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Whoever wins, this year’s Boston mayoral race marks a major step forward

In this file photo, Boston mayoral candidates Ray Flynn (left) and Mel King cross paths on their separate campaign itineraries in East Boston on Nov. 9, 1983. Flynn captured 65 percent of the vote.George Rizer/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

A flood of memories rushed in as I read another great Opinion column by Renée Graham (“History has its eyes on Boston’s mayoral race,” Sept. 2). It was 1983, and I was running my second Boston Marathon.

As I turned right onto Chestnut Hill Avenue, approaching mile 23, I spotted one figure surrounded by a small crowd of other spectators. It was Mel King, a finalist in the race for mayor of Boston, looking resplendent in his dashiki, shaking hands and answering questions. I decided on the spot that this was my chance to meet him and pulled off to the side. I introduced myself and told him that his candidacy made me even more excited about the prospect of moving back to my hometown. Boston was changing — finally.


King was beaming. He eyed my soaked T-shirt and started to say something to me, which would surely be profound. I leaned in. King asked, “Shouldn’t you be running?”

“Yeah, I guess so. But I sure am glad you’re running.” He smiled and nodded as I reentered the steady stream of runners cascading downhill to Cleveland Circle.

I had two finish lines that day: one on Boylston Street, the other on Mission Hill, where I was staying with family at their triple-decker on Calumet Street. My uncle, who that morning had insisted he couldn’t even drive 26 miles, wanted to know more about the race. Between sideways swats of the pull-chain dangling from the kitchen ceiling light (a childhood habit), I described it as easier than the year before, and said that the coolest thing happened: I got to meet Mel King.

“You’re Irish,” my uncle thundered. “You’re supposed to vote for the Irish guy!” At first I thought he was kidding. But in that year’s mayor’s race, I wasn’t feeling it, and said so.


Just eight years ago, two “Irish guys” with parochial-school haircuts faced each other in the final.

Not this year. The preliminary election featured five people of color running for mayor, four of them women (two of whom will face off in November). Hope is a beautiful thing.

Jack Grady