Only five days remain until the Sept. 26 preliminary election for Boston’s municipal offices. Voters citywide will be asked to choose one of four men on the mayoral ballot, which includes incumbent Martin J. Walsh. The top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
There will be no balloting for at-large city council on Tuesday since only eight people are competing for four citywide seats. Dorchester and Mattapan voters in Districts 3, 4, 5, and 6 will have only the mayoral race to vote on since Councillors Frank Baker, Andrea Campbell, Tim McCarthy, and Matt O’Malley are running un-opposed.
There are heated contests elsewhere, including in District 7, which includes parts of Dorchester and boasts the city’s largest field, with 13 hopefuls vying for mayoral candidate Tito Jackson’s council seat. In District 2, seven people are looking to succeed Bill Linehan in representing South Boston, Chinatown, and the South End. In District 1, the race to fill Sal LaMattina’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in East Boston drew three candidates. City Councillor Mark Ciommo in District 9 has two challengers.
The four mayoral candidates, in ballot order, are Jackson, MassHealth customer service representative Joseph Wiley, former police officer and housing advocate Robert Cappucci, and Walsh. Recent polling suggests that the outcome of Tuesday’s contest is a foregone conclusion. A new Emerson College poll finds Walsh leading Jackson by a 52-21 percent margin in a survey of 529 likely Boston voters, a gap that is on par with a June poll that also found Walsh with 31-point lead. Cappucci and Wiley pulled 7 and 5 percent in the Suffolk poll, respectively.
Walsh has drawn renewed criticism this week for refusing media requests for public debates before the preliminary. At a canvassing event in East Boston last Saturday, Walsh took issue with that characterization, stating that he would only participate if all four candidates were involved, regardless of polling standing.
Jackson asserts that the mayor is attempting to duck a conversation, saying, “he can run, but he can’t hide from his record, and it is his record that we need to discuss.”
But at this stage of the race, the Walsh campaign said, it’s unlikely time will be found that fits with all four candidates before the voting on Tuesday.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for people to tell me about how I’m doing my job and what I need to do better,” Walsh said. “I’ve agreed in the final … whatever candidate wins, we will sit down and talk to them about what the debate schedule potentially could be.”
Both the mayor and Jackson list education, public safety, and affordable housing as priority areas. Walsh says his investments have targeted lower performing schools, but it is a slow process and standardized evaluations may not be the best fit for schools with substantial populations of non-English speakers. Jackson says he will “fully fund” the Boston Public Schools.
Similarly, Walsh notes that most crime has dropped in the city, and the overall trend is positive year-by-year, although shootings are up this year and there is always more work to do. Jackson asserts that the Walsh administration lacks a plan to deal with violence and he plans to increase the size of the police force.
Both want more funds to support programs like College Bound Dorchester, Operation Exit, and My Brother's Keeper.
On housing, Jackson says that neighborhoods are being steamrolled with development and the city should double down on protecting affordable housing levels. For Walsh, “it’s supply” that Boston needs to offset the streams of new residents, likely more than 700,000 by 2030. He points to a four-percent drop in rents among pre-2010 housing stock as a recent success.
Walsh and Jackson’s flashiest rift in governance may be their attitude toward soliciting showpiece projects or investments. Jackson continues to hit Walsh over the abandoned 2024 Olympics and IndyCar proposals, which Jackson says were irresponsible pursuits for the city. “One thing you won't see from me is the Olympics... you won't see an IndyCar from me," he told the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association this month.
Walsh, in turn, points to bringing General Electric’s headquarters to Boston and the city’s increasing attractiveness to major companies. His administration is assembling a bid for a new Amazon headquarters, although he told reporters at a roundtable this week that the city’s bid will be kept secret until after the deadline has passed.
“Certainly, having Amazon come to the city of Boston and bringing 50,000 jobs and investing $4 to $5 billion, I think that would be exciting and great for the city of Boston,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to pull together a proposal they might like, and I think Boston’s intriguing for them.”
Jackson said he does not believe that due diligence has been done on the bid.
“It is reckless for the city of Boston and Mayor Walsh to commit to bidding on a deal that we have not actually evaluated,” he told the Reporter. “Every single economic development deal is not right for the city of Boston, and thoughtful, mature and stable leadership actually takes the chance to analyze before throwing forward a proposal.”
The mayoral candidates’ supporters have been out in force. Walsh’s campaign lists 40,000 doors knocked on, more than 3,000 phone shifts, and 380 campaign events. The campaign notes that 1,000 volunteers have pitched in since the beginning of the summer, including 18 neighborhood teams.
“I feel good, but I’m not taking anything for granted,” Walsh said.
Jackson and his volunteers aren't sleeping on the job, either; they are canvassing far from his Roxbury district in communities like Brighton, Charlestown, West Roxbury, and South Boston.
Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.