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EDITORIAL

Boston’s convention delegates: Kingmaker frees pawns

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is leaving the Boston delegation to vote their conscience at this weekend’s Democratic state convention.

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is leaving the Boston delegation to vote their conscience at this weekend’s Democratic state convention.

For the first time in decades, the mayor of Boston is applying a light touch when it comes to delivering delegate votes at a Democratic state convention.

Mayor Marty Walsh is releasing all Boston delegates attending this weekend’s gathering in Worcester to vote their conscience in every statewide race except for that of attorney general. In that race, Walsh is supporting former state Senator Warren Tolman over Maura Healey, because Tolman backed him in last year’s mayoral final. As a result, approximately 310 delegates, who are on Walsh slates, are committed to following the mayor’s recommendation and will understand that a vote for Tolman is expected. But a larger pool of Boston delegates, numbering approximately 530, who are unaffiliated with any official Walsh slate, can still do what they want, even in the AG’s race.

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This is a welcome break from the heavy-handed tradition set by Walsh’s predecessor. Longtime mayor Tom Menino didn’t just flex his muscle, he imposed his will on the entire Boston delegation by making it clear which candidates should get their convention votes.

Walsh’s lighter touch in the governor’s race is partly due to the absence of support from any of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates during his own quest for office. No one running for governor helped him, so there’s no return obligation to help anyone else. But it also suggests a different attitude about how political clout should be measured and when it should be applied. Walsh isn’t flexing political muscle just because he can. He knows he can, he just doesn’t think he should, because manipulating what should be an open, democratic process sends the wrong message.

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