Editorial: Let's wait on 2021; Nov. 3 is just ahead

Less than a week has passed since we dispensed of the state primary election and we are already looking ahead to… September 2021?

The Boston Globe this week reported that City Councillor Michelle Wu called Mayor Martin Walsh on Sunday to let him know that she intends to run for the mayor’s office next year. A consistent critic of Walsh for much of her time on the council, Wu has clearly been mounting a run for higher office for many months. And her candidacy, once launched officially, will no doubt be welcomed by her existing supporters, who appreciate her approach to challenging Walsh’s administration at most every turn. She’d be a contender.

But, as City Councillor Julia Mejia cautioned this week, it would be unwise to presume that 2021 Bostonians will be presented with a strictly binary choice — Walsh v. Wu.

“I recommend that everyone wait until all 2021 candidates come out before jumping on anyone’s bandwagon,” Mejia tweeted, adding that she predicts 5-6 mayoral candidates and a slew of at-large council hopefuls will emerge. “Wait to see who gets on the ballot,” she advised.

It’s sage advice. The sands can shift suddenly in these parts and the first out-the-gate doesn’t always end up in the winner’s circle. Some might recall way back in 2012 when an upstart city councillor— John Connolly— decided to announce a next-year challenge to long-time mayor Tom Menino. By the time the actual election rolled around, Menino was not a candidate and Connolly finished as runner-up to one Martin J. Walsh. 

 As of this writing, it is not yet clear if Walsh will himself be a candidate again.  Conventional wisdom among political observers— this one included— is that Walsh may very well not seek a third term. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris  are victorious, Walsh could be invited to take a national post in the new administration— as one of his predecessors, Raymond L. Flynn, did when Bill Clinton sent him to the Vatican in 1993.

For obvious reasons, such a sequence of events next year remains an uncertainty. And even if it were a viable scenario, no sitting mayor would seek to undermine his or her power by telegraphing such a maneuver a full five months before inauguration day.

It’s also possible that if Biden does come a-calling, Walsh might end up getting an offer that he can refuse. Crossed up by dual allegiances to hometown fave Elizabeth Warren and Biden, the eventual nominee, the mayor, quite uncharacteristically, sat out the Democratic race for president. 

Then there’s the matter of legacy. Walsh has just led Boston through a grueling six months of pandemic and economic stress the likes of which have been unmatched in the city’s modern era. Only the most ungenerous of critiques would suggest that Walsh’s leadership— overall—has been wanting. In fact, Walsh’s steady hand and empathetic tone— particularly as the coronavirus crashed into the city last spring—stood in stark contrast to the incoherencies of our so-called president.

On Tuesday, pressed by reporters eager to get the mayoral grudge-match under full sail, Walsh wisely demurred. All political eyes, he counseled, should be on the presidential prize. Oh, and by the way, there’s also the small matter of the deadly menace of the virus to occupy our days and nights.  

Nov. 3 is right around the corner. Perhaps the Walsh-Wu forces and the other camps that are circling Boston’s more distant prize can put the next six weeks into a sustained effort to win back the US Senate and solidify Biden’s chances in our neighboring states.

-Bill Forry