Ayanna Pressley’s Party; John Connolly’s Regrets

The more you look at Ayanna Pressley’s first-place finish in Tuesday’s at-large race, the more impressive it looks.

As I noted previously, she was able to hold onto a lot of votes from the 2009 at-large election that had much higher turnout (she held onto 90 percent of her ’09 votes with only 57 percent of the total turnout). Now, the exact same people didn’t necessarily vote for her in each election, but I think it’s a useful proxy for a candidate’s popularity and GOTV effort.

In fact, in a number of cases across the city (79 of 254 precincts), Pressley exceeded her vote totals from ’09. And it was relatively spread out across the city from a demographic standpoint, encompassing both minority-majority precincts and majority-white precincts — including six precincts in Charlestown, four in South Boston (from a rather low base, to be sure) and 12 of the 22 precincts in Ward 20 (West Roxbury and Roslindale). (Here’s a city-wide map of wards and precinctsand a 2002 breakdown of demographics by precinct.)

Pressley should be particularly pleased with whomever was doing her organizing in Ward 3, Precinct 8 (Chinatown) and Ward 5, Precinct 1 (South End), where she exceeded her ’09 vote totals by more than a 100 votes in each case.

Her improvement in Charlestown and Ward 20 suggest some benefit from her alliance with John Connolly (who got the most votes there), but it would be a mistake to see Pressley’s victory as dependent on that alliance. Her victory was citywide, and it was convincing.

Also, there’s a case to be made that Pressley provided some coattails to Connolly as well — the precincts where he actually gained votes over ’09 (mainly in Wards 11-18) were all precincts where Pressley was strong in both years and heavily minority-majority.

Connolly weakest precincts (which I defined as 200 or more vote drop from ’09 to ‘11) provide some insight into his 3rd place finish. Although he took Charlestown overall, his totals declined by almost 450 votes in precincts 2 and 6. He also dropped large numbers of votes (close to a thousand in the worst 4 precincts) in South Boston — which I suspect may be the residue of a ‘bullets for Flaherty’ strategy, as this Ward had the fewest votes cast per voter in the city.

His four worst precincts (12, 19, 20, 22) in Ward 18 (HydePark/Readville) represented a loss of over a thousand votes. What’s the explanation here? Well, my best guess would be a certain 60-something Readville resident and civic leader might have been less than fully supportive.

Shockingly, in his home Ward 20, Precincts 10, 15, and 17 cast over 750 fewer votes for Connolly. Connolly needed to turn out his base and expand city wide to top the ticket — he clearly did not do a good enough job turning out his base.

The At-Large race was a huge boost to Pressley. Does it re-frame the next mayor’s race? That still depends on the current mayor’s decision, but it puts Pressley on the political map in an even bigger way than her ’09 victory did.