BOSTON City Councilor John Connolly and state Rep. Martin Walsh sit atop a fluid mayoral field, according to the first major independent poll in the race.
Connolly has 12 percent of the vote, compared to 11 percent for Walsh. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley claims 9 percent of the vote and City Councilor Rob Consalvo gets 8 percent.
But with four in 10 voters undecided, the 12-way race to replace Mayor Thomas Menino is wide open.
The campaign, in some respects, has just begun. Until recently, voters had their eyes on the race to succeed John Kerry, who left the U.S. Senate to become secretary of state. And Conley just launched the first television advertisements in the mayoral contest Tuesday.
With summer vacation season in full swing, it’s not clear if voters will tune into the race anytime soon.
But the candidates do not have much time to lock down support. Voters will narrow the field to two, in a preliminary election, just 10 weeks from now.
Thus far, the survey suggests, a low-key race is favoring candidates with natural advantages — elected officials who are at or near the top of the fundraising heap.
None of the serious minority candidates — City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Charles Yancey, former Menino and Patrick administration official Charlotte Golar Richie and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative executive director John Barros — have built much traction with the likely voters targeted by the Herald poll.
The Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted the survey for the newspaper, only polled voters who said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to cast a ballot in the mayoral election and could name the month for the preliminary election.
The screen, in the end, skewed toward whites (64 percent of those polled) and homeowners (75 percent).
Sixty percent said it was “not at all important” that the next mayor be a minority. Another 20 percent said it was “not very important.”
The Suffolk sample may, in the end, approximate the September electorate. But several candidates will try to expand the playing field in what is shaping up as the first competitive mayoral race in 20 years.
Arroyo, looking to become the first Latino mayor of Boston, will go on the air Thursday with a Spanish-language television ad called “With your help we will make history.”
The survey, conducted July 10-15, suggests not much has shifted in recent weeks in terms of voter preference.
A one question poll commissioned by advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) in mid-June, first reported by WBUR, found Connolly, Conley and Walsh at the top of the pack with seven in 10 voters undecided.
DFER went on to endorse Connolly.
The Herald survey found some candidates — like Shawmut Design and Construction executive and community activist Bill Walczak, Barros and Golar Richie — are little known to voters. Elected officials are better known. And voters generally have favorable opinions of the candidates.
There seems no great thirst for change. Fully 82 percent of likely voters say they have a “favorable” opinion of Menino, compared to just 12 percent who have an “unfavorable” view.
Thirty-three percent say city schools have gotten “a lot” or “somewhat” better over the last four years, compared to 28 percent who say they have “stayed about the same” and 15 percent who say they’ve got “a lot” or “somewhat” worse.
Forty percent say crime has gotten “a lot” or “somewhat” better over the last four years and 35 percent say it’s “stayed about the same.”
Eighty-three percent say they feel “very strongly” or “strongly” that “public transportation is a high priority as an issue related to economic development” in the city.
Voters are closely divided on plans for a casino at the Suffolk Downs race track, with 49 percent in support and 43 percent opposed.
The survey of 600 voters has a margin of error of 4 percent.