The diverse coalition that Mayor Thomas M. Menino stitched through Boston’s core to elect him to five terms folded on Tuesday, overwhelmed by power bases centered in outlying neighborhoods.
But now, with their first-choice candidates having fallen by the wayside, voters in those central precincts have a chance to play kingmakers, as both Martin J. Walsh and John R. Connolly will vie for their affections before the Nov. 5 final election.
Walsh and Connolly both cleaned up in the city’s traditionally high-voting, heavily white wards. In the highest-voting precinct, a Dorchester neighborhood around Florian Hall where turnout was an impressive 71 percent, Walsh garnered 77 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results released Wednesday. In a precinct on the Roslindale-West Roxbury line, where turnout was more than 50 percent, Connolly reaped 42 percent of the vote, while his closest competitor there could not break 10 percent.
Still, across the city, nearly two-thirds of preliminary voters opted for another candidate. And in the city’s heavily minority neighborhoods, both Walsh and Connolly had some of their poorest showings. That creates an enormous opportunity for whichever candidate can most aggressively reach beyond his natural base and could determine the city’s next mayor.
According to the Economic Justice Research Hub, a left-leaning policy and research organization, in precincts where black voters account for a majority, as defined by the Census Bureau, each drew just 9 percent of the vote. Connolly did better among Hispanics, currying 20 percent where they constitute a majority, while Walsh earned 11 percent.
“Between the two of them, we’re going to have to see which can have the best message to the minority communities on what type of mayor they’ll be and can pull together that bloc,” said James P. McGee, who managed Charlotte Golar Richie’s third-place campaign.
“Whoever does that first and does it best will have the advantage. Marty might have the ability to get in there and grow those areas, but I would give the advantage to John in that regard.”
Golar Richie capitalized on her base, placing first in four wards, stretching through the heart of the city from the South End to Mattapan. Beginning around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, her campaign began “blind pulling” — knocking on doors in favorable precincts without regard to how individual voters might be inclined — the heavily black neighborhoods in Roxbury, Mattapan, and parts of Dorchester. But, the results show, she failed to broaden her appeal sufficiently beyond that base.
In the midwestern flank of the city bordered by Brookline, Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo captured three wards clustered around his Jamaica Plain home neighborhood. John Barros, meanwhile, also performed well close to home, topping the ticket in two wards, one in Dorchester and another split between the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester.
Councilor Michael P. Ross won two wards close to his Mission Hill home, covering the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and Allston.
Councilor Rob Consalvo netted the sprawling Ward 18, which includes Hyde Park and pieces of Mattapan and Roslindale.
Walsh and Connolly took the rest, but the citywide trends lay bare their challenges. Where Walsh won, he rolled up huge margins, grabbing four heavy voting wards in his hometown Dorchester and South Boston. In South Boston’s two wards, for instance, Walsh piled up 16 percent of the votes. Connolly took just 6 percent there.
Connolly, though, showed greater range, taking six wards. He won East Boston, Charlestown, a ward mostly split between downtown, the North End and Chinatown, as well as a ward centered mostly in the Fenway, along with Brighton’s Ward 22, and his hometown West Roxbury.
Connolly topped Walsh in 15 of the city’s 22 wards, including three of the four won by Golar Richie and all three won by Arroyo.
In several wards where the margin between the two was narrow, pitched battles will unfold over the next six weeks. Connolly’s advantage was fairly small in four wards, including a tightly fought battle in Charlestown and an even narrower victory in Brighton. Walsh’s advantage in the ward won by Consalvo was also razor-thin.
Connolly entered the preliminary with the advantage of having run citywide four times previously, giving voters the chance to familiarize themselves with him. That also means Connolly’s name had previously appeared on eight separate citywide ballots, including preliminary elections.
By contrast, Walsh, first elected as a state representative in 1997, had never before run for citywide office.
Michael Goldman, a Walsh campaign consultant said internal polling showed Connolly with a name-recognition advantage of 10 percentage points, and Goldman suggested the spotlight of the final election will help close that gap. Connolly had announced a challenge to Menino in February, a month before Menino declared he would step aside.
“With the additional time and, more importantly, with the elevation of this race, this is not a City Council at-large race,” said Goldman. “Our name recognition will increase substantially, and that alone helps us level the playing field.”
He said the campaign would look to bring greater attention to Walsh’s record on Beacon Hill.
“We believe the more all citizens of Boston, minority citizens and white citizens, learn about what Marty has done as a legislator for the entire city is going to make our ability to get elected in November that much easier,” Goldman said.
“We believe that we will have the support of prominent opinion leaders and community leaders from that area, which will allow the voters from those areas to take their time and consider Marty’s candidacy,” Goldman said.
In an e-mailed statement, Connolly spokeswoman Martha Bixby said, “John has worked and campaigned in every neighborhood in this city for six years, and he will continue to do so. John hasn’t just worked to close the achievement gap and end violence. He’s lived these issues as a teacher in urban schools and as a Boston public schools parent.
“We think his commitment to every Bostonian will resonate with voters across the city,” Bixby said.