With a month until the preliminary election, Boston’s mayoral race remains fully, vibrantly open. Anyone who says they know who’ll be the two finalists is just guessing. It’s truly rare to find an election for a major office that is so loosely defined in the public mind just a month before voting. That’s partly because the 12 candidates haven’t spent a lot of energy differentiating themselves from each other — and that may not be such a bad thing. The time that might have been spent on politicizing their differences has instead been spent on crowd-sourcing a new agenda for Boston. The city may not know who its next leader will be, but it already knows many of the changes the next mayor will bring to City Hall.
The candidates joke that they appear together so many times that they can parrot each other’s opening statements and positions. But they are absorbing each other’s messages as well, especially the ones that make for a healthier and happier city. City councilor John Connolly has set the educational agenda for the campaign. City councilor Michael Ross has served the same function for development by challenging the current “build first, plan second’’ mindset. Former School Committee member John Barros has reminded voters and fellow candidates that many Bostonians still depend on human services, including mental health for students. State Representative Martin Walsh has kept housing needs front and center. And city councilor Robert Consalvo has spurred discussion on the ways that new technologies can speed the delivery of city services, such as expanding the sensor system that immediately informs police of the location of gunshots.