Murphy, Connolly call for slate in at-large council race

Yawu Miller | 6/29/2011, 12:18 p.m.
Candidates in this year’s at large race spoke at last week’s Ward 5 Democratic Committee meeting. Pictured (l to...
Candidates in this year’s at large race spoke at last week’s Ward 5 Democratic Committee meeting. Pictured (l to r): Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, William Dorcena, Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy and Sean Ryan. Yawu Miller

City councilors John Connolly and Steven Murphy are calling for an all-incumbent slate in the race for the council’s four at-large seats, closing ranks against a challenge by former top vote-getter Michael Flaherty who is seeking to regain the seat he gave up in his 2009 failed bid for mayor.

“I go to work every day for one Boston — where we recognize that we’re strengthened by our diversity,” said incumbent John Connolly, sounding the theme for his campaign during a debate at the Ward 5 Democratic Committee meeting last week. “We don’t always agree on everything, but we work together. That’s one Boston.”

Incumbent Stephen Murphy made the same call during the Ward 5 debate.

“It’s an honor to work with my colleagues and I hope you’ll send us back,” he said.

Connolly and Murphy made a similar call during a meeting of the Ward 19 Democratic Committee on June 6. Incumbent Felix Arroyo, present at both meetings, said it’s too early in the race to make a decision about running as a slate. Incumbent Ayanna Pressley, whose mother is ill, was not present at either debate.

The talk of a slate has injected a dose of intrigue into a race where candidates and incumbents typically sound similar themes around the shared priorities of schools, public safety, neighborhood services and economic development. This is the first time in recent memory there has been talk of a slate of incumbent candidates.

Political pundits reached by the Banner agreed with Arroyo’s position that it’s early for a slate.

“At this stage, each candidate needs to identify who they are and what they stand for,” said political activist Marvin Venay.

District 4 Councilor Yancey, who represents parts of Dorchester and Mattapan, didn’t like the idea of a slate either. “A slate approach is really simplistic and doesn’t allow candidates to state their positions,” he said. “It assumes that all candidates are alike and vote alike.”

Yancey points to a resolution he filed calling for hiring 300 more street workers. The resolution lost, with all nine white councilors voting against.

“I think that’s kind of telling in terms of where the councilors are coming from,” Yancey said.

Connolly and Murphy’s unusual proposal may be driven by the return of their former colleague, former at-large councilor Michael Flaherty, who routinely topped the at-large ticket before abandoning his council seat in his failed 2009 bid for mayor.

Both Connolly and Muphy poll strongly in the traditional Irish Catholic strongholds of South Boston, the West Roxbury and Neponset, Savin Hill and Cedar Grove sections of Dorchester. Flaherty, who hails from Southie, draws from the same base.

Arroyo and Pressley tend to poll better in the city’s predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park. They also beat out Connolly, Murphy and Flaherty in white progressive neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain and the Fenway.

Venay says a slate would only work to everyone’s advantage if Murphy and Connolly push it in their bases in West Roxbury and South Boston.