Friday, September 27, 2013

Savvy Survey of Boston Elections

Predicting "a fierce, epic battle," Mary Anne Marsh joined in delighted anticipation of our mayoral final. The principal at the Dewey Square Group was one of four pundits at last night's Ford Hall Forum. She said the race now will be between big business against big labor – John Connolly v. Marty Walsh.

The whole 90-minute event will appear, supposedly soon, on the Forum's YouTube channel as well as Comcast on demand. The others commenting were Larry DiCara, partner at Nixon Peabody, ex-City Councilor, one-time mayoral candidate and keen political observer; John Nucci, a Suffolk VP and holder of numerous elected offices; and Globe columnist Joan Vennochi.

We were rocked into a political stupor by the gentility of the dozen candidates leading up to the preliminary this week. Nucci agreed that was suddenly over, just beginning with the sniping with Connolly asking to ban outside money and Walsh replying that "This is a great second act in John’s ongoing piece of political theater. This is what corporate lawyers do."

I had to chuckle, first at the abruptness and low tone of the comment. Second, it may not be the brightest tack to come down on a lawyer with a Harvard bachelor's. Those may be tainted in Walsh-land, but they are credible credentials to many local voters. They are also two things Walsh is not and he drew keen attention to them.

Despite what we've gotten used to recently, "These are two candidates who love to slug it out," said Nucci (pic right with Marsh). Also, despite my hope this would not be nasty, class-based fighting, several on stage said it was likely to be. Marsh predicted that Connolly would try to defuse allegations that he was a bag man for corporations, using his education message. Likewise, Walsh will try to mute suggestions that he is a unions pawn by touting his middle-class roots and emphasis.

They mused on who didn't get into the final and why. As always, DiCara had the background and numbers — he loves to analyze and calculate. Despite expectations that Boston's shift to a majority-minority city, that isn't fully in electoral effect. He noted that like previous generations when the young and non-citizen Italians and Irish couldn't vote and didn't impact elections, the many Latinos are similar today. The Census may show many more immigrants of color, but they can't vote...yet.

So, Charlotte Golar Richie either did superbly coming in third or totally blew it with a vague, late-starting, uninspiring, message-less campaign, depending on your view. Vennochi's only swell saying of the night was that the candidate was unable to craft a message beyond her "only slogan (being) I am woman. Hear me roar." DiCara (pic left) said she didn't give her supporters "a great reason to vote for her." Nucci suggested that if Richie had organized efficiently with GOTV efforts, "she'd be running for mayor today."

DiCara broke down the preliminary voting patterns. He noted that about one third of registered voters are residents of color, but they did not and will not vote monolithically. Moreover, in a low turnout day, it was the traditional voters who showed, the older, white ones. The young, the black and the Latino did not. He figured that more voters will go to polls in November but not an appreciably greater percentage of the young and those of color. When the choice comes down to two white progressives, there isn't even an identity incentive.

For why two Irish-American men are in the final, Marsh had the incisive view. "They've been preparing for years." It's not enough to use identity politics or even to want to be mayor deeply. "You can't jump into a race at the last minute...You earn your opportunity."

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