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.


“I think candidates who campaign strictly on neighborhood geography are in danger of making a grave mistake,” John Connolly, a city councilor at large, said. He was riding in the family Subaru to a campaign event in Roslindale, having crammed a couple of doughnuts down his throat in lieu of breakfast back at his campaign office. “The fabric of the neighborhoods has changed so dramatically in the last 20 years,” he continued. “Every neighborhood has a thriving LGBT component. Every neighborhood has younger Bostonians. Every neighborhood has young artists and young professionals now.”

If Consalvo is the mini Menino, then Connolly is the anti-Menino. He was the only candidate to enter the race before the mayor announced he wouldn’t run again (a fact he likes to underscore), and his head start allowed him to establish a well-oiled campaign infrastructure. It sometimes feels like Connolly, 39, is still running against Menino: He says he wants a more open, more streamlined city that’s more attractive to young people and more likely to hold on to all of those young tech companies, like Facebook, that started here and left. Whereas Menino cut deals with the teachers union, Connolly, a former teacher, vows to fight it tooth and nail for a longer school day. Boiled down, his message seems to be that it’s time for stodgy old Boston to get out of the way of the future.

We arrived at a yellow split-level in Roslindale, the heart of Consalvo’s district, where a Latina supporter, Karen Irizarry, was hosting a house party for Connolly. Standing in her living room, Connolly, a tall, broad fellow who sounds and looks a bit like a Kennedy knockoff when he speaks, delivered his stump speech. Afterward, a woman asked something in Spanish, and Irizarry translated: “There is a candidate of Hispanic background, Councilor Arroyo, and her question is, How are you going to get the Hispanic vote when a lot of Hispanics are saying, ‘We’re kind of tired of the establishment—I have a chance that doesn’t come around very often to have someone who looks like me, talks like me?’”

Connolly answered by running through his platform, ticking off the points that would benefit the Latino community. “Part of it is being here today and talking to you and hearing you,” he said. It was hard to tell if the woman was convinced.

“It’s not all BS when I talk about the geographic boundaries having shifted,” he told me later, wolfing down globs of grainy-looking salad at the J.P. Whole Foods. “I’m gonna walk out of that, I think, with some votes in that room, from all corners. I may not get everybody in that room, but that speaks to this different place that Boston is at.”

Next: Dan Conley »