The two mayoral candidates who survived Boston’s 12-way preliminary election moved quickly Wednesday to solidify support, lobbying their former rivals for help and reaching out to other powerful constituencies in the city.
State Representative Martin J. Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly may have won, but 64 percent of voters, or 72,546 people, cast a ballot for someone else. That explained why Connolly said he was up until 2 a.m. after the election calling candidates who failed to advance to the Nov. 5 final.
“I would like to earn everybody’s support,” Connolly told a throng of reporters and photographers surrounding him Wednesday on City Hall Plaza. “All 10 of those candidates contributed great things to the debate.”
Even before all the votes had been counted, Walsh had conversations with his former campaign rivals, although he said Wednesday that he had not yet asked for endorsements.
“I’m giving them some time,” Walsh said at an impromptu press conference at the State House. “I’m sure they’re exhausted.”
The race pivoted slowly Wednesday from the crowded preliminary to the one-on-one final, with Boston’s political class taking the day to decompress and digest results. Walsh and Connolly followed with relatively light campaign schedules after a night that allowed only a few hours of sleep.
The candidates issued a statement Wednesday night saying that they propose that news outlets organize three debates, on Oct. 14, 21, and 28.
Looking ahead to the final election, Connolly told reporters he would hold firm in his pledge to shun spending by outside groups.
“I don’t want outside money to decide this race,” Connolly said. “The voters ought to decide this race, and the candidates and campaigns will decide it. My remarks on that have been clear, and I stand by them.”
The issue sparked controversy in August when Connolly accepted the endorsement of the education group Stand for Children. The nonprofit immediately promised to spend upward of $500,000 on the city councilor’s behalf. The next day, Connolly told Stand for Children and all other outside groups not to spend money on his candidacy. Another education group had spent almost $64,000 on Connolly’s behalf, but ceased in August.
The position puts him at odds with Walsh, who rejects the pledge. Walsh benefited from more than $716,000 in outside spending during the preliminary, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Groups affiliated with or underwritten by organized labor ran televisions ads and paid canvassers to go door to door for Walsh, records show.
Walsh declined a request for an interview, but his campaign released a statement saying Connolly had originally described the pledge against outside money as a gimmick and then flip-flopped after the controversy with Stand for Children. Connolly’s original statement was made Aug. 21 during a press conference.
“He was right when he said it was a gimmick,” Walsh said in the statement, adding, “My position, on the other hand, has been consistent from day one. It’s nothing more than political theater.”
At the press conference at the State House, Walsh said he had enlisted the help of Larry Moulter, former chief executive of BostonCoach, to help him network with executives and dispel the suggestion that his credentials as a labor leader make him unfriendly to business. Walsh placed calls seeking support from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, and developers Joseph Fallon and Alan Leventhal.
“A lot of them are undecided,” Walsh told reporters. But in general, “the response has been great” from the business community, he said. “So, no, I’m not concerned about that at all.”
But neither candidate addressed one challenge that may determine who becomes Boston’s next mayor. All six candidates of color lost Tuesday, and Walsh or Connolly must gain traction among voters who are black, Latino, and Asian.
“The most crucial part of the campaign today is trying to emerge as the candidate of minority communities,” said Jeffrey M. Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University. “That’s the biggest share of the electorate that’s up for grabs at this point.”
Both candidates stayed on familiar ground Wednesday. Walsh made his first public appearance before dawn when he walked to a T station near his home in Savin Hill to greet commuters and television cameras. He later took a walk through shops in Adams Village, another solid part of his Dorchester base.
The main part of Connolly’s public schedule Wednesday was limited to City Hall. At the weekly meeting of the City Council, Connolly faced four of his colleagues who lost bids for mayor: Councilors Felix G. Arroyo, Rob Consalvo, Michael P. Ross, and Charles C. Yancey. The former rivals greeted one another with handshakes and a few embraces, but the losing candidates looked tired.
At one point, Consalvo joked with Ross and Yancey. “The good news for us is almost 20,000 people thought we would make a good mayor,” Consalvo said to his colleagues, referring to their collective vote total. “The bad news is that almost 100,000 didn’t.”