City Limits: Meet Boston’s 2013 Mayoral Candidates

As candidates scramble for votes in the first wide-open mayoral election in decades, a transformed Boston begins to emerge.


Hands Photograph by iStockphoto

Here’s one: What do you call seven candidates for mayor of the city of Boston?

Answer: a small gathering.

That’s what we had on the evening of May 6, in the basement of the Covenant Congregational Church in Jamaica Plain. A local neighborhood group had organized a mayoral forum, the first of the campaign, and it was an informal, hastily planned affair—small enough that audience members could go around and take turns introducing themselves by name. As candidates trickled in, they headed mostly for two folding tables set up at the front of the room, to sit and wait. City Councilor John Connolly, though, began working the crowd, shaking hands and passing out flyers. The other candidates seemed to eye Connolly warily (this early on, many of them didn’t even have flyers). Not wanting to be left out, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley popped up from his seat and began greeting people. Not wanting to look like he was just following Conley, City Councilor Rob Consalvo stayed put and fidgeted.

Maybe he should have jumped up, anyway: At the time, there were some two dozen candidates in the race, and two more showed up at the forum that very hour. Though the race has since been whittled down to just one dozen candidates, each vote will matter. And this race will matter, more than any the city has seen in decades. With Mayor Tom Menino invincible for the past 20 years, Boston’s last heavily contested mayoral race was in 1993, and its last truly open election, with no incumbent, was in 1983.

Compared with back then, Boston today is almost unrecognizable. In 1980, 68 percent of the city’s 563,000 citizens were white. Today, Boston’s population of 636,000 is just over 50 percent minority. The Seaport has risen from nothing, and young people are packing into downtown. In the past decade alone, the number of Bostonians with advanced degrees has increased by some 20,000—our egg-headed friends now make up about 20 percent of the city. Power lines, race lines, and class lines have all shifted. This, in other words, is the first real mayoral election in what’s often called New Boston.

That said, New Boston is a complicated label. Its definition has always been slippery. Depending on who says it, it could refer to the techies whirring through our new Innovation District, or perhaps the new urbanites rushing into downtown, or our communities of color. Or it might just be a polite euphemism for “less racist.”

The truth is, despite all the studies and numbers, no one is completely sure of how today’s Boston—whether old or new or just freshly polished—will behave come election day. We know change has happened, but Menino’s dominance has masked it at the ballot box, practically numbing voters into indifference. We don’t know how a truly open election will play out or what effect it’ll have on the city—but we’re about to learn. With a preliminary election scheduled for September 24 to shrink the wide mayoral field down to two for November’s final, the city has nothing short of a chance to redefine itself.

Hoping to understand what that means, I shadowed the nine candidates who are generally considered to have the best shot, watching them as they zigzagged across the city, desperately trying to scrape up enough votes to advance to the final election. As they did, the outline of whatever Boston actually is today began to make itself clear.

Next: Rob Consalvo »

  • Antonio Avanti, (aka)

    Another Great civil minded, loyal, honest and sincere Mayor with the same patriotic Bostonian traits, but also keeping in mind the Diverse Ethnicity growth from the last past years and many more years ahead to come. New changes in hiring more Minorities for Cities Police Force with their respected promotions deserved after earning their stripes along with promoting those qualied Black African local Police!
    A vision of Modern progress towards, Business in tourism, Airport to continue to grow, surroundings Buildings new construction to be built in future Developments, Water fronts harbours by East Boston / Chelsea- Communites Hispanic to be built reflecting it’s new changing cultural heritage global population. As many other Cities & States example N.Y. Atlanta, Miami & Miami Beach have done along its waterways, yacht club, Harbors,piers surrounding new visitors areas.
    A continued joint effort; similiar or even if needed improved Security- throughout the Highways leading into Boston from both directions North + South directions of 93. Transportations needed revenues for improvements, maintenance etc., monies generated, invested by implementing toll system, so much needed revenue can be absorved by Toll booths revenue. Consideration of the State Police or other International style of Policing, dealing with neglected oversight & enforcement in our State roads, City highways, where known undocumented, drug- smugglers, weapons, potential terrorist use as roots to get in-out around Boston, as done in European, Middle East, other countries with troubles as the ones Boston has inherited due to envy desires to cause harm threats of terror by the terrorist to our American people and soil!
    With these suggestions and opinions we hope that in the next upcoming elections for a new Mayor, we are succeeded by another new great canditate 4 Mayor of Boston as World Famous Mayor Menino!

    A. Antonio
    * &

  • Dorian

    Connolly: vast majority of teachers are actually with him in terms of the benefits of longer school day – the sticking point with the unions is that BPS was unwilling to hire more teachers to fill that time (especially specials – like art, drama, music, robotics, etc… – which parents actually want) or pay existing teachers for their time (who already put in more hours beyond what has been mandated by the union and spend their own money on school supplies) – you won’t get union support if you just push more useless garbage like MCAS prep. you end up losing good experienced teachers this way.

    charters are really just a way around this – they mostly bring in un-certified, but talented, recent grads who are willing to work insane hours for a few years so they can gain enough experience so they can get a union job in a good school district. Find me a charter that pays well and has good staff retention. hint – they don’t exist.