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Keller @ Large: Boston Mayoral Preliminary Election Guaranteed To Produce 2 Qualified Finalists

BOSTON (CBS) - A crowded ballot, wackjob candidates, campaign endgame filled with flagrant lies.

Thankfully, that's the California gubernatorial recall, not the Boston mayoral preliminary race. Here we have five well-credentialed, serious candidates competing in a relatively genteel affair that is guaranteed to produce two qualified finalists.

Something worth celebrating.

So, what will we be watching for Tuesday at 8 p.m. when political consultant Wilnelia Rivera and City Council President Pro Tempore Matt O'Malley join me and the WBZ-TV News team for live coverage streaming on CBSN Boston?


It's the oldest cliche in the book, but it's true. A modest turnout helps the candidates with the best field organizations and habitual voters, in this case most likely Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George. A larger turnout means irregular and first-time voters are showing up, perhaps drawn by a charismatic candidate (Andrea Campbell?) and/or a chance to make a statement (Kim Janey?).

boston mayor's race
(WBZ-TV graphic)

But the size of Tuesday's vote will have meaning beyond the candidates it benefits.

A sluggish showing along the lines forecast by Secretary of State Bill Galvin (100,000, barely a quarter of the registered voters) could indicate an electorate considerably less impressed by the "historic" nature of the race than the chattering classes have been. It might also speak to the COVID-era trend we've seen in local politics - an embrace of the status quo that returned Ed Markey to the Senate and almost all legislative incumbents to Beacon Hill. Maybe Bostonians just aren't that anxious for change; after all, former Mayor Marty Walsh's favorability ratings still top anyone in the field to succeed him.

By contrast, a bigger turnout would be a sign the "new Boston" that's been emerging in recent years - specifically, the enhanced clout of communities of color and the emergence of younger voters and activists - is ready to fully take charge. Don't rule this out, if not in the preliminary than in the November final; there's a reason why neither Walsh nor any white male sought to run this time.

As for the candidates, the turnout implications are fairly clear: a healthy vote in the majority-minority wards signals good news for Campbell and/or Janey, perhaps even a better-than-expected showing for John Barros.

If it's the perennial vote-rich reaches of South Dorchester, South Boston, Hyde Park and West Roxbury that are turning out in greater numbers, it may be a good night for Annissa Essaibi George.

List: Drop Box Locations For Mail-In Ballots

Wu has drawn well across the city in two previous ticket-topping re-election runs for her at-large Council seat; a robust vote from liberal areas like Jamaica Plain, Back Bay and the South End would be testament to the Wu campaign pull.

But whatever the outcome, the city will be well-represented by two serious, intelligent candidates with unquestioned commitment to the city. No California dreamin' here.

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