Change is in the air — maybe.
For the first time in 20 years, Boston voters can’t pull the lever for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
A dozen would-be successors are running as change agents. But it doesn’t take much to represent fresh air in Boston.
They are younger than Menino, and some like to rhapsodize about food trucks and smart traffic lights. But the top contenders hail from the world of traditional politics, just like the mayor they seek to replace.
Five city councilors jumped into the mayor’s race and one of them — John Connolly — has been leading the polls.
The others vying for one of top two spots in the preliminary election include Marty Walsh, a state representative and longtime labor leader; District Attorney Dan Conley; and Charlotte Golar Richie, the mayor’s former housing chief and a former state representative.
They each promise a break from machine politics and old-fashioned tribal loyalties. But in a low turnout election, a political machine and loyal supporters from the old neighborhood provide the edge. No one running for mayor can afford to break those old, tribal ties before election day — nor should they. Boston is still a city of neighborhoods. The greatest ideas and oratory only go so far. First, the voters must believe their mayor understands and cares about their block, their children’s school, their piece of Boston life.
Candidates like Bill Walczak and John Barros, who hail from less traditional bases, have lagged in polling and fundraising. So barring some miracle upset, the finalists represent the next wave of establishment politics in Boston.
What will the post-Menino wave look like? The air on the campaign trail was thick with pledges to take on the teachers’ union, untangle the permitting process, and transform stodgy old Boston into fun city.
But change is hard, even for insiders who run as outsiders.