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Little diversity yet in Boston’s mayoral field

The Boston mayoral race continued to churn Thursday, as city councilor Rob Consalvo formally announced his entry, while another member of the body, Tito Jackson, said he would not run.

Also pulling his name out of contention was James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

Jackson’s decision leaves the declared field thus far without a major candidate of color, although the list of competitors will likely grow. No female candidate has jumped into the race either, and there are few women on the roster of potential candidates currently being discussed in political circles.

This emerging lineup could create an opportunity for female and minority candidates still weighing a run to tap into constituencies that are hungry to play a role in city politics, said veteran political operatives.


The assembling field is also exhibiting little geographic diversity, with three candidates clustered in the city’s southwest corridor. Consalvo lives in Hyde Park, while Suffolk County district attorney Daniel F. Conley and at-large city councilor John Connolly both live in West Roxbury. Two other elected officials pondering candidacies, at-large councilor Felix Arroyo and state Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, live in neighboring Jamaica Plain.

Consalvo, a district councilor since 2002, said he intended to build from a “very strong base” in the city’s southwestern neighborhoods to land one of the two slots decided by the Sept. 24 preliminary election.

“There isn’t anybody in this race . . . that has the work ethic that I have,” Consalvo said. “I have the strongest record of anybody in the race.”

State representative Martin J. Walsh of Dorchester has also said he will seek the mayoralty, bringing the current tally of major candidates to four — all white male elected officials. Councilor Mike Ross of Mission Hill has also said he is weighing a bid.

In a city that celebrates its majority-minority status, the monochromatic character of the field has struck longtime observers. Much of the focus on Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s legacy since he announced last week that he would not seek a sixth term has fixed on his ability to build coalitions among a wide array of constituencies.


“I really would have liked to have seen a strong person of color in the mix, only because it will be another 30 years, unless we do term limits,” said Joyce Ferriabough Bolling, a longtime Boston political strategist whose late husband, Bruce Bolling, was Boston’s first black City Council president. “I’d like to see the opportunity spread in a majority-minority city for a person of color to be mayor.”

The race to succeed Menino is only a week old and candidates cannot file for nomination papers until April 17, leaving ample time for the field to expand.

“If that was the ballot, if that’s what we were looking at going into the preliminary, I think that would be a concern, but at this point it’s too early to be concerned and we should let it play out,” said John Barros, executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.

Marvin Venay, executive director of the state’s black and Latino legislative caucus, said the field’s development thus far was “not concerning, it’s expected” and said “it could change very shortly.”

“I think that there have been decisions to recalculate the numbers and see whether or not they will end in a victory. I think that right now what you’re finding is candidates are being very cautious to make a sound decision, because once that decision is made, their life will move in a new direction,” said Venay, who said he is considering a run for city council.


Robert Lewis Jr., a veteran of the Menino administration who left the Boston Foundation earlier this year to launch a youth-focused nonprofit, told the Globe on Wednesday that he is considering a run. The Roslindale resident cited his experience running community-centered programs and raising private sector funds as assets.

Two other candidates, Will Dorcena and Charles Clemons, announced that they were running before Menino bowed out. Bill Walczak, a vice president at Shawmut Design and Construction, who lives near Walsh in Savin Hill, said he is “more than 50 percent” likely to vie for the mayoralty and said he planned to make a decision on Saturday.

Perhaps as notable as the current field’s limited demographic profile is its geographic tilt. While Walsh can enjoy status as the sole declared candidate in his neighborhood and claims support in South Boston, the trio of candidates from the West Roxbury-Hyde Park area will be left competing for base votes in high-voting precincts.

Connolly on Thursday looked to amplify his popularity in the area, holding a press conference outside the West Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library with local supporters.

Consalvo said he was unworried by the crowded swath of the city, citing his tenure there as a district councilor and frequent attendance at community events.


“We’re going to come screaming out of our base,” he said. Consalvo also locked up the backing of state Senator Anthony Petruccelli, an East Boston Democrat.

Conley said he was not worried by the heavy concentration of rivals close to where he lives. “It really does not concern me about who else is in the field or where they live,” he said.

Just as Walsh could derive an electoral advantage from geography, if a female or minority candidate emerged, he or she would enjoy status as an alternative to four candidates who will likely struggle to differentiate themselves as political figures in a landscape dominated for decades by Menino.

Mel King, a longtime activist and former state representative who finished second to Raymond Flynn in the 1983 mayor’s race, said that, ultimately, identity politics would play less of a role than the contenders’ ideas and messages.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidates are,” said King. “We can keep talking about whether they reflect this or that. Do they reflect the politics of community and inclusion?”

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at james.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.