It’s not often that an election can do so little to change the face of the City Council, while still representing a major shift in the political landscape.
Tuesday night, Ayanna Pressley emerged as the top dog on the council, while Michael Flaherty, South Boston’s Great White Hope was left with the remnants of what once looked like a promising political career.
So coming into the election, the expectation was that Ayanna Pressley had a tough road ahead of her with the threat of a challenge from Michael Flaherty possibly bumping her out of the top four.
First of all, this perception comes from the fact that Pressley finished in fourth in 2009, and because apparently Boston journalists don’t expect anything to change in City Hall in the span of two years.
Aside from her 2009 performance, there was also a perception that Pressley might pay the price of approaching her reelection bid with the enthusiasm of a minor left in the care of Penn State Defensive Coordinator Gerald Sandusky.
Pressley’s reelection bid began with Chief of State-turned-Campaign manager Jessica Taubner on her own, working out of her car, and the campaign consistently trailed her opponents in fundraising – excluding candidates Sean Ryan and Will Dorcena who were never taken seriously by the press.
Throughout the race, white politicians and fellow candidates all lined up to defend Pressley for her work on issues that they had previously never mentioned a single word about, such as John Connolly who took time out of trying to keep black kids from Dorchester from being able to attend West Roxbury Schools to decry the difficult situations that many poor communities of color find themselves in.
The most unsettling thing about Pressley is that although she has a tendency to attack issues of extreme importance that might otherwise be ignored, she often approaches those issues with transparent cynicism and personal accounts whose veracity seem tenuous at best.
This election will be remembered as one when journalists should have learned to let go of the false narrative the off-year municipal elections sway on the whims of older, white conservative voters.
People will vote when there’s something of substance to vote on, and this year, aside from the standard establishment politics that voters are offered, Pressley and Arroyo – not to mention Dorcena – gave those “non-traditional voters” an option and they responded.
But don’t get me wrong, Tuesday was not solely about democracy coming to the Hub. Pressley showed that she had the opportunist streak to go far in Boston politics.
Pressley was more than willing to pluck the heart strings of the local press with her media narrative that “she deserved to win, and yet may not.”
And there was the overflow of political and journalistic support for Pressley as the last female on the Council, without either one mentioning a word about Suzanne Lee’s campaign in District 2, came within 87 votes of sending a second woman to City Hall.
When it was announced that Pressley and Connolly would be pooling their resources, and campaigning together, many speculated that the deal was a cynical attempt by Connolly to strike a blow against Flaherty and knock him out of the mayor race picture in 2013. And yet, Connolly came in third place.
Between being shopped around by Connolly to the parts of the city where Pressley had previously not done well, to capitalizing on a campaign to retain the council’s sole woman member once Maureen Feeney leaves in December, Pressley rode to victory on the backs of a lot of other people.
I wonder how long before she learns how lonely it is on the top?
In this next term, here are a few things I’m looking forward to.
The further adventures of Coffee the Pimp, once Pressley figures out a way to use those tales politically.
A possible split in the cohesiveness that produced a unanimous vote for Steve Murphy to be Council President at the beginning of this year. With his near loss, some councilors, such as Arroyo, Pressley or Vice President Sal LaMattina may smell blood in the water.
Councilors with mayoral aspirations who decide to start cutting down potential opponents early – at least until Mayor Thomas Menino announces that those councilors are really just competing to be his electoral victim.
Connolly and Arroyo already have centerpiece legislative goals, neighborhood schools and reinvest Boston respectively. Look out for other councilors to craft their own signature issues in the hopes of setting up a mayoral run, such as LaMattina’s crusade against the scourge of Segways.