Political eyes turn to mayoral, council contests

The 2008 presidential race has consumed the attention of the nation and true-blue Boston for nearly a year now, even though Barack Obama has dominated the polls locally. But the Reporter's temperamental seismograph is already picking up tremors from the election one year hence.

No one is predicting the fall of Mayor Thomas 'The Urban Mechanic' Menino as of yet, though the likely challenge from Councillor Michael Flaherty and a possible one from Councillor Sam Yoon could be good for the city's sticky-incumbent ailment. Those leaping from the City Council for Menino's seat - be they one or be they two - could jostle the field for one of the more interesting council races in recent memory.

Felix G. Arroyo (son of former Councillor and current director of transitional assistance for the state Felix D. Arroyo) has entered the fray with his first flurry of fundraising and a phalanx of volunteers passing out fliers at the polls.

"I'm going to have about 65 volunteers out on Election Day, we're going to be covering about 100 polls," said Arroyo on Monday. "They're going to get a card that says 'Thanks for voting. Please consider voting for Felix G. Arroyo in 2009.' "

Arroyo has raised nearly $5,000 and is rumored to have gathered some talent together, including Pat Keaney from his father's campaign staff (the one who built him that cool grease-powered car) and Mark Pedulla from Gibran Rivera's respectable District 6 run in 2005.

With Nantucket transplant and former Republican Doug Bennett, Mattapan-based Jean Claude Sanon, and Dorchester's own Marty Hogan who kicks off fundraising on Nov. 14, Arroyo makes four new council candidates publicly hitting the streets. Tomas Gonzalez, once Menino's Latino liaison, is also rumored to be meeting with potential supporters, and there is further buzz that former Flaherty-aide Andrew Kenneally and current Yoon-aide David Halbert are considering the race.

Speaking of Yoon, the field for council at-large could potentially explode if he also decided to run for Mayor, a decision that might make some sense with the model of change used successfully now by both Deval Patrick and Barack Obama, and progressive voters and communities of color energized by this year's election.

"It creates a lot of different scenarios," said Councillor John Tobin this week, speculating that Menino and Flaherty might eat into each other's base enough in the primary to put Yoon on the ballot in the final. Menino hasn't been in a mayor's race with a heavily contested primary.

"Why not strike while the iron's hot?" Tobin said. "There's an expiration date, a shelf life, in the City Council. You're like a loaf of bread, you go stale."

Of course, in a wide-open contest, Tobin himself has said in the past that he'd jump at the chance to peel off his day-old sticker and join the race.

Yoon raised over $40,000 on his much-ballyhooed California fundraising foray, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, a good chunk of what he would need for another at-Large council run, but far short of what he would need to challenge Menino's now $1.3 million war chest. What Yoon does over the next few months will be under the microscope.

Multiple trusted sources say shirts have been pulled by at least one top Menino campaign worker on Flaherty's cash supporters, stunting the councillor's ability to raise funds locally. His resources now, according to OCPF, look to be around $496,000.

Out in the districts, little is stirring yet, although in District 7 Carlos Henriquez hasn't ruled out another run at Councillor Chuck Turner's seat. "It's not till May that I have to make a determination," he said this week. "I won't rush to judgment."

If Yoon and Flaherty both run, it may also be tempting for some district councillors to try for the higher profile at-large seat. In any case, no need for political junkies to hold their breath for election 2009 to begin. It's already underway.