Time to mull, then to vote

Politics continue to be at center stage in Boston, and as the culmination of the 2009 city elections approaches, there will be nary a moment for the electorate to catch its breath before being asked to come back to the polls two more times. Once the results are known next Tuesday, attention will be directed to the political scrum now underway to elect someone to replace the late Ted Kennedy for two years in the US Senate.

This is Boston’s municipal election final, and voters will give their say on who they prefer to manage the city. City Councillor Michael Flaherty has mounted a lively challenge to four-term incumbent Mayor Tom Menino, making for an interesting time for the city. There have been a few debates and many joint appearances, and anyone who has not decided how they will vote next week, probably won’t show up anyway.

Meanwhile, in the at-large City Council contest, there will be at least two new faces on the Council come January as incumbents Flaherty and Sam Yoon will relinquish their current posts. Voters can cast ballots for as many as four candidates, and each campaign can be expected to go all-out this weekend seeking to persuade the citizenry of the merits of their candidates.

Over the next 120-hour period – from today through election eve – voters will be well advised to prepare for an onslaught of last-minute campaign messages. There was a time not long ago when the most common campaign tool was the “lit drop” – a wave of printed material delivered to the home through the mail or by volunteers. Now, modern technology has allowed the introduction of new device, the “robo-call,” a computer driven pre-recorded message targeting individual groups of voters. In September, some residents told tales of receiving multiple unsolicited messages of this kind, and they can be expected to appear again by the thousands this weekend.

The technology permits such unrequested and largely unwanted campaign phone calls to be sent out simultaneously by the thousands, and many residents find them to be a nuisance. The good news: they’ll be all done by early next week.

At the conclusion of the city elections, there remains a 35-day sprint to the primary election for the party nominations for the Senate seat, and voters will be asked to tune in to those campaigns. The four Democrats in that race were in Dorchester for a one hour televised debate Monday night at the Kennedy Library. As compelling as the elections for mayor and City Council are next week, the short election season for the Kennedy seat will draw national attention. That primary takes place on Tues., Dec. 8, which is incidentally a Roman Catholic holyday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

For politicos, these are exciting, even exhilarating days. As for voters, let us hope they tune in and pay attention. In these perilous times, there are major decisions that lie ahead.