Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flaherty Tries to Build on Alliance with Yoon

Michael Flaherty is trying a new way of building support for his showdown in the final election against Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Instead of just reaping endorsements from his fellow challengers in the preliminary election, Flaherty has brought on City Councilor Sam Yoon as a running mate and possible deputy mayor.

The last time Boston had deputy mayors was under Kevin White. When his successor, Ray Flynn, took office in 1984, he did away with the deputies, while at the same time experimenting with a build-up of grassroots political power through neighborhood councils.

In announcing his campaign alliance this morning, Flaherty emphasized Yoon’s qualifications.

“Boston doesn’t just need an urban mechanic,” said Flaherty, “it needs a visionary to tap into the intellectual capital of this city.”

Flaherty also contrasted Yoon with Michael Kineavy, Menino’s Chief of Planning and Policy, whose deletion of emails caused a stir just before last week’s preliminary election.

“The mayor has Michael Kineavy,” said Flaherty. “I’m going to have Sam Yoon.”

But will Flaherty have Yoon’s votes? And, even if he were to have all those votes, would it be enough to unseat Menino? In last week’s results, Menino received 50.5% of the vote, more than double the percentage carried by Flaherty.

Flaherty says the results show half the voters wanted change, and 21% of them voted for Yoon. And, by having Yoon campaign with him as a future deputy mayor, Flaherty would be getting more than just an endorsement.

In last week’s election, Yoon carried 24 precincts, mainly in parts of Allston-Brighton, Jamaica Plain, the Back Bay and the Fenway. The areas are, for the most part, traditionally progressive and, with the exception of Jamaica Plain, relatively low on turnout.

In all but one of the precincts carried by Yoon, Flaherty finished behind Menino. That’s one reason why former City Councilor Lawrence DiCara says transferring support from Yoon voters to Flaherty will be a “tough challenge.”

“Where Sam Yoon received his votes, Michael Flaherty received almost none, and vice-versa,” said DiCara.

The results in November also depend on how many more people will vote than in the preliminary election. This year, Menino is facing his most competitive challenge since winning his first term in 1993. Voters will also be drawn out to fill two of the at large seats on the City Council.

Flaherty estimates the total number of voters in November will increase over last week’s figure by as much as 40 percent. DiCara says he thinks the increase will be smaller, and he predicts the greater share of the increase will occur in precincts where most voters are people of color—precincts, for the most part, carried last week by Menino.

“I don’t think those minority folks who voted for Sam are going to go for Flaherty,” said DiCara.

“It’s a cultural issue,” he said, “not so much ideological as cultural.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Asian American Vote Breaks Young for Yoon

In his third place run for Mayor of Boston in Tuesday’s preliminary election, City Councilor Sam Yoon carried several precincts in traditionally progressive areas of Boston, but it was Mayor Menino who carried every precinct with the largest concentration of Asian American voters.

Though that much can be confirmed by a look at unofficial returns, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund dug a little deeper in its exit polling. The survey found Menino was favored by a clear majority of Asian American voters—71%, followed by Yoon at 22% and Michael Flaherty at 6 percent. But the poll also found the voters’ preference also depended on age. Among younger Asian American voters, the winner was Yoon, at 46%, with Menino at 31 percent.

Short of confirmation by exit poll, it stands to reason that age might also help explain why Yoon was the top voter-getter in parts of Jamaica Plain, Allston and the Back Bay.

Among candidates for City Councilor at Large, the leader was another Asian American from Dorchester, Hiep Quoc Nguyen, with 39%. The next highest levels of support were for Félix G. Arroyo (30%), and for Tomás González and Tito Jackson—each with 25 percent.

Voters were asked to list the main issues affecting their choice of candidates. The largest number listed health care (49%), followed by economy/jobs (37%), housing/development policies (26%), senior care (24%), education (23%) and public safety (19%).

The Fund says there were “few problems” with the voting process, though it notes many Asian Americans needed bilingual ballots.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boston's Preliminary: Turnout and Patterns

The turnout for yesterday’s preliminary election in Boston was impressive, but only by comparison with the lackluster municipal contests going back to 1997.

By comparison with the presidential election turnout last November—at 61.8%--yesterday’s figure for mayor and city councilors was much lower, at 23.1%. That’s still higher than turnout figures for the last two preliminary elections in years when there were votes for mayor and city councilors. In 2005, when there was no preliminary vote for mayor, the turnout figure was 15.1%. In 2001, it was 17.25%, and in 1997—when Mayor Thomas Menino was unopposed—it was 16.15%

The most impressive number in yesterday’s election was the increase in the number of people who came out to vote, 81,641. That’s more than twice the number of votes cast in the preliminary election four years ago and 86% higher than the figure for 2001. That seems to contradict the modest increase in turnout percentage. But, since 1997, the number of registered voters in Boston has grown by 49.9%.

With three opponents in the preliminary, Menino faced what was by far his most significant challenge since winning his first full term in 1993. Yesterday, he received 50.5% of the vote, followed by his co-finalist Michael Flaherty with 24%, City Councilor Sam Yoon with 21.2% and Kevin McCrea with 4.1%. In the only other preliminary comparison between yesterday and 1993, Menino received 73% of the vote in 2001, when he and co-finalist Peggy Davis-Mullen were joined on the ballot by perennial candidate Althea Garrison.

Despite his federal indictment last year on corruption charges, the District 7 (Roxbury/Dorchester) City Councilor, Chuck Turner, received 52.6% of yesterday’s vote. The next highest vote-getter was Carlos Henriquez, with 23.9%. In the final election two years ago, Henriquez received 18% and Turner received 81%.

Among the candidates for councilor at large, the two incumbents, John Connolly and Stephen Murphy, finished well ahead of the other candidates. Félix G. Arroyo, finishing third, trailed Murphy by more than four thousand votes, but the son of former Councilor Félix Arroyo was almost nine thousand votes ahead of the next candidate, Ayanna Pressley. The only woman on the ballot, Pressley finished more than four thousand votes ahead of the 5th place candidate, Andrew Kenneally. Fewer than three thousand votes separate Kenneally from the other three finalists in November: Tito Jackson, Doug Bennett and Tomás González.

In the only other two preliminary contests for district seats on the council, the incumbents finished well ahead of their competition in November. In Allston-Brighton’s District 9, Mark Ciommo received 59.8% over Alex Selvig’s 23.2%. In District 1 (E. Boston, Charlestown, N. End/Waterfront), Sal LaMattina received 73.4%, while Chris Kulikoski received 15.1%.

With a racially diverse pool of candidates, there were expectations for higher turnout in much of Boston. This year, the results were closer to the old pattern, with the highest turnouts in Ward 20 (W. Roxbury/Roslindale), at 35%; Ward 16 (Neponset, Cedar Grove, Pope’s Hill), 33.2%, Hyde Park (30.4%) and South Boston (29.8%).

Areas with the lowest turnout percentages were Ward 21 (Allston), with 11.6%; Ward 5 (Back Bay/South End), with 13.4%; and Ward 4 (Fenway/South End), with 14.7%. In between were Ward 17 (Codman Square/Lower Mills) at 25.6%, Ward 1 (East Boston) at 24.8%, Mattapan (24.1%), Ward 12 (Roxbury) at 23.6%, Ward 11 (Forest Hills/Egleston Square) at 23.4%, Ward 2 (Charlestown) at 23.3%, Ward 14 (Grove Hall/Franklin Field) at 20.2%, Ward 15 (Fields corner/Bowdoin-Geneva) at 20%.

Though Menino finished well ahead of his competition, there were some pockets of support for Flaherty and Yoon. Flaherty carried three precincts in Charlestown, all but one of the precincts in South Boston, and five precincts in Dorchester—mostly in Ward 16’s Neponset-Pope’s Hill/Neponset area.

Yoon carried one precinct in the West End, two in the Fenway, four in the Back Bay, 14 in solidly progressive Jamaica Plain and 8 in Ward 21—mostly in Allston.

The rest was carried by Menino, including Ward 20 and the precincts with the largest Asian population (in the main Chinatown precinct, the vote for Menino was 58.2%).