Q&A #6: How To Judge The Mayoral Candidates?

“Thomas Waite” asks:

What are the critical policy differences between the two candidates that every voter should know?

That is a great question, and my answer is: none.

That’s not to say that there aren’t policy differences. There are. I strongly suggest reading their policy pages on their websites.

What I mean is that I think that in this particular race, the critical differences are not in policy, but in things that are much more difficult to assess. Things like ability to lead an organization, to galvanize the public, to draw and keep talent to City Hall, to exercise good judgment. Stuff like that.

That’s tough to do. We in the media, and many voters, tend to go to policy differences during campaigns because, frankly, we know how to do that. Line up the questions and ask: favor or oppose? We can make articles out of that, or debates, or fancy interactive graphics.

And it’s fair to say that policies are very important for many positions—legislative offices, for instance—or when there are big crisis policy decisions to be made, or stark directional differences that two candidates would go.

But being a big-city mayor is such a different kind of position, and I’d argue that Connolly and Walsh have a similar enough outlook on the city and where it should go that their policy differences are not critical compared to that other stuff. The harder stuff.

I happen to think that both John Connolly and Marty Walsh are very impressive individuals. I would be willing to risk the city in either of their hands. But they are also both largely untested in many of the ways I listed above—they simply haven’t been in a position to prove themselves.

So the critical differences, in my opinion, are not their somewhat different approaches to redevelopment or schools, but their ability to pick and lead the right people, in the right way. Wish I knew how to help you figure that out.


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