Boston Mayoral Power Rankings
Seventy-eight political insiders and savvy observers ranked the candidates for the next mayor of Boston.
Today at 5 p.m. is the “last hour and day for making application for nomination papers,” as Boston’s election department puts it—meaning that barring a last-minute surprise, the next elected mayor will be one of the 24 people who have signed up as potential candidates.
Now it seems like a perfect time to find out who the city’s insiders and savvy observers think are the most likely to emerge victorious from the field.
So I reached out to elected officials, campaign professionals, political consultants, activists, community leaders, business honchos, City Hall insiders, and other close observers, all across the city. I got 78 such people to rank the candidates, up to their top 10 contenders. Using baseball MVP scoring, I awarded 14 points for every first-place vote, 9 for second place, 8 for third, and so on to 1 point for being listed tenth.
Here, then, is the insiders’ Power Rankings of the mayoral candidates at the start of the race, along with my summary of the reasoning my insiders provided.
1. Marty Walsh 754 points; 29 first-place votes
Walsh’s early display of organizational strength, including massive volunteer meetings and a one-day collection of the required 3,000 signatures, wowed the insiders. It convinced them not only that labor will provide an army on the ground for him, but that his appeal runs beyond the unions, and the small portion of the city who vote for him as their state representative. But some think that Walsh’s strengths can get him only as far as securing one of the top two spots in the September preliminary election, and that his close labor ties and old-Boston appearance won’t play well in a general election.
2. John Connolly 650 points; 15 first-place votes
Connolly’s early start, his strong West Roxbury voting base, and his association with education reform give him a head start—and he’s raising money at a rapid clip. As an at-large city councilor, he has name recognition, media savvy, and inroads all over the city. Still, those are just head starts, and he’s mostly chasing the same voters as several other top candidates without a whole lot that makes him stand out.
3. Felix Arroyo 591 points; 8 first-place votes
Arroyo finished ahead of Connolly in the 2011 at-large councilor voting, and he’s the best-known candidate of color running in a majority-minority city that is hungry for a new-Boston leader. Insiders also note that he won the “Doug Rubin sweepstakes,” signing up the strategist behind Deval Patrick’s and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns. He’s awfully young, though, and quite a few insiders think his temperament won’t hold up well through a long, tough campaign. There is also skepticism about his ability to raise the big bucks he’ll need.
4. Dan Conley 561 points; 9 first-place votes
District Attorney Conley looks on paper like the obvious frontrunner: he is well-known, with a generally positive reputation, and has nearly a million dollars stockpiled in his campaign account. But he has never really proven that he can win over voters in the course of a challenging campaign, and a lot of insiders don’t think he has the personality to do it.
5. Charlotte Golar Richie 554 points, 8 first-place votes
Like Conley, Richie looks great in theory. She has worked high in the administrations of both Menino and Patrick, who are perhaps the two most popular pols in Boston. She is probably the only significant woman candidate, and to most observers the most viable black candidate—factors that many insiders believe make her almost unbeatable if she wins one of the two spots in the final election. There are big questions stemming from her long absence from elective politics, including her ability to raise money, put together an organization, and deliver a compelling stump speech.
6. Rob Consalvo 418 points, 5 first-place votes
Consalvo is considered the Menino-like candidate, and not just because he is the city councilor from the same district the current mayor once represented. He has a strong, loyal base of voters in Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Mattapan, and strong inroads in East Boston and elsewhere. Insiders say he has a strong, nuts-and-bolts record of accomplishments to run on compared with other candidates in the field. But he lacks the big-forward-vision thing, and insiders seem very skeptical that the city will be looking to elect a younger version of the pothole-fixing mayor.
7. Mike Ross 388 points, 4 first-place votes
Insiders expect Ross to raise plenty of money, and they’re impressed with the campaign team he’s building. Some even think he’d be a strong candidate in the final election one-on-one with an old-Boston type like Conley or Walsh—if he can get there. Few think he can, though, because of the low-vote district he represents as city councilor and the lack of a clear way to stand out in the crowded field.
8. Bill Walczak 162 points, 0 first-place votes
A lot of insiders are impressed with the former healthcare executive and think he could be a force if he gains some traction. They think he starts with a strong group of believing volunteers, but don’t think he’s likely to raise the money and the media attention necessary to gain traction.
9. John Barros 161 points, 0 first-place votes
Insiders are more optimistic about Barros’s ability to raise money, but don’t think he’s quite ready to compete at this level in his first campaign.
10. Charles Yancey 38 points, 0 first-place votes
If Richie and Barros fall flat, the well-known and generally well-respected Mattapan city councilor has a legitimate chance to corner the vote among black Bostonians—which could be enough to win him a spot in the final. But even in that long-shot scenario, insiders are hard-pressed to see a path to victory for Yancey.
Also receiving votes:
11. Dave Portnoy 25 points, 0 first-place votes
12. Miniard Culpepper 16 points, 0 first-place votes
13. Will Dorcena 13 points, 0 first-place vote
14. Althea Garrison 7 points, 0 first-place votes
15. Frank Addivinola 3 points, o first-place votes
16. Gareth Saunders 2 points, 0 first-place votes
17. Charles Clemons 1 point, 0 first-place votes