Thursday, November 5, 2009

Boston Election 2009: Continuity and Change

MassVOTE confirms one measure of the interest in this year’s election in Boston: the highest turnout in a city election since 1993, when Thomas Menino won his first term as mayor.

With Sam Yoon as his unofficial running mate, Michael Flaherty had 42.4% of the vote, while Menino had 57.3%. Flaherty’s figure was slightly less than the share of the vote in the preliminary election for him and Yoon combined.

As it turned out, Flaherty won several of the precincts that were previously carried by Yoon. In most of these precincts during the preliminary election, Flaherty had even finished behind Menino. In the final election, Flaherty repeated his advantage over Menino in South Boston and Charlestown. Flaherty also carried Ward 5 (most of the Back Bay, along with parts of Beacon Hill and the South End), and he came very close to winning Jamaica Plain (parts of Wards 10, 11 and 19) with 48.9% of the vote, and Ward 22 (parts of Brighton and Allston), with 49.4 percent.

Menino carried the rest of the city, including East Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, Roslindale, West Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park, along with Chinatown and Bay Village.

Despite inroads in some parts of the city, Flaherty ran far behind in predominantly black precincts. In most of those precincts, he received less than one-third of the vote. In 10 of the 14 precincts in Ward 14 (Grove Hall, Franklin Field, Wellington Hill), his share was less than 25 percent.

The predominantly black precincts were also a larger share of the total vote this time around. Compared with 1993—when the total vote was larger—the number of people voting for mayor in Wards 8, 9, 12, 14 and 17 (plus the Ward 18 precincts in Mattapan) was higher, by 29.8 percent. In Flaherty’s strongest base of support, South Boston, the number of votes cast for mayor this year was down from the figure for 1993 by almost 21 percent.

The results for City Council increase the racial diversity among members at large, but the newest members—Felix G. Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley—also had a diversity of supporters. The newcomers finished behind incumbents John Connolly and Steve Murphy, but more than ten thousand votes ahead of the next highest candidate, Tito Jackson.

Along with being the top vote-getter for council at-large in Jamaica Plain, Arroyo finished in the top four positions in Roxbury, Hyde Park, Ward 20 (West Roxbury and part of Roslindale), Ward 5 (Back Bay and parts of Beacon Hill and the South End), East Boston, Allston-Brighton and most of Dorchester.

Ayanna Pressley did even better in Dorchester, also finishing among the top four positions in her home, Ward 16 (Fields Corner, Ashmont, Neponset). She also was among the top four in areas such as Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Ward 5 and Allston-Brighton. Though she ran fifth in Ward 20, that was still good enough to get her 3,856 votes.

In the voting for district seats on the council, Mike Ross was re-elected with 84.1% of the vote and Sal LaMattina with 76.6 percent. In Allston-Brighton’s District 9, Mark Ciommo won his second term with 64.1% of the vote, while Alex Selvig received 35.4 percent.

The closest race for a district seat was in Roxbury’s District 7. Despite the federal corruption indictment from last year, incumbent Chuck Turner received 59.8% of the vote—still significantly lower than his finish two years ago with 81.2 percent. His only opposition this year consisted of two perennial candidates and Carlos Henriquez, who ran against Turner two years ago and received 18% of the vote. As the finalist this year, Henriquez got 39.5 percent.

In a statement after the election, Turner said, “I view this victory not only as a mandate to continue my leadership as Councilor but also to continue my fight to prove that former US Attorney Sullivan tried to publicly humiliate and jail me despite his knowledge that I am innocent.” Turner said, with the election over, he would focus on trying to have the federal charges dismissed. Until the case is resolved, he will still be unable to chair any committee of the City Council.

Also see election analysis in Neighborhood Network News interview with Boston Phoenix reporter David Bernstein and election night story by Joe Rowland.