murphy.

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