A touch of history marks Council At-Large results

With an unabated fiscal crisis expected to again tear apart the city’s budget, voters sent City Hall incumbents back to their seats this week and elected the City Council’s first African-American woman and second Latino.

First-term incumbent John Connolly hauled in the most votes – 51,308 – among the final four City Council At-Large winners. Fellow incumbent Stephen Murphy, who has served on the council for 13 years, came in second at 50,962 votes, or 18.2 percent of ballots cast. Felix Arroyo, the son of a former city councillor and a labor organizer, received 45,099 while Ayanna Pressley, a former aide to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, tallied 41,847 votes. The results essentially mirrored the outcome of the September preliminary where a large field was trimmed to eight finalists. Two at-large seats opened up when incumbents Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon decided to run for mayor.

“It feels great to top the ticket after my first term, in the sixth ballot position,” a tired-sounding Connolly told the Reporter the morning after the election. His first-place finish in the preliminary and in Tuesday’s election has set off chatter that he will be a future mayoral contender. “I just finished my first term,” Connolly said, brushing off the speculation. “And I’m excited to serve a second term. I don’t think about that stuff. I think it’s all idle chatter.”

Connolly, who juggled the rigors of campaign trail with the birth of a new baby, said his priority remains ensuring minimal impact on teachers and police officers. “I see tough budget times ahead,” he said.

Murphy, viewed as one of the council’s top financial experts, said the council will have its work cut out for itself in trying to stop the budget constraints from “rolling over us like a tsunami. We have to stay on top of that.”

In the meantime, the candidates and their campaigns are stopping, however briefly, to soak in the win. “We ran well just about everywhere,” Murphy said. “We really worked it block by block,” said Arroyo after he had spoken with his father, who had been turned out in 2007. His advice? “Just to remember that politics is temporary,” the younger Arroyo said. “At any moment, this can be over, and it’s what about what you’ve done in that moment.”

Pressley, who worked as Kerry’s political director, is the first African-American woman to serve on the council.

District 7 Councillor Chuck Turner, who is fighting an indictment on corruption charges, trounced challenger Carlos Henriquez by a margin of 59.8 percent to 39.4 percent.

Turner’s indictment clearly was largely a non-factor in the race, as Henriquez charged that Turner was not focusing on local issues such as clean streets and rising violence.

Fellow Dorchester district councillors Maureen Feeney and Charles Yancey, both unopposed, rolled into re-election.

The final campaign seemed to boil down to name recognition and fundraising: Incumbents Connolly and Murphy were well known, while Arroyo had the help of his father’s last name. Pressley was a favorite out of the gate and managed to keep up with the fundraising levels of others.

The runners-up included Tito Jackson, a former economic development official within the Patrick administration who vaulted to fifth place, former City Hall aides Andrew Kenneally and Tomas Gonzalez, and former Nantucket selectman Doug Bennett.

Jackson finished with 30,173 votes, or 10.79 percent of the total cast, setting himself up for a future run somewhere. As did Kenneally, who finished fifth in the preliminary, but fell behind Jackson in the general and earned 24,215 votes.

Gonzalez, who, like Arroyo, is Latino, received 18,297 votes. He is a former chief of staff to the Boston Elderly Commission.

Bennett, a conservative who works at the Suffolk Courthouse, came in last in the general election after beating Gonzalez in the preliminary for seventh place. The result of 16,817 votes on Tuesday came despite almost a year and a half worth of campaigning, a flurry of automatic calls, and stickers plastered across the city.