Mayoral pair hit the trail, key on endorsements, arbitration award

The two finalists in the race for mayor spent the days after the Sept. 24 preliminary chasing endorsements and trading statements over an arbitration award favoring the police department that has dominated the campaign trail.

Patrol officers would get a 25.4 percent raise over six years under the arbitration ruling. The deal could cost the city $80 million, and Mayor Thomas Menino has asked the council to reject it.

State Rep. Marty Walsh and City Councillor At-Large John Connolly have urged both sides to go back to the bargaining table, with Connolly saying that he will vote against the deal if it comes before the City Council, which gets to vote on the arbitration award, in its present form. Connolly’s campaign has also highlighted a bill that Rep. Walsh has filed on Beacon Hill that could take away the Council’s power to weigh in on such a matter under certain criteria.

For his part, Walsh criticized Menino on Saturday, saying the mayor had pursued “irresponsible negotiating tactics.” He added, in a statement on Tuesday, that he believes “the best thing for the city and the police is to get back to the bargaining table and agree to a deal that works for both sides.”

Connolly said the officers, who have gone without a pay bump for almost five years, “deserve a raise, but the question is whether the arbitrator’s decision strikes the right balance between achieving fiscal responsibility and compensating officers fairly,” he said in a statement after meeting with city financial officials and the patrolmen’s union. “I have concluded that it does not and I’m calling on the city and the patrolmen’s association to go back to the bargaining table.”

The tussle over the arbitration award comes as the numbers coming out of the preliminary election show that both candidates have work to do picking up votes in the middle of the city, and that endorsements from former rivals who won precincts in communities of color and elsewhere in Boston could be key.

Asked for his analysis of the numbers, Menino noted that Walsh, a Dorchester lawmaker elected in 1997, did well in his home neighborhood and in South Boston.

“But look at John Connolly’s numbers,” he said. “I think he did well throughout the city of Boston.” The mayor, who has said he will not wade into the race unless the candidates start “trashing” the city, added, “It’s going to be an interesting race. It’s somewhat similar to my campaign in 1993, the numbers.”

That year, Menino, then the District 5 councillor from Hyde Park who had become acting mayor after Ray Flynn decamped for the ambassadorship to the Vatican, faced off against then-state Rep. Jim Brett, who held the same seat Walsh now occupies and was the other top finisher in that preliminary. Menino went on to win the final election by a large margin in November.

Walsh told reporters on Monday that his campaign will be announcing some endorsements this week.
“I was calling everybody and anybody today,” Walsh told reporters who trailed him through Dudley Station as he shook hands with potential voters. Connolly, after attending an event at Roxbury Community College, told reporters he now has the backing of Allston-Brighton Councillor Mark Ciommo, who was elected to the council in 2007, the same year as Connolly, and currently chairs the Ways and Means Committee. “I think endorsements matter,” Connolly said. “But at the end of the day, the race is decided more on the message and the candidate. … Endorsements matter, but they’re not everything.”

Menino mostly agreed with Connolly, saying that endorsements will be “somewhat” important. He told reporters that how candidates relate to the constituents on education, public safety, and jobs is a bigger factor.

“Endorsements are helpful but, really, it’s how you connect with people. Do people trust you?” he said.
Several candidates who did not advance past the preliminary are likely to be highly sought after: John Barros, the former executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, who picked up one of the two mayoral endorsements made by the Boston Globe, and former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie, who came in third place in the preliminary election.

Golar Richie, who briefly served in the House with Walsh, said on Tuesday that she plans to endorse one of the two finalists in the next several days.

“In the next five days I will make a decision,” she told Jim Braude in an interview on New England Cable News. “I don’t want to drag it out, right? My endorsement’s not going to be that helpful if I’m waiting ‘til Week 4 or something.”

Golar Richie also defended her campaign, which came in for criticism from both columnists and political insiders, saying that her campaign did “quite well” despite coming in third.

“But we knew that we had some obstacles that we had to get past. And one was the timing of my entry into the race; another was the fact that I didn’t have a ready organization and war chest. Those aren’t excuses; that’s just the reality we were dealing with.”