A new look is on tap for at-large ranks

The first open mayoral race in 30 years has dominated headlines since it began in March. Voters will head to the polls and choose a successor to Mayor Thomas Menino next week, but they’ll also have a chance to chime in on who will be occupying the City Council offices at the other end of City Hall’s fifth floor.

Name recognition will likely be driving voters’ decisions, as it seemed to do in the preliminary. In that race, a field of 19 was narrowed to 8 candidates from across the city, including two Dorchester candidates.

Ayanna Pressley, a former aide to US Sen. John Kerry who lives in Dorchester, is running for a third term as an at-large councillor. Stephen Murphy, who was elected at-large in 1997, has been playing up his elder statesman role, saying the 13-member council, which has four at-large slots, needs his experience since it will grapple with new district councillors and a fresh-faced mayor in the Corner Office.

Incumbents aside, the other top finishers in the preliminary are established candidates: Michelle Wu, a former campaign aide to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren who had been running since December, and Michael Flaherty, who is making another attempt at regaining an at-large seat after an unsuccessful attempt in 2011.

In the preliminary, Pressley finished first with nearly 43,000 votes, with Flaherty close behind, with almost 40,000. Murphy was the pick on 31,728 ballots, while Wu finished fourth, with 29,380 votes. In the final, voters are allowed to choose up to four candidates, but they can also vote for a single candidate, a practice known as “bullet voting.”
Due to the gulf in the number of votes between fourth place and fifth place – former City Hall aide Martin Keogh finished 13,641 votes behind Wu – the race has become a battle for fifth place. If an incumbent leaves next year, the fifth place finisher gets the seat.

In the preliminary, South End attorney Jeffrey Ross was several thousand votes behind Keogh. And Annissa Essaibi George, a Dorchester yarn shop owner, came in 1,700 votes behind Ross.

A brief summary of the candidates, in the order they will appear on the ballot, follows:

Martin Keogh of West Roxbury: A former aide to City Councillor Peggy Davis Mullen, Keogh was born in Mission Hill. He has racked up endorsements from union officials such as Iron Workers Local 7 in South Boston and Firefighters Local 718 headquarters in Dorchester.

Jack Kelly III of Charlestown: He was once homeless and struggled with a heroin addiction before turning his life around and becoming Mayor Thomas Menino’s neighborhood liaison in Charlestown. Kelly has made his biography and public health a centerpiece of his campaign. He views Dorchester as a second home neighborhood, he said, though he is focusing on getting out support in District 1.

Annissa Essaibi George of Dorchester: George promotes herself as a triple threat. She’s a mother, a small business owner through her yarn shop — the Stitch House on Dorchester Avenue, and an East Boston High School teacher. She’s also served as a leader of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association and organizes the annual Little Miss Dorchester contests.

Michael Flaherty of South Boston: A former city councillor at-large who frequently topped the ticket in off-year municipal elections and mounted a run for mayor in 2009, Flaherty has been angling to get back inside the concrete walls of City Hall. The former prosecutor, who came in fifth place in 2011 when he ran again for at-large, is hoping name recognition will catapult him back onto the council.

Ayanna Pressley of Dorchester: Pressley has pushed for comprehensive sex education in schools and strengthening the Boston Residents Jobs Policy by making the number of residents, minorities and women on construction jobs sites easily accessible to the public.

Michelle Wu of the South End: The oldest of four children of Taiwanese immigrants, she has worked on a winning US Senate campaign, gotten married, and gone to law school in a short span of time. She was the first person in the race, jumping in last December before either Felix Arroyo or John Connolly, the two outgoing city councillors at-large, publicly decided to give up their seats to run for mayor.

Stephen Murphy of Hyde Park: The incumbent councillor is widely viewed as a potential candidate for state treasurer next year. Murphy, a Dorchester native, has served three terms as City Council president and worked on reforming the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) system set up between the city and colleges and nonprofits.

Jeffrey Michael Ross of the South End: The attorney who worked for former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson has picked up support from several local elected officials, including state Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), state Rep. Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain) and state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain).

District races have also been generating some below-the-radar heat. In District 2, which includes South Boston, part of the South End and Chinatown, incumbent Bill Linehan is looking at a familiar face: Suzanne Lee, who nearly toppled him in 2011, is back for another round.
Dorchester’s Charles Yancey, elected to District 4 in 1983, is running for another term after he couldn’t snag one of the two final slots in the mayoral race. He faces off against Terrance Williams, a Boston Water and Sewer employee.

In District 7, Tito Jackson of Grove Hall is running for another term. His opposition includes perennial contender Roy Owens and write-in candidate Jamarhl Crawford, a longtime activist in the neighborhood.
In District 5, which includes parts of Mattapan and Hyde Park, two men will face off for the council seat that Rob Consalvo will relinquish in January. Jean Claude Sanon of Mattapan and Tim McCarthy of Hyde Park emerged from the Sept. 24 preliminary. For a full report on the race, see story on page 3.

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