Mayoral musings bring greater clarity by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Boston’s mayoral election is still up for grabs, but the selections may be crystalizing. Four days with no computer has left me grappling impressionistically with the 12-person field, but things are looking slightly more clear.  Thanks to Davcoh Computer Services and a brand new computer, I can return to the task of sorting out this complicated field of candidates. In no particular order:

Polls consistently show John Connolly pulling slightly ahead of the pack, and, for those who believe that education reform is the key to every other issue in the city (e.g., crime, social social inequality and economic development), Connolly owns that Boston schools his issue. He was willing to stand up to the Boston Teachers Union on issues affecting the kids.  He is bright, and  a model of courage in announcing his candidacy even before Tom Menino said he wouldn’t run.  But if your main concern is casino-related, regrettably Connolly favors an East Boston-only vote, where he’s wrong on substance and out of line with two-thirds of Boston voters.  In debate appearances, I’ve been less impressed by Connolly, with his youth making him less polished that I would want in a mayor of this grand city.

If casinos are your principal issue, then Bill Walczak is your man.  He opposes casinos. Period. He has a significant background in running non-profits and generating solutions to neighborhood problems.  He could do the job of mayor, but he fails to excite and just doesn’t seem to be getting traction.

The one candidate who really looks like a mayor (in a old Boston traditional sense) is DA Dan Conley.  He speaks with authority about issues related to crime, but less so on other issues.  As DA he has  executive skills and brings to the table his past experience as a city councilor. He supports a citywide casino vote, is spending the most on tv ads and, given polling margins of error, he could well end up in the final.

So, too, could Rep. Marty Walsh.  The rap on Walsh is that he’s a union guy through and through, leaving the question of whether he could stand up to very strong police, fire and teachers unions. But notably, the Boston Teachers Union declined to endorse him, probably because of his support of charter schools.  He does, of course, have enough union support to play a strong ground game on election day and could well make it into the final.

The candidate who looks  least like your father’s  Boston mayor,  because Boston has never had a woman or an African-American mayor is Charlotte Golar-Richie, who can lay claim to both constituencies and more.  She sports a stellar resume in both city and state government, but during the campaign has conveyed neither fire in the belly nor clear cut positions on many issues.  As election day approaches, however, she is becoming less drab in her positions and presentations, is narrowing the gap and may make the final cut. With Golar-Richie in the final, the mayoral race could become a whole lot more interesting.

A man to watch is John Barros.  The director of the Dudley Street Initiative is very bright and articulate, has a vision for the city and comes across as a young man with charisma.  He could well emerge as Boston’s version of Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor and now candidate for US Senate from New Jersey.  His presence in the final election (with the help of the Globe endorsement) could well capture the public’s imagination, though I feel that he will have stronger political clout the next time there’s a mayoral contest.

City councilors Mike Ross and Rob Consalvo both have experience on the City Council and reflect a capacity to come up with creative ideas.  Ross certainly has the cleverest and most memorable ad, showing him literally running (jogging attire) and passing out literature, while Consalvo, while affable, seems to want to replicate as much as possible Tom Menino.  Felix Arroyo, the race’s only Hispanic candidate, has a background on the Council and credibility as a community organizer but seems to me to lack the gravitas to be mayor.

The polls suggest that, while Connolly, Conley, Walsh and Golar-Richie are in the top tier, the surveys’ wide margins of error and 22 percent of Boston voters still undecided, mean next Tuesday evening could be a night of surprises.  What’s gratifying is that the race has brought to the forefront a lot of talent. The hope is that whoever is elected mayor in November will hire some of the other candidates to be part of his or her administration and move Boston to the next level in economic development, education, housing and governance.

I welcome your thoughts in the section below.