Insiders Pick The At-Large Elite Eight

The results of a poll about the future of the City Council.

Yesterday I gave you the results of my insiders’ poll on the Boston mayoral race. Today, their predictions—and my musings—on the city’s at-large race.

It’s a weird race, and a tough one to predict. There are two openings out of the four seats, with Felix Arroyo and John Connolly leaving to pursue mayoral dreams. The other two incumbents, Steve Murphy and Ayanna Pressley, are running for re-election—and another 17 challengers will join them on the preliminary ballot.

It’s very difficult to run for an at-large seat in the best of circumstances, and this year is definitely not the best of circumstances.

For starters, whatever small amount of attention the city council races usually get, especially pre-prelim, has been swallowed by the overarching mayoral race.

And, because of that high-interest mayoral race, turnout will be far bigger than the 40,000 relatively easy-to-target “super-voters” who showed up for the 2005 prelim, or even the 80,000 drawn by the Menino/Flaherty/Yoon/McCrea ’09 prelim.

Plus, the relatively late-in-the-cycle decisions of Connolly and Arroyo gave at-large candidates little time to campaign and fundraise. And, fundraising is brutal, due in part to the candidates themselves (few of whom are plugged into donor circles by birth or prior office-holding), but also partly due to the overshadowing of the race and donor fatigue from the endlessly looping election cycle Boston appears to be trapped in. Oh, and a field of 19 candidates, almost all unknown public entities, is a little foreboding to most normal human beings.

The upshot is that in September, many tens of thousands of Bostonians will finish marking their mayoral preference, and then find themselves gaping at a list that could be the New England Revolution player roster for all they know, with up to four votes to bestow. Anyone who thinks they can predict the result is kidding themselves.

So, I asked my insiders to predict the result. Because I’m mean that way.

I asked them to predict the eight candidates who will lead the September voting and move on to the final ballot in November. There was, unsurprisingly, overwhelming agreement on four: Murphy, Pressley, former councilor Michael Flaherty, and Harvard Law grad/Elizabeth Warren protege Michelle Wu. The first three have name recognition and voter bases exponentially greater than any of the challengers. And Wu has been campaigning since December, with an ever-growing financial and endorsement advantage over other newcomers.

A little more surprising is the fairly strong agreement on four other candidates: Jack Kelly, a former Charlestown neighborhood coordinator for the mayor (predicted to make the final by 42 insiders); South End attorney and progressive activist Jeff Ross (36); Ramon Soto of Mission Hill, who has also worked for Menino (36); and West Roxbury attorney Marty Keogh (25).

Nothing against those four—I’m just surprised at any kind of agreement. (OK, also a little surprised at the notion of candidates from Charlestown, South End, and Charlestown having the strongest bases, but I get it.)

Others picked by the insiders include Dorchester teacher Annissa Essaibi George (17); Dorchester writer Catherine O’Neill (16); Roxbury educator Chris Conroy (12); former city councilor Gareth Saunders of Dorchester (10); North End restauranteur Philip Frattaroli (9); Dorchester health administrator Althea Garrison (6); registered nurse Seamus Whelan (3); downtown financial manager Frank Addivinola (2); and Green-Rainbow Party member Francisco White (2).

The interesting thing is that, given the peculiar circumstances of this election, it’s pretty easy to imagine circumstances where a virtually unknown, unfunded candidate could get into the to final—by hard work, the right ethnicity, a pocket of friends or supporters—and then parlay that surprise success into media attention and funding, and with the right message and a good campaign, get onto the city council. It could happen.