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With an unexpected 23 percent of registered voters in Boston casting their ballots in Tuesday's preliminary elections, incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino and City Council President Michael Flaherty now move on to the second round of the mayoral race.
Garnering 51 and 24 percent of the votes respectively, in unofficial results, Menino and Flaherty left their fellow candidates Sam Yoon and Kevin McCrea behind and will now face each other in the Nov. 3 general election.
In what was supposed to be the most competitive race that Menino has faced in a long time, as he seeks an unprecedented fifth consecutive term, the mayor still got over 50 percent of the vote — and more than the three other candidates combined.
"That's a significant number," said political analyst Lawrence DiCara in a conversation with WBUR's Bob Oakes the morning after the preliminary election. "There were three articulate young men, two of them with significant political experience and backing."
DiCara is quick to say that "anything can happen in politics," but — as a former mayoral candidate and Boston city councilor himself — he says history suggests that Menino's advantage is likely only to grow.
"The mayor has more money, he has more troops on the ground, he certainly has a stronger base in minority communities," DiCara said.
The turnout in those communities on Tuesday was below the turnout in South Boston, sections of Dorchester and West Roxbury, where Flaherty received most of his votes. When voters in minority communities turn out for the final election, as DiCara believes they will, they'll come out strong for the mayor.
It will be certainly be an uphill fight for Flaherty, DiCara said. Over the next six weeks, he says the city councilor needs to mobilize his base to get out and vote, engage the mayor both in formal debates and informally, find ways to distinguish himself from Menino on the issues, and challenge the mayor on specific issues, such as charter schools and the homicide rate.
DiCara does not think the recent flap over deleted e-mails at Boston City Hall will have much of a negative impact on Menino's popularity. "I think the people who were concerned about that were people who voted for Yoon," he said. "I'm not so sure if that's transferable to Flaherty in the final election."
DiCara does, however, think Flaherty should try to transfer the sizable support for Yoon — and even the small amount of support for McCrea — to his own campaign going forward. Yoon and McCrea combined actually earned a slightly larger percentage of the vote than Flaherty alone, DiCara points out, and Yoon fell just 3 percentage points behind Flaherty.
"To some extent McCrea was a spoiler, if the Yoon people look at it that way," DiCara said. "If Flaherty has the support of (Yoon and McCrea), and is able to get them to work on his behalf in South End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Allston, Brighton, Jamaica Plain — neighborhoods where Yoon did very, very well — it certainly will help his cause."
Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear Oakes' full conversation with Larry DiCara.
This program aired on September 23, 2009.
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