Boston Mayor Thomas Menino made history on Tuesday night. The 66-year-old won an unprecedented fifth term in office. This was his hardest re-election and some were surprised how close challenger City Councilor Michael Flaherty got to unseating him.
In past elections, Menino blew his opponents away by at least 35 percentage points. This time, Menino spent a lot more money and challenger Michael Flaherty still got within swiping distance — Menino won 57 percent to Flaherty's 42 percent. Menino acknowledged that fact Tuesday night in his victory speech.
"The stories may say that we beat our toughest opponent, but we haven't passed the biggest obstacle yet." Menino said. "Complacency is the highest hurdle we face. Let us fend off the temptation to rest on past accomplishments or to walk in familiar paths."
Complacency may not be an option. Menino has a mandate, but there's a parenthesis attached — as in, we support you, but you need to do some work.
"After 16 years, I won't say that he's he's done everything, but he's done a lot," said James Horton. He said Menino has transformed the city for the better, which is why he campaigned for the mayor in his neighborhood of Dorchester.
At Menino's victory party, Horton was excited about the win, and hopeful that the race had focused Menino's attention on improving Boston's public schools.
"I think his constituents have already told him. Let's do some more work with the schools. He knows," Horton said. "It's something that I think personally, probably should have been done. He didn't put as much focus as he should have or could have, but I think now he knows after this election here."
Menino's Victory Speech:
Flaherty's Concession Speech:
Menino's support for schools convinced Jamaica Plain resident Jerry Wheelock to keep him in office. That was despite disappointment with Menino's handling of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and a lack of transparency at City Hall. Wheelock was turned off by allegations that Menino's top aide systematically deleted emails.
"I think those are flagrant problems that Menino needs to attend to. You don't do that sort of stuff if you're trying to comply with the laws. I think there's some perception that some of these guys may be above the law," Wheelock said.
But in the end, voters like Wheelock and Horton thought Menino was the safer choice. Others cited the economy as a good reason to keep Menino in office, since the city is faring pretty well in the recession, compared with other places.
But a good chunk of the city took another view and supported Michael Flaherty. And the issue of public schools motivated many of them, too.
"I'm a mom with a 2-year-old and I'm looking at schools right now. We're really making that decision of: Do we stay in the city or do we go?" Fenway resident Elizabeth Rogers said. "And that really depends on the quality of the schools, so I was really attracted to the idea of somebody who would be interested in improving the Boston public school system."
Rogers may have the opportunity to vote for Flaherty again. He said he told Menino he would like a rematch in four years.
"I'm also going to continue to keep my eye on the current administration. There are a lot of issues that I raised during the campaign, that I felt extremely passionate about," Flaherty said. "I'll be involved and I'll be there."
And the voters will be there too, making sure Menino doesn't get complacent in this fifth term.
This program aired on November 4, 2009.