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Aug
2013
13

Labor Favorite Marty Walsh in Dead Heat for Boston Mayor Spot

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As the Boston mayoral race heats ahead of Labor Day, union favorite Martin “Marty” Walsh is one of the front-runners to succeed Tom Menino. Menino has been mayor since 1993.  

Walsh, the former State Representative and President of the Boston Building Trades, has earned the endorsement of several unions including the Teamsters, painters, pipefitters, and firefighters. Groups such as Working America have taken to the streets to pass out campaign literature.  This overwhelming support has effectively narrowed the field to Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly.  

Speculation mounted about whether business leaders would oppose Walsh, but he has won many in the business community over with his message:

In an interview, Walsh described his backing from labor as a badge of honor, because, he said, he has spent his career fighting for working families. As mayor, he said, he would have the upper hand in labor negotiations because unions would listen to one of their own and accept hard truths about municipal finances. He also vowed to build on the momentum of Boston’s flourishing economy, which has fueled a construction boom across the city.

“I’d be the biggest friend to the business community as mayor,” Walsh said. “If we don’t have successful businesses, there are no employees for unions to represent.”

Kevin Phelan, an executive with the real estate firm Colliers International, said the next mayor will want to build on the city’s solid financial footing.

“Marty is smart enough to know that even if labor helped push him in, he’s going to have to be realistic,” Phelan said. “I don’t think Marty or the labor unions want to stop construction in the city. If returns on . . . construction get too thin, this juggernaut ends.”

This pro-business attitude harkens back to Walsh’s time as Business Manager for the Boston Building Trades. Organized labor’s support is increasingly important in this traditionally union town with such a tight race and many voters still undecided:

The fluidity of this race is partly from the size of the field itself and the unique nature of a preliminary election. To make it to the final, two candidates only need to get more votes than all the others. Thus, in theory, 10 of the twelve candidates could each get 8.2 percent, but would lose to two who got 9 percent each.

A recent poll, conducted in mid-July by Suffolk University and the Boston Herald, underscored the point. In first place was John Connolly, the city councilor who was running even before incumbent Tom Menino said he’d forgo a sixth term. First place sounds impressive, but that only means Connolly has 12 percent. In sixth place was Charlotte Golar Richie, once head of the city’s department of neighborhood development. She got 5 percent — a difference between her and Connolly of only 7. With a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points and a strikingly high 40 percent of all voters saying they are undecided, that difference is essentially meaningless.

Neither the teachers’ union nor SEIU 1119 have endorsed a candidate as of yet.  Their support could propel Walsh forward in the polling and allow him to pull away from the pack. Both organizations are have a tough decision, though, as fellow candidate Felix G. Arroyo also has deep labor roots.  Arroyo has had trouble fundraising, however, which has hurt his momentum.

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