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.”