Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peepers and Leapers in Boston Mayor's Race

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
        —Cassius in Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

Some peep. Some leap.

Local pols waited until the bet was not such a long shot, but a cluster have endorsed Marty Walsh for Mayor of Boston. Those have been City Councilors Tito Jackson and Felix Arroyo, State Reps Gloria Fox, Russell Holmes, Carlos Henriquez, Liz Malia and Dan Cullinane, State Senators Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang-Diaz and US Rep. Mike Capuano, and former mayoral preliminary also-rans John Barros and Charlotte Golar Richie.

That's the game, you might say, as Walsh's campaign has. Yet, perhaps as telling is who remain the peepers.

Sure enough, the Mayor here is a relative Colossus, at least in this burg and the Eastern third of the commonwealth. Also, under the past three in that office — White, Flynn and Menino, the power there has solidified and expanded even beyond the city charter. The peepers have reasons to, as the Greeks used to put it, kick not against the goads.

There are some likely surmises about the state and federal level endorsers, and the city ones separately. Certainly the State Reps and Senators are likely to have some doings with the new mayor. They may even want favors for their constituents that Walsh or Connolly could command or heavily influence. On the other hand, their reelection and advancement do not not depend on our City Hall. That's more so with Capuano. He's insulated from our Mayor's not-all-that-super powers. He's pumped the hand and slapped the back of another strong union advocate...not a sin in his district, not at all.

The two who didn't make the mayoral final and Arroyo have taken a bit of a gamble.Sure, they'd like to be behind the winner. There might be a solid, even cabinet-level job in it if they pick the right guy. For Golar Richie in particular, that has been her career — walking under Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino figurative legs as important functionary. For his part, Arroyo is still very popular (just not as much as he had figured) and has a real record of achievement in Council. Jackson likewise remains beloved. He more than survived taking the still warm seat when Councilor Chuck Turner was sent to a WV prison. He fabulous attitude and solid Council performance insulate him. Barros, who knows? He has a confidence, even arrogance, that suggests he'll bull his way into a good position even if it's not in City Hall.

Beyond them, most local pols are sitting this out. They have the disadvantage of no prohibitive favorite. Connolly had a narrow lead going into the preliminary, according to numerous polls, but Walsh topped the ticket, albeit by only 18.47% to 17.22% of the total out of the 12 candidates. It was still a win for both of them, a little more so for Walsh. I'm sure he'd be delighted to finish with 1.25% more of the vote than Connolly on Nov. 5th.

A few respected influencers have said up front that they are sitting this one out. Councilor Ayanna Pressley is likely most notable. She has a big base, including in the various Latino and black neighborhoods and subneighborhoods. She's in the at-large reelection campaign and has remained uncommitted. For someone who surely has higher office in her future, and in her mind, that is savvy.

One might expect Council President Steve Murphy to speak up. One would expect vainly. Murphy has been President for three terms. It's probably someone else's turn, but he nevertheless is also wise not to kick against either the Connolly or Walsh goad, lest he make an enemy of the new Mayor.

Supposedly Menino has been nudging donors and political influencers, very quietly, to support Connolly. He seems to be legacy driven and part of that appears to be holding to his promise to stay (at least publicly) neutral.

Barring the unlikely Halloween-week shocker that suddenly makes one candidate or the other the certain winner, I don't expect any meaningful new endorsements. Walsh filled his dance card and Connolly did not.

Similarly but to probably less effectiveness, Connolly has been more personable, smarter and rational during the televised debates. Neither guy is a Bill Clinton-level orator, but Connolly has skunked Walsh in the first two. Fortunately for him, viewers levels have been low, particularly for the first one, which was up against a Red Sox-Tigers championship game.

There's one more, next Tuesday. Even if the Series goes beyond four games, there won't be one that evening. While it is only a week before the final election, there's no reason to suppose a large number of the 19% who say they are undecided will watch. The rest of us probably have immutable decisions.

Who Do You Trust?

When I was a kid, Johnny Carson was the host of a TV program Who Do You Trust? Therein, a hubby would have to decide upon hearing a question category whether he'd gamble on his wife's answer or trust his own.

Here and now, we have to consider which of these two progressive sorts we believe. Again, in Walsh's favor, the televised debates are not popular. A knock against him is that as a long-term, highly paid union official, he would give away the coffers in contract deals. His comeback is that he knows how to negotiate after decades of doing it, therefore he can tell union reps what is and isn't possible, and they'll be reasonable. His efforts as a legislator to make contract arbitration binding on municipalities by law undercut that contention seriously.

The knock on Connolly is vague and two-elbowed. He says incessantly that he taught school for three years between graduating and entering law school, seminal years that informed his public concerns and policy. Stressing that and his Councilor experience, he underplays a few years as a junior (non-senior/non-partner) at two big law firms and a founding partner in a much smaller one. Critics and cynics say without evidence that he claims to be a career teacher and that there just has to be something terribly damning in the list of clients he represented. He does not discuss the clients, claiming to protect confidentiality.

One more time, it's good for Walsh that the debates don't earn many eyes. He comes across as evasive addressing any thorny question. So, for him, it comes down to do the few viewers believe he'd be able to stifle decades of pro-union experience, as he very strongly swears he would?

Likewise, for Connolly, does his easy manner and frequent grin lead you to trust him or make you think that you don't know what it is, but he must be hiding something?

Muddy Sprint

Two weeks to go and we know a few things. One is that the two campaigns and their outside supporters will certainly pay for mailed and broadcast ads. Experience so far suggest that both campaigns and Connolly's supporters will keep their messages positive and focused on their candidate and his views. Alas, if very recent evidence holds, Walsh's outsiders will remain dirty and get nastier. I am pretty sure that will turn off more voters than it brings to their guy.

Both candidates are convinced that the ground game will make the difference. They both have enough money for ads and both have solid political organizations to get out the vote. I'm with them in thinking that neither the debates nor the endorsements will settle this.

If you haven't gotten enough of the race and the duo, you can catch their chats with me on Left Ahead.

I really love this stuff and am going to miss it.

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