Those Mayoral Insiders Are Idiots

Now, here's my take.

Earlier today I gave you the Power Rankings of who Boston’s political insiders think is most likely to win the mayoral election. Now, I’ll tell you what I think of their picks.

I think they’re nuts.

I shouldn’t be so harsh on them, after they were all kind enough to respond to my poll. And they’re not really dummies; they gave very thoughtful and smart explanations for their rankings—and there’s no reason to think I’m wiser than all of them.

Nevertheless …

Look, Marty Walsh is a terrific candidate, with an impressive organization. But at some point the other candidates will start asking rhetorically: “How can you expect labor’s candidate to negotiate union contracts that won’t bankrupt the city?”

I say rhetorically, because it really won’t matter how good Walsh’s response is. All that matters is how many Bostonians hear the question.

So, I think it’s possible that Walsh’s minions get him into the final, and it’s possible that the other candidate who gets through will have an even bigger albatross to carry, but that makes him an underdog to me, not a favorite.

Frankly, I think the biggest key to the race, given the field, is whether Charlotte Golar Richie is up to the task. That’s a big question; she’s playing catch-up in money, organization, and campaign skills. But if she has her act together, and she gets backed by women’s organizations and black-community leaders—and a good share of Menino’s people—she’s very likely to get into the final. And when you match her up against the other candidates, it sure looks to me like she’s the favorite against any of them one-on-one, again assuming that she turns herself into a strong campaigner.

That’s no sure thing, and there’s also a decent possibility that in the end Boston is not quite ready to put a black woman in charge.

That’s why I think it’s slightly more likely that the Most Likely White Guy wins—and, despite what the insiders say, I believe that’s Rob Consalvo.

In the most basic over-simplification: if Boston chooses to replace its super-popular outgoing mayor, rather than embrace a new-Boston change, then it makes sense that they’ll pick the most Menino-esque candidate. And that’s clearly Consalvo.

I think people underestimate Consalvo’s political skills. He has a terrific, loyal base in his district. He’s made significant inroads in East Boston and elsewhere. He has also, I would argue, made more inroads with black residents than any other white guy in the field—and if the final is two white guys, being the more Menino-esque of the two is likely to pay enormous dividends with black voters.

I also think the insiders are way too bullish on Felix Arroyo, who has impressed me but is still awfully young and lacking a real record of accomplishments. (Of course, I’ve vastly underestimated Arroyo’s political skills before.) Ditto with John Connolly, whose path to victory in a crowded field eludes me.

So here are my rankings at the start of the campaign; I suspect I’ll completely change my mind frequently about all of this as we go forward:

1. Rob Consalvo

2. Charlotte Golar Richie

3. Dan Conley

4. John Connolly

5. Felix Arroyo

6. Marty Walsh

7.  Bill Walczak

8. Mike Ross

9. John Barros

10. Miniard Culpepper

David S. Bernstein
David S. Bernstein David S. Bernstein, Contributing Editor, Boston Magazine