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.


The Egleston Farmers Market is as good a place to look for voters as it is to find artisanal snacks, and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley was interested in a bit of both. He sampled some goat cheese, a bit of fudge, and some salsa, then drifted over to a booth advertising home-energy assessments, where he got to talking about the issues with the two women staffed there. After ticking through his points on education—he stressed a focus on preschool—he arrived at his wheelhouse as DA: public safety.

“When it comes to public safety, that [isn’t] a huge issue because our crime rate is down compared to so many big cities, but we all know what happened on April 15,” he said. “The marathon bombs occurred. I’m tested, I’ve been through a crisis.”

“On the matters of public safety,” he added, facing the younger of the two women, a college student, “as you young kids say, I have that issue on lock.”

It is possible that Conley, 54, is not entirely up on the kids’ lingo. (At another booth, while speaking to a young man in an Angry Birds T-shirt, he asked, “Angry Birds? What’s that? Is that a cartoon or something?”) It’s also possible that, after a grisly summer of shootings, some would object to his bullish outlook on crime in the city. Still, there’s no denying that Boston is far better off than, say, Chicago, and that Conley, who had a campaign war chest of $1.27 million at the end of June, about twice the size of that of his nearest competitor’s, is one of the lead candidates in the race.

Later that day, at a block party on Hendry Street, he seemed more in his element. A year ago, this event was canceled, with neighbors scared inside by shootings and drug trafficking. Since then, though, life has improved in this part of Bowdoin-Geneva, and now people were spilling outside into the sun. Conley stood up to give a short speech. “When the neighborhood steps up and says enough is enough and they work with the police and they work with the district attorney,” he said, “great things can happen. Safety can prevail in this neighborhood.”

As he shook hands afterward, he happened upon a woman who introduced herself as Suga. “S-U-G-A?” Conley said. “Suga,” she confirmed. “It took a lot of work to get this where it is. You remember. Dirty streets, violence, all that stuff. You keep it going.” Then she added another request: “Bring back some nightclubs, please.”

Conley stiffened. “That I don’t know about,” he said.

Driving away from Hendry Street, I asked Conley if he thought the city’s booming younger contingent was going to show up at the polls. “Some of them are,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be disproportionately older folks,” adding that young people in Boston have traditionally stayed away. He’s right. Young Bostonians have recently come out big for national elections, but have all but ignored city contests.

“Especially municipal,” he added. “They’re less interested in municipal elections.”

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