Updated on Sept. 28: Mayoral hopeful Michael Flaherty told supporters tonight that third-place finisher Sam Yoon will not only endorse his campaign tomorrow, but will join Flaherty on the campaign trail in a bid to become his "deputy mayor." The two plan to explain the development at a 10:30 a.m. press conference outside Boston City Hall. Read more at the Lit Drop .
On Tuesday night, it was about four years from now.
Thatâ€™s the view of analysts who watched the election returns showing Mayor Thomas Menino winning 50.5 percent of the vote.
There were probably some small sighs of relief coming from Meninoâ€™s camp, since the campaign topped 50 percent and faces a six-week sprint with City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty to the Nov. 3 final election.
â€œI think he maintains a commanding lead,â€ said Maurice Cunningham, a UMass-Boston political science professor. â€œIâ€™m not sure where that leaves Flaherty,â€ who garnered 24 percent of the vote.
City Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon, who would have drawn the starkest contrast between the incumbent mayor and himself in a head-to-head match-up, finished third at 21 percent in the preliminary election between him, Menino, Flaherty, and South End contractor Kevin McCrea, who finished a distant fourth.
With Menino considered a lock in the final election after his fiercest preliminary since 1993, the main event was the battle between Flaherty and Yoon for second place, and an indication of how theyâ€™ll fare should they both run again in four years.
â€œYou really have the outlines of what could happen in four years,â€ Cunningham said.
Flaherty and Menino view the other as having reached the limit of their base â€“ Menino won 41,026 votes while Flaherty, who has regularly been the top vote-getter among city councillors, earned 19,459.
With all 254 precincts reporting, Yoon was 2,280 votes behind Flaherty. While considered beatable by Menino supporters, Yoon was also viewed as a wild card to contend with in the general election. â€œI think heâ€™s probably more in tune with changes going on in Boston than Flaherty,â€ Cunningham said.
Roughly a quarter of the 82,000 voters who turned out chose a South Boston veteran of the City Council over a youthful-looking Korean-American finishing up his second City Council term.
â€œYoonâ€™s a great candidate but I think heâ€™s a little bit too green,â€ said Maureen Gillan as she left the Codman Square Public Library, the polling place for four precincts in Ward 17. â€œYou need someone whoâ€™s had experience. Heâ€™s been in it, but for not as long as Flaherty.â€
One voter leaving the same library said she had cast her ballot for Menino. â€œI feel heâ€™s done a good job,â€ said Noelle Staples, who lives in Fields Corner. â€œHeâ€™s visible. I feel heâ€™s accessible.â€
At his Tuesday night party at the Venezia Waterfront Restaurant in Port Norfolk, Flaherty quickly sought to draw distinctions between him and Menino, and hit the longtime incumbent over violent crime in Boston and the quality of the cityâ€™s schools.
â€œPeople said â€˜wait your turn.â€™ I said, â€˜The city canâ€™t wait,â€™ â€ Flaherty said as the crowd of several hundred supporters broke into a chant of â€œWe canâ€™t wait.â€ Flaherty continued: â€œFor mothers Iâ€™ve met over the course of this campaign who have lost their sons to senseless violence, I say, â€˜We canâ€™t wait.â€™ For children across the city who dropped out of the Boston public schools or who are currently in underperforming schools, I say â€˜We canâ€™t wait.â€™ â€
Whether Flaherty can pick up the votes of Yoon supporters remains to be seen. Support among backers of McCrea could be hard to find; despite Flaherty saying he had learned his lesson, McCrea frequently noted on the campaign trail that he successfully sued the City Council over Open Meeting Law violations while Flaherty was president.
More than one Yoon backer said on Tuesday night that they would not vote for Flaherty in the November election. â€œHeâ€™s so entrenched in Southie politics, he doesnâ€™t bring about the change that Yoon does,â€ said Heather Ciuryla, a Yoon volunteer who worked a polling station for the candidate earlier in the day.
Flaherty rejected the â€œMenino Liteâ€ label that has been bandied about by some Yoon supporters. â€œWeâ€™re completely different in the way we manage,â€ Flaherty said of himself and Menino. â€œOur mayor micromanages everything. I intend to empower and utilize talent to get our city back on track. He rules with an iron fist.â€
Flaherty and his supporters acknowledged they will need to reach out to Yoon supporters for their votes. â€œIf you add my room to Samâ€™s room to Kevinâ€™s room, you have a new mayor of Boston,â€ Flaherty said, standing outside of a room full of several hundred supporters. â€œHalf of Boston isnâ€™t satisfied.â€
But Flaherty and supporters also say they will focus on persuading the roughly 200,000 registered voters who didnâ€™t go the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes in a municipal race. The number of voters always expands in a final election, they said.
â€œI think thereâ€™s a lot of ambivalent people out there who didnâ€™t vote today,â€ said Kevin McMahon, a Flaherty supporter from Savin Hill. â€œSomehow, weâ€™ve got to convince them to vote.â€
Menino, who held his preliminary election night rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workersâ€™ hall on Freeport St., pledged to run a positive campaign for the next six weeks.
Facing his toughest reelection challenge, Menino has defended his record as the other three candidates hammered away at underperforming schools and the crime rate, with the 16-year incumbent acknowledging more work can be done to improve the schools and noting that the city is experiencing its lowest crime rate in years.
At the Carver Lodge on Talbot Avenue, Yoon said that his disadvantage in fund-raising and the smaller size of his campaign war chest were the primary reason for his third place finish. If the campaign were to go on for him, Yoon said, he would have focused more on the issue of campaign finance reform.
â€œWe put a focus on how power can be abused, on how trust can be abused,â€ Yoon said after conceding the race to Flaherty. Yoon shared with the crowd how he prepared his young son for the possibility of a loss. â€œIf I donâ€™t win, God has a better plan. The right plan.â€
When asked about his plans, Yoon said that it was too early to tell and that he had to think about his options. He said that he is â€œcommitted to the city, invested in the city.â€
A financial shortfall led to staffing difficulties, according to Yoon adviser Jim Spencer. â€œWe didnâ€™t have enough people to have a get-out-the-vote effort,â€ Spencer said.
"We got a lot of thumbs up, a lot of honks, but not enough," Ciuryla added.