Five Things to Watch in Boston's At-Large City Council Race

Next Tuesday’s municipal election in Boston has a competitive at-large race and its outcome will provide some advance info on what to expect in the next mayor’s race. Here are 5 things to watch:

1) Is the Flaherty-Pressley Competition A Legit Thesis?
The narrative for the early part of the race was based on Michael Flaherty’s entry into the at-large race after giving up his seat to run against Mayor Menino. This created the dynamic of four incumbents, and Flaherty (practically a incumbent as well with strong citywide name recognition) running for only four seats. As the lowest votegetter in the last race, Ayanna Pressley was viewed as the most vulnerable. Her potential exit from the council raised the possibility of the only African-American woman being voted off the council (and the racial and gender make-up of the Council looking even less like the city of Boston). Tuesday will tell whether Pressley is really that vulnerable.

2) What’s the Value (and Depth) of Mayor Menino’s Backing?
The Mayor has not formally endorsed anyone in the race but, in my highly unscientific sampling (looking at yard signs in my city-employed neighbors’ yards), there are suggestions that Arroyo and Murphy have received some support from the Mayor’s operation. The depth of that support is not clear (and depth matters – there are myriad levels of support; ask the Patrick campaign about that) but it makes logical sense. The Mayor is likely to have two motivations: do whatever he can to take votes away from Flaherty, and limit Connolly’s vote total (as both are viewed as potential rivals in the next mayor’s race).

3) Who Is Topping the Ticket?
Getting the most votes matters to those at-large candidates with further ambitions. Connolly topped the ticket last time around with 51,362 votes. Flaherty got 46,768 in a losing mayoral effort a year later. Note that the former allowed four votes and the latter was a one on one race. Keep an eye on who tops the ticket and who increases their raw vote totals this time around.

4) Who Broadens Their Base?
Beyond just winning outright, a mayoral hopeful would hope to raise vote totals across the city in places where they were previously weak. That has to be the calculus on the part of the Connolly campaign in their alliance with the Pressley campaign. If you look at the maps of each candidates vote totals from the last race, they are virtual opposites – where one is strong the other is weak and vice versa. Their alliance offers the opportunity for both to increase their vote totals across the city.

5) And In the End, None of This May Matter.
The Mayor’s intentions for the next election are far from clear. He has raised $460k year to date, so it’s hard to call that the actions of a man looking to retire. There is also the possibility that he may not run again but will put his political resources behind a candidate of his choosing, which would upend the race entirely. He has won the last three elections by convincing margins and it is hard to believe he won’t exert a strong influence, some way, some how on the next one.

See you Tuesday.

Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.