Councilors may run as slate

Faced with a challenge from former City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who quit the council in 2009 to run for mayor, the four incumbent at-large city councilors may run as a slate, At-Large City Councilor John Connolly told the Gazette.

Three of the incumbents—Felix Arroyo, Connolly and City Council President Stephen Murphy—appeared together as part of a June 6 forum hosted by the Ward 19 Democratic Committee, titled “Six City Councilors Talk to Their Constituents: My Priority Projects & Programs.” The other at-large councilor, Ayanna Pressley, whose mother is ill, was represented at the forum by her campaign manager, JP resident Jessica Taubner.

The incumbents are in discussions about running as a slate, Connolly said in an interview at the Gazette office. He said he expects those conversations to “play out over the summer.”

Speaking to the Gazette, Connolly said, “This is the best slate of At-Large candidates in the 20 years since we have had four At-Large councilors. The four of us should be elected again.”

At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo told the Gazette it is far too early to discuss whether the current at-large group will run as a slate. But he spoke at length about how well the current councilors work together.

Running as a slate would essentially mean the incumbents would run mutually supporting but independent campaigns. Their names would still appear individually. Voters are allowed up to four votes for At-Large City Council, with the four seats going to the four candidates with the most votes.

Flaherty’s bid to regain an at-large seat, after forgoing re-election to challenge Mayor Thomas Menino in 2009, has heated up what would otherwise be a sleepy city election. Flaherty was an at-large city councilor for nine years prior to challenging the mayor, and he mounted the most successful challenge to Menino ever that year, garnering 42 percent of the vote to Menino’s 57 percent.

Some at-large race-watchers have suggested that Arroyo and Pressley—both finishing their first terms in office—could be particularly vulnerable this year.

The former councilor took a shot at the incumbents in the press release announcing his candidacy earlier this year.

“The fact is that members of the council are routinely marginalized by the mayor,” Flaherty said, “kept in line by a carrot-and-stick approach that is counterproductive to spirited and thoughtful political debate.”

Two other candidates are also vying for at-large seats: Sean Ryan of Jamaica Plain and Will Dorcena of Hyde Park.

“What I can say is the four of us have worked well together, despite having differences in political philosophy,” Arroyo said. “We are not disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable, and we find ways to move forward together in those moments where we do disagree.”

City Council President  Murphy, expressed similar sentiments at the June 6 Ward 19 forum at Doyle’s Café.

“This current City Council is the best we have ever had in the City of Boston, at least since I have been there,” Murphy said.

At the forum and speaking to the Gazette, the councilors sought to portray themselves and each other as each having independent voices and unique agendas that they largely support each other on.

“Ayanna brings women’s issues to bear,” Arroyo said, “Steve Murphy, our president, is a fiscal hawk. He knows the budget like the back of his hand. Connolly, as chair of the education committee, is committed to improving Boston Public Schools.”

Echoing comments he made at the Ward 19 forum Arroyo, who is finishing his first two-year term in office this year, said that his independence was on display last summer when he played a leadership role in mass opposition to library closures last year. The mayor championed the closure plan.

“That was a victory. And we are keeping them open this year,” Arroyo said at the forum.

On the other hand, Arroyo said, he is working closely with the mayor on restoring youth summer jobs following federal cuts earlier this year.

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