Politics as Unusual: From ‘Con Cubed’ to ‘Walross': Could this race have its ‘Floon’?

July 9, 2013
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When historians are emphasizing just how strong a grip Mayor Tom Menino had on Boston politics, they’ll likely dote over his final scrap in the mud. By the time he reached his last election, the Urban Mechanic had already mauled opponents in the kind of fashion most pols dream about. In 2001, he soared with more than 70 percent of the vote; four years later, Menino routed Maura Hennigan by winning more than two votes to her every one.

None of those dramatic victories, however, compare to Hizzoner’s 2009 performance, in which he smoked, not one, but two candidates in the final—former City Council President Michael Flaherty, and former City Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon. It was an unprecedented move, with Flaherty tapping Yoon as a running mate, and pledging to appoint his one-time opponent to the nonexistent position of deputy mayor. It was a desperate yet clever Hail Mary heave, and was heralded by former Mayor Ray Flynn as a “stroke of genius.” Menino, meanwhile, approached the challenge like a big brother wrestling two younger siblings; Yoon and Flaherty stood a better chance together than the latter would have all alone, but both wound up walking off with wedgies.

It didn’t have to be that way. Like I said then, again and again, the problem wasn’t with their coalition, but rather with their branding, and with the hideous FLOON moniker they adopted. Much more effective would have obviously been YOONERTY, which would have not only sounded more appealing, but also would have properly reflected the spirit of their effort. At the time, I was told that my preferred handle couldn’t possibly have worked—mostly because it put Yoon ahead of Flaherty. Regardless, FLOON didn’t float. They wound up losing by a cool 15 percent.

With so many more candidates jumping into this year’s race, there’s been chatter bubbling—mostly among City Hall insiders and the other dozen of us who are paying close attention to the mayoral race—about potential tag teams. The reasoning is different than in 2009, when Yoon and Flaherty united after the preliminary contest. Any such collaborations this time likely would be to gain pole position over a large scrum of preliminary competitors rather than to topple one Goliath.

Fortunately, more than a few of the candidates have reliably malleable names, making for easy and memorable amalgamations. Of them all, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Executive Director John Barros has the most potential; he can link with City Councilor-At-Large Felix G. Arroyo as ARROYOS, with District Councilor Mike Ross as BOSS, or with his old nonprofit buddy Bill Walczak as BALCZAK. The latter could get hairy—even together, the pair would have to scramble just to hang with the financial frontrunners—but they could easily secure the do-gooder demographic.

Despite his ample piggy bank, charismatically lackluster District Attorney Dan Conley might also need some help. His name jibes best with the similar-sounding John Connolly, who, despite having little use for an albatross who is reviled by the black community, could join the DA as CONCON or CONNLLY. For some Italian blood, they might even invite District Councilor Rob Consalvo on board, and convene as CON CUBED.

Of course, if the latter wants to strengthen his stronghold on the southern side of Boston, he could annex Mattapan with District Councilor Charles Yancey as YANCALVO. Or he could better reach Roxbury as part of the dynamic duo LEMONSALVO with TOUCH FM founder Charles Clemons.

Then there’s former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, who also has a name that lends itself to tandem campaigning. To toughen up her reputation, she might want to work with Ross as RICH ROSS; such a stunt could help them both gain popularity with MTV voters, if there is such a thing.

Teamwork can solve problems, fill voids. There’s no unified front for candidates of color, and Yancey could change that by partnering with Clemons as CLEMONCY. In 2013, it’s more likely that a multiracial ticket would prevail—even though state Rep. Marty Walsh would scare the pants off of opponents by joining Ross as WALROSS, or Walczak as WALSHZAK.

If three hopefuls were to marry—mixing backgrounds, neighborhoods and life experiences—they’d probably win big. That could be Walczak, Clemons and Golar Richie as THE ALCLEMICH. Or Golar Richie, Clemons and Consalvo as SALMON RICHIE.

All of the CON men combined can hitch with Golar Richie and Walczak as CONICHIWA. It sounds crazy, sure—but you never know. It took two solid candidates to lose to Tom Menino, so it might well take five to replace him.

Chris Faraone is a former Boston Phoenix reporter and author of “99 Nights with the 99 Percent” and the upcoming “I Killed Breitbart.” He lives in Jamaica Plain.