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Former Rivals Flaherty, Yoon Team Up To Take On Menino04:22
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City Councilor Sam Yoon, left, and his former opponent, City Council President Michael Flaherty. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)
City Councilor Sam Yoon, left, and his former opponent, City Council President Michael Flaherty. (Bianca Vazquez Toness/WBUR)

Boston's mayoral race has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting. Candidate Michael Flaherty on Tuesday teamed up with former rival Sam Yoon to take on four-time incumbent Thomas Menino.

Flaherty and Yoon make an unlikely pair. Flaherty is Irish Catholic, from Southie. He comes from a political family and used to work as a prosecutor.

Sam Yoon isn't from Boston, but came here to the area to study at Harvard University. He's the brainy son of Korean immigrants, and worked as an activist trying to create affordable housing before winning a seat on the city council. Perhaps the biggest thing they have in common is a desire to topple the mayor.

WBUR Topics: 2009 Boston Mayoral Race
WBUR Topics: 2009 Boston Mayoral Race

"This is the next generation of political leadership in Boston," Flaherty told reporters outside City Hall on Tuesday. "It's about embracing new ideas, it's about embracing new technology, it's about sharing. For the last 16 years, it's been all about one person. And that's not good."

Flaherty and Yoon together took about 45 percent of the vote in the preliminary. Even combined with the other challenger's votes, they fell short of Mayor Menino. In the final election, they're hoping a larger turnout will go in their favor. If they win, Yoon will become "deputy mayor."

"I believe that together, we'll be able to do more for this city than a fifth Menino administration would ever dare to dream about," Yoon said Tuesday.

Smart alecks on Twitter are already coming up with creative names for the coalition, such as "Yoonity" and "Floon." Others are calling it good idea.

"It's a stroke of genius," said Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston. Flynn, who supports Flaherty in the race, said the move will change the race.

"Before it was a City Hall machine, and money versus an underdog Michael Flaherty," Flynn said. "Today it's still the machine and money at City Hall, but now it is a combination — a coalition of experience and change."

But former City Councilor Larry DiCara points out that this job — "deputy mayor" — doesn't really exist.

"It's very different than running for governor and lieutenant governor because there are no statutory provisions that provide for a deputy mayor," DiCara said. "Whoever works for the city of Boston, pursuant to our charter, is an employee at will. So if hypothetically, Flaherty wins and he and Sam Yoon decide that he should be deputy mayor and then they have a disagreement, then no more Sam Yoon."

But DiCara said it's clear that Flaherty has done the math and knows he needs to get votes somewhere. He did well in South Boston and Charlestown. But Yoon could bring in votes from totally different parts of the city — Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Dorchester. And during the preliminary race, they weren't that far apart on the issues.

The question now is whether Yoon's supporters go for this plan.

"I was surprised. I certainly hadn't anticipated that this idea existed in anybody's mind," said Yoon volunteer Nancy Sableski. "But the more I thought about it, the more I understood it was a real possibility for those of us who supported Sam to see the most important ideas of his campaign carried on into this next iteration."

Flaherty has adopted one of Yoon's key platforms-- term limits for the mayor's office. And, as deputy mayor, Yoon would be in charge of carrying out a number of common goals, such as dismantling the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

But that's only if Flaherty is elected. And Tom Menino says that's not going to happen. This new collaboration doesn't worry him.

"The ballot in the November election, it will have two names on it. That's Flaherty and Menino," he said Tuesday.

Menino said he'll campaign the same way he always has, blanketing the city with his army of volunteers. Meantime, hundreds of campaign workers will hit the streets for Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon. Over the next six weeks, Boston residents will get to see how many candidates it takes to try and topple a mayor.

This program aired on September 29, 2009.

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