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The Boston Globe

Opinion

TOM KEANE

As the dust settles, six notes from the mayoral race

boston globe/istock photo; globe staff illustration

Some fallout and observations from Boston’s mayoral preliminary:

 Can you say Mayor Connolly? John Connolly has to be one happy guy. It’s not time to start measuring the drapes (and in fact, per Governor Deval Patrick, don’t bother with new drapes at all), but a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll taken before last week’s election showed him easily beating Martin Walsh 44 to 29 percent. Connolly has successfully transformed himself from a naysayer taking on an incumbent to a man with a comprehensive and appealing vision for Boston. Walsh did well in his home turf of Dorchester and Southie, but Connolly had support from almost everywhere else, suggesting he’s better positioned to sweep up the votes of the 64 percent who favored one of the other 10 candidates. It would be a mistake to count out the well-funded Walsh, but he kicks off the final stretch playing catch-up.

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 Where in the world was Mayor Tom Menino? For all of the talk about Menino’s heavy hand in choosing his successor, Hizzonor seemed — especially toward the end — almost invisible. Proof of Menino’s lack of involvement is in the pudding of the results: He’s not a fan of either finalist. Connolly dared challenge him, back when the mayor was considering another term, and even before then he took pleasure in tweaking Menino’s administration. Menino and Walsh also have an unhappy relationship and during the race Walsh staked out positions — such as doing away with the Boston Redevelopment Authority — that were anathema to the Mayor. Amazing: When Menino said in August that he would stay out of the race and everyone assumed he was dissimulating, he was actually telling the truth.

 Old-time campaigning still matters. Both Connolly and especially Walsh did better than polls predicted they would, and it’s a reasonable conclusion that it was their get-out-the-vote efforts that made the difference. A strong field organization can help push one’s vote up by a few percentage points. That may seem a trifling amount, but in a tight race — and the preliminary certainly was that — its effect can be and was significant. New media are great, but posts and tweets don’t get people to the polls; door-knocking and cars do.

 Good riddance to identity politics. If people voted on the basis of race and sex, then Charlotte Golar Richie — African-American and the only woman in the field — should have fetched well over 50 percent. Instead, she got 14. And the six candidates of color collectively received under 35 percent — this in a majority-minority city. I’m not saying identity politics is over, with us now living in some postracial, gender-neutral nirvana, but it seems that neighborhood allegiances, political engagement, interest-group politics, and strong messaging mattered more.

 The pointless fight for endorsements. The aftermath of the preliminary will see Connolly and Walsh seeking the endorsements of the folks they just beat. And the defeated will be grateful to be wooed; it’ll keep them in the public eye and somehow validate their losing campaigns. If the endorsers had something aside a recommendation — money or a robust field organization — perhaps their backing would have meaning. Otherwise, endorsements are almost insulting, as if voters aren’t capable of making up their own minds. They also have a stink about them. A lot of the defeated are out of jobs. It’ll be fair for voters to wonder what quid pro quo candidates offered to get their support.

 If you can’t say something nice. The preliminary was widely praised as a model of issues-focused civility. Some think the next six weeks will be more like a brawl. Maybe they’re right, but I think — hope — not. Sure, there will be more in the way of direct questions raised by Connolly about Walsh and vice-versa. But the two finalists earned their places because they persuaded voters they were good guys with good ideas. Candidates who indulge in negative campaigning come across as mean-spirited and unlikable. With many still unfamiliar with the two men — almost 70 percent of those registered didn’t vote — it would be smart politics to stay positive. It would also be far better for the eventual winner to take over the helm of a city bound together rather than torn apart.

Tom Keane can be reached at tomkeane@tomkeane.com.

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