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The controversy over thousands of deleted e-mails at City Hall is gaining traction in the Boston mayoral race, but political science professor Paul Watanabe said it won't be enough to ruin Mayor Thomas Menino's re-election bid.
"This started out as a mere ripple a few weeks ago, now it's clearly become at least a wave," said Watanabe, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Boston. "The waters are choppy around the mayor, but, look, it's going to take a tidal wave to sink the mayor's re-election bid and prevent him from getting a fifth term."
Mayor Menino's challenger, City Councilor Michael Flaherty, has seized on the controversy, but Watanabe said it's a situation that's been handed to Flaherty by the mayor, not one that Flaherty himself has introduced to influence the race — such as his idea of running with Sam Yoon as deputy mayor.
"It's so valuable to be that other name on the ballot, whoever that person might be, whether it's Flaherty or anybody else," Watanabe said. "If there is any political advantage to be gained by the mayor's troubles, it's going to fall to him."
On Wednesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said she had joined the secretary of state's investigation into whether a top mayoral aide's routine deletion of his work e-mails violated state public records laws. The aide, Michael Kinneavy, has taken an unpaid leave of absence because he believed his presence was becoming a "distraction."
Watanabe said the controversy may not be enough to topple the mayor, but it's more than just a "distraction" that can be remedied by Kineavy taking a leave of absence.
In the end, Watanabe said, elections are about more than who wins and who loses.
"They are an opportunity, some of the rare opportunities we have," Watanabe said, "to question, to probe and to require the mayor and other officials to defend. And that's what we're seeing as one of the results of this election — no matter what the outcome might be."
Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear Bob Oakes' full interview with Paul Watanabe.
This program aired on October 8, 2009.
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