Bill Linehan vs. ___________

The City Council president nearly lost to nobody.

City Councilor Bill Linehan speaks at the groundbreaking of Sepia Ink Block. Photo via Boston City Hall

City Councilor Bill Linehan speaks at the groundbreaking of Sepia Ink Block. Photo via Boston City Hall

A lot happened in Tuesday’s municipal election in Boston:

  • Andrea Campbell crushed the longest serving member of the Boston City Council, Charles Yancey, in a 62-36 drubbing in District 4.
  • The second longest serving member of the council, Steve Murphy, was ousted out of the fourth and final at-large seat by teacher Annissa Essaibi-George.
  • And City Council President Bill Linehan nearly lost his election to nobody.

Wait, what?


Linehan, the city councilor from District 2, ran unopposed this time around and won with 89 percent of the vote. The remaining 11 percent of the electorate wrote-in Mickey Mouse or Tom Brady or someone else. If you count blank ballots, though, the story is very different.

Over 40 percent of voters in his district voted for nobody instead of him. No other candidate for council in Boston registered anywhere near the number of blanks Linehan received. An additional six percent of voters wrote-in someone else. If blanks alone were counted as an actual opponent, the District 2 race was the most competitive in the city on Tuesday, even more so than District 4 where an incumbent lost to a challenger.

In an interview with Boston on Wednesday, Linehan shrugged off the high blank count as something that has occurred in his district in the past.

“We didn’t do any campaign other than just notifying people there was an election. I am not concerned about it,” said Linehan, speaking in the council chambers.

Linehand does have a history with high blanks in his district.

The last time Linehan ran unopposed, 2009, 40.7 percent of the ballots in his District received write-in votes or were blanked by voters. In 2007, Linehan ran unopposed for a full term for the first time and “won” with 95 percent of the vote, but upon closer inspection, 41.5 percent of voters in the district wrote-in someone else or blanked it.

Tuesday’s results in District 2 closely mirror the vote in 2013, when Linehan defeated former school principal Suzanne Lee for a second time, 52-46. In 2013, only seven percent of the ballots cast in the District 2 city council race were “blanked.”

In 2011, Linehan narrowly defeated Lee, 50-49. Just four percent of the ballots in the district blanked the race.

The council president said that right now he plans to run for reelection in District 2 in 2017. He declined to weigh in on the battle over who will succeed him as council president, a race insiders are projecting as one between Matt O’Malley and Mark Ciommo.

“I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of that conversation,” said Linehan.