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Globe survey finds issues that split mayor race

All but one of the 12 mayoral candidates said they would boycott South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade unless gay rights activists are allowed to participate.

YOON S. BYUN/GLOBE STAFF

All but one of the 12 mayoral candidates said they would boycott South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade unless gay rights activists are allowed to participate.

Boston’s next mayor likely will not march in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade until gays and lesbians are allowed to participate, and would oppose a Walmart opening within the city limits, according to a Globe survey.

But the 12 candidates seeking to replace Thomas M. Menino are fractured over whether to lift the moratorium on independent charter schools, on how many Bostonians should be allowed to vote on a proposed East Boston casino, and whether term limits should apply to the mayor.

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The Globe questionnaire sizes up candidates’ views on a range of issues confronting the city. On only one question did the entire field stray noticeably from the Menino legacy: Asked whether the city should allow developers to construct taller buildings, which Menino’s City Hall has long kept to a minimum, everyone said yes.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade — one of the city’s signature events but a flash point over gay rights — drew almost universal opprobrium from the candidates. By a large majority, the hopefuls say they would, like Menino, boycott the event because it did not welcome gay rights activists.

Both state Representative Martin J. Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly previously have marched in the parade, but say they would not march again unless the activists were allowed to participate.

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Only one candidate, radio station general manager Charles L. Clemons Jr., who reported less than $3,200 in his campaign account in July, said he would walk in the parade.

Candidates David James Wyatt and Councilor Charles C. Yancey did not respond to the Globe’s questionnaire, which included a yes-and-no section and expanded answers to queries on key issues.

Connolly declined to respond simply yes or no, saying the issues were too complex. But his campaign provided details about his stances.

The candidates were divided over whether the statewide cap on charter schools should be lifted, allowing more to open in Boston.

Four candidates – Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo, Clemons, Councilor Rob Consalvo, and Councilor Michael P. Ross – oppose raising the limit.

Five hopefuls – nonprofit executive John F. Barros, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, Connolly, construction executive Bill Walczak, and Walsh – said the cap should be lifted.

Former city housing chief and state Representative Charlotte Golar Richie declined to say whether she supported lifting the cap for charters in general, but wants the cap raised for “in-district” charters.

Studies show that charter school students consistently outperform their peers in public schools, but the charters have drawn criticism because they operate with fewer state-imposed restrictions and employ nonunion teachers.

Menino has said he favors the current moratorium, but wants the state to permit more “in-district” charters, which fall under the oversight of school districts but have greater flexibility with their curriculums, budgets, and scheduling.

The field split again on whether a referendum on building a casino at Suffolk Downs should go before the city’s full electorate. East Boston residents, with Menino’s backing, have advocated fiercely to confine the vote to their neighborhood, reasoning that they will bear the brunt of the casino’s impact, such as traffic and crime.

While only Clemons and Walczak opposed the casino itself, and Conley did not answer that question, four candidates supported the citywide referendum: Barros, Clemons, Conley, and Walczak. Arroyo, Connolly, Consalvo, Richie, Ross, and Walsh all opposed it.

A Globe poll in March found that 44 percent of Boston residents support a Suffolk Downs casino, while 37 percent oppose it.

Most of the field also sides with Menino on an issue of acute personal importance to him: term limits. Just two candidates, Clemons and Ross, think the mayoral tenure should be restricted.

In a political climate where Menino remains popular, the prospect of departing significantly from his priorities appears not to appeal to his would-be successors on most issues.

Menino has long battled Walmart’s efforts to open a store in Boston, critical of their firearm business and the wages the megachain pays its workers. Only Ross said he would allow Walmart to come to Boston, although Walsh did not answer the question.

Ross told the Globe: “I would welcome them, but not with open arms. Walmart needs to address the issues of workers’ rights, wages, discrimination, environmental impact, and the fallout for small businesses, and sit down with community representatives.

“Still, we should be open to businesses that want to open here as responsible members of our community,” Ross said.

The South Boston parade, which follows the annual breakfast where politicians poke fun at each other, has been contentious for two decades. The parade’s organizers, the Allied War Veterans Council, have resisted allowing marchers who openly express gay identity, citing a 1995 US Supreme Court ruling that organizers are constitutionally entitled to determine who participates.

In response, gay rights groups have organized alternative marches along the route. During the same period, the city’s Gay Pride Parade has grown in prominence, and many politicians have participated.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at James.OSullivan@globe.
com
. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.
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