For the first time in two decades, the city of Boston has a new mayor. State Representative Martin J. Walsh defeated At-Large City Councilor John R. Connolly 51.8% to 48.2% yesterday at the polls, according to early election returns provided by the Boston Elections Department.
In addressing his supporters last night, Walsh reflected that, “You’ve made Boston a place where dreams come true. Together we’ll make Boston a place where dreams come true for everyone.” As a son of Irish immigrants and a product of a Dorchester neighborhood, Walsh, 46, frequently drew upon his past struggles throughout his campaign.
A former alcoholic, Mayor-Elect Walsh often spoke of his bout with childhood cancer and the conditions that led to him becoming a local labor leader in his native Dorchester and on Beacon Hill. Walsh relied upon his labor base to make it through the mayoral preliminaries where he faced Councilor Connolly.
As the first open mayoral race in 20 years, observers saw the election as a marked shift. Current Mayor Thomas Menino, who opted in March not to seek an unprecedented 6th term, did not endorse a candidate in the race. Menino has been a presence at Boston City Hall since 1984, including his time as a city councilor.
Walsh drew upon national labor networks in his quest to succeed Menino. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Americans for Working Families, among other groups, supported Walsh’s candidacy in both donations and outside expenditures. Boston-based rock band Dropkick Murphys came out in support of Walsh, as did several world champion Boston Red Sox players, including Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli.
In opposition to Walsh, Connolly ran as “The Education Mayor,” promising to reform Boston’s public school system. He charged that Walsh was too close to organized labor, and would be unable to effectively negotiate with unions that do business with the city. Walsh cited his years as an ally of unions as a sign that they would trust him in the upcoming debates over contracts and pay raises.
Although he graduated from the Woods School of Advancing Studies in 2009, Mayor-Elect Walsh has promised to take a fair approach to Boston College’s continued expansion. Marty Walsh is the first BC grad to become mayor of Boston since Kevin White, a graduate of Boston College Law School, who left office in 1984.
With Walsh taking office, the city of Boston will be one of the few cities in America to have a labor leader as its mayor. In leaving the stage on election night, Walsh told the crowd of supporters, “Boston, I promise you, the best is yet to come.”Featured image via Paul Marotta/Flickr.