Marty Walsh Elected Boston’s Next Mayor

November, 5, 2013, BOSTON- Martin Walsh speaks to his supporters at the Boston Park Hotel Plaza after he is elected as the mayor of Boston.(KIva Kuan Liu/BU News Service)
November, 5, 2013, BOSTON- Martin Walsh speaks to his supporters at the Boston Park Hotel Plaza after he is elected as the mayor of Boston.(KIva Kuan Liu/BU News Service)

By John Hilliard
BU News Service

State Rep. Martin J. Walsh, a Dorchester kid who grew up to become a state lawmaker and local labor leader, was elected as Boston’s first new mayor in two decades.

“We know Boston is a strong city and a fortunate city,” said Walsh during his acceptance speech at the city’s Park Plaza Hotel. “My mission as mayor is to make it better. To make Boston the hub of opportunity, to open doors of opportunity for a strong and growing middle class, and those struggling to get here.”

Walsh, 46, collected 72,514 votes and defeated Boston City Councillor-at-Large John R. Connolly, 40, a Democrat from West Roxbury who earned 67,606 votes, according to unofficial results posted Tuesday night on the city’s website.

Tibia Gustave said she volunteered for Walsh after seeing the energy and work of some of his other volunteers. She also suggested that Walsh did a better job at addressing more issues than Connolly during the campaign.

“He was more well-rounded. It’s easy, I think, to pick one thing you’re good at and focus on that. But Marty showed he had the ability to be successful in a lot of areas,” said Gustave. “I think he’s going to bring this city to another level that we haven’t been in a very long time.”

During the election, Walsh campaigned on making economic development processes in the city more transparent. He also proposed restructuring the Boston Redevelopment Authority into a new agency and advocated greater protection for members of the LGBTQ community — The Boston Globe reported he took 25 votes to protect gay marriage since it was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004 — among other issues.

About 38 percent of the city’s 372,064 registered voters cast a ballot during the municipal election, which also included decisions on multiple city council races.

Walsh succeeds outgoing Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who took office in 1993. Menino’s decision not to run for a sixth term opened up the mayor’s race to a dozen candidates.

Walsh also bested Connolly during the Sept. 24 preliminary election, when the pair were among a dozen candidates vying to replace Menino. Of the 113,319 ballots cast in that election, Walsh took 20,854 votes compared to Connolly’s 19,435.

A member of the House since 1997, Walsh currently represents the 13th Suffolk District, which includes Dorchester and a single precinct in neighboring Quincy. He serves as chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and is a member of Laborers Local 223.

Walsh is a graduate of the Newman School and Boston College, and lives in Dorchester with his partner, Lorrie Higgins, and her daughter. He overcame an addiction to alcohol that began in his teens. He stopped drinking in 1995 and has been sober for the past 18 years.

Walsh was endorsed by primary election opponents Felix Arroyo, John Barros, and Charlotte Golar Richie. Golar Richie was the only female African-American candidate in the race, and her endorsement was reportedly sought by both Walsh and Connolly.

Walsh also secured support from U.S. representatives Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch, plus about 50 current and former state lawmakers, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.

Super PAC and labor union spending also reportedly favored Walsh: according to Commonwealth Magazine, of about $2 million spent by those groups in the mayoral race, $1.65 million was spent on pro-Walsh ads.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, as of Oct. 31, Connolly raised more than $2.75 million during the race, while Walsh’s campaign brought in more than $2.63 million.

Following the announcement that Walsh had won, throngs of supporters celebrated at a crowded post-election party in a ballroom at the Park Plaza Hotel while the Dropkick Murphys played a live set.

In a not-so-subtle reminder of the support Walsh gained from labor, a large Walsh campaign banner was emblazoned with the logo for the Heat and Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers Local 6 — and appeared next to an equally large one for the Laborers’ Local 223.

Supporters said it was a mix of Walsh’s personality and the broad focus of his campaign that attracted voters.

“I’ve been walking all day streets, the response has been real good. I think Marty’s gonna win, and it’s gonna be a better Boston,” said supporter Jerry Crane, speaking at the party before results were known. “I just think he’s more of a people person. He’s more for the people than John Connolly is. John Connolly is just about schools. Marty is about everything.”

Scott Coleman, another supporter, noted the Walsh campaign’s work in the neighborhoods to drum up voter support.

“He got out there, he mobilized. He got his people out there,” said Coleman.

The city is also larger than it has been in decades: 2010 was the first time since 1970 that the city’s population was greater than 600,000, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Walsh becomes mayor of a city which, in addition to its size, has a population that is more diverse than when his predecessor took office in 1993.

In 1990 — three years before Menino took office — Boston’s population was 59 percent white, with African-Americans comprising 24 percent, Latinos and Hispanics representing 11 percent and Asians at 5 percent, with other ethnicities representing the remainder, according to a Boston Redevelopment Authority report.

By 2010, Boston had become a “majority-minority” city, as the percentage of Boston white residents dropped to 47 percent, while African-Americans made up 22 percent of the population, Hispanics and Latinos rose to 18 percent and Asians increased to 9 percent, according to the BRA.

The agency also noted that, in 2010, more than 12 percent of Boston households were without a resident older than 14 who could speak English well — an increase of more than 1.5 percent from 2010.

(CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said that Charlotte Golar Richie was the only African American candidate in the Boston mayoral race. Golar Richie was the only female African American.)

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