O’Malley wins big

David Taber

Gazette Photo by Patrick E. O’Connor
Matt O’Malley speaks to supporters at his victory party Tuesday night at Bella Luna.

Voters in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury picked Matt O’Malley over Jim Hennigan III as the next District 6 Boston City Councilor in a special election Nov. 16, with about 60 percent of the votes going to the winner.

“I am honored to have the faith and trust of so many people, and I can’t wait to get started serving the neighborhood,” O’Malley told the Gazette in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

“Obviously, I would have preferred to win the election, but I did not, and I accept that,” Hennigan told the Gazette.

O’Malley, who lives in JP, beat Hennigan, of West Roxbury, by an even wider margin in JP—taking just over 70 percent of the vote.

O’Malley took just shy of 75 percent of the vote in Ward 11 in JP, which roughly covers the east side of the neighborhood. The only precinct Hennigan won in JP was Ward 19, precinct 2. That precinct mostly covers Jamaica Hills, the neighborhood where Hennigan grew up, and where many members of his politically active family, including his sister, former District 6 City Councilor Maura Hennigan, still live.

O’Malley also won in West Roxbury, though the margin was narrower, He took about 55 percent of the vote to Hennigan’s 44 percent.

West Roxbury trounced JP in terms of turnout. Close to 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in that neighborhood. In JP, just over 11 percent of voters made it to the polls. The 3,508 votes cast in JP counted for just 40 percent of the overall 8,811 votes cast.

Ward 19 saw the highest turnout in JP, with 17 percent of voters casting ballots. That high turnout was carried largely by 19, 2, the precinct that Hennigan won, where almost 40 percent of registered voters weighed in. The next closest precinct in Ward 19 was precinct 5, where 18 percent of voters cast ballots.

“We were number one in both neighborhoods by a significant margin, thanks to a broad-based grassroots campaign,” O’Malley said. He noted that turnout was up in both JP and West Roxbury from the Oct. 12 preliminary election for the seat.

For Hennigan, the race was an uphill battle from start to finish.

O’Malley received a number of high-profile endorsements early in the campaign, including from former District 6 City Councilor John Tobin, who left the city council last summer to take a job with Northeastern University. O’Malley also told the Gazette during the campaign that he had great success in fundraising.

The now city councilor-elect came out of a five-way preliminary special election last month with momentum on his side—taking over 50 percent of the vote in that race. Hennigan came in second in the preliminary with about 20 percent.

Heading toward the final election, Hennigan attempted to characterize O’Malley—who began his career in government at the age of 16, working as an intern for then-City Councilor Peggy Davis-Mullen, and has worked in politics ever since—as a political insider.

Hennigan tried to contrast that with his own resume of grassroots community service, mostly in West Roxbury. Speaking to the Gazette after the election, Hennigan said he is looking forward to devoting time in the next few months to the Parkway Kettle Campaign, an annual volunteer-driven Salvation Army fundraiser that he has coordinated for the last decade. He is also looking forward to spending time with his family over the holidays, he said.

Hennigan and O’Malley’s main policy difference during the campaign was over restructuring city government. Hennigan said he was for major reforms that would give the city council more power. During the campaign, he told the Gazette that, “If [the city’s system] were at the state or federal level, it would be considered a dictatorship.”

But, in the end, voters went for O’Malley, who said that while he would like to see limited reforms to city government, he is generally comfortable with the job description for the position he was seeking.

O’Malley said he supports reforms that would give city council more power over the city budget, and moving from an mayor-appointed school committee to a hybrid appointed and elected school committee.

He told the Gazette Wednesday that he is busying himself preparing for the fiscal year 2012 city budgeting process, which will begin early in 2011. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

He said his budget priorities include hiring more teachers and increasing resources for community policing and neighborhood crimewatch programs, as well as re-entry programs for former prison inmates.

He said he would also be focused on constituent services and in looking at ways to streamline zoning and permitting processes for small businesses.

One of O’Malley’s first votes as District 6 City Councilor will likely be a vote on whether District 7 City Councilor Chuck Turner, who was recently convicted on felony corruption charges for accepting $1,000 bribe, should be forced to vacate his seat. O’Malley has said he thinks Turner should resign. If it comes to a vote, O’Malley said he would vote to oust Turner.

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