The Changing Face of the City Council

After the preliminary election, the council is looking like a little of the old—welcome back, Michael Flaherty—mixed with a little of the new.

Michael Flaherty erased any question about his second act in Boston politics with a convincing second-place finish in the at-large City Council race—even topping Stephen Murphy, who edged him out for fourth in Flaherty’s attempted return two years ago.

So a little of the old council will be part of the new council after a preliminary election, which, in some ways, resisted the top-of-ticket trends. Heavy turnout in Marty Walsh-supporting precincts in Dorchester and John Connolly-supporting precincts in West Roxbury did not wash in councilors from the same neighborhoods. Nor did the results appear to reflect Walsh’s heavy labor support or Connolly’s school-reform agenda.

Instead, we got Flaherty from South Boston, which was unrepresented in the mayoral race. And finishing a very strong fourth was Michelle Wu, who separated herself from the rest of the large pack of unknowns without apparent assistance of mayoral turnout trends.

And, while women and black candidates were shut out of the mayoral final, Ayanna Pressley posted a repeat top-of-ticket showing that solidifies her position as a Boston political behemoth.

Those four—Flaherty, Murphy, Pressley, and Wu—left such an enormous gap between them and the rest of the field that it’s unlikely any of the other four moving on from the preliminary can displace one of them in the final.

Those other four were Martin Keogh and Anissa Essaibi-George, whose solid campaigning was aided by the mayoral-related turnout in West Roxbury and Dorchester respectively; Jeff Ross, one of the few with longstanding LGBT and progressive-community credentials; and Jack Kelly of Charlestown.

You might note that, aside from incumbent Pressley, no black or Hispanic candidates made it to the final at-large ballot. As in the mayoral contest, demographics was not destiny. I think it’s fair to say, with no disrespect intended, that if Althea Garrison could come within 2,000 votes of the top eight, there was plenty of opportunity for good black candidates running full-scale campaigns. They simply weren’t there.

A taste of that opportunity could be seen in the one genuine surprise of the night: Jean-Claude Sanon’s second-place finish in the open 5th District, currently held by Rob Consalvo. Sanon, a black Haitian-American, demonstrated an ability to rally that community, which recently helped promote Linda Dorcena Forry to the state senate. Sanon finished just 700 votes behind Timothy McCarthy in the very split field, but will now face a challenge to show he can persuade well beyond his base.

In the other open seat, Josh Zakim and Michael Nichols moved on in the race to succeed Mike Ross. Elsewhere, Brian Gannon gets six more weeks to rally East Boston anti-casino voters against Sal LaMattina, and Terrance Williams earned the right to take on Charles Yancey.