Mayor’s race: High turnout not expected despite ‘important’ vote

boston mayor's race preliminary ballot
The ballot choices for the Boston mayoral preliminary election.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

Voters in Boston will elect a new leader of the Hub for the first time in 20 years, but don’t expect a record-breaking turnout at the polls on Tuesday, political experts and election officials said. 

Thanks to an eventful year in Boston, from the marathon bombings to the recent Red Sox World Series win, the candidates in the mayor’s race have been forced to fight for voters’ attention.

“This is the first time there’s been an open mayoral race in decades and I hope the voters are cognizant of the significance of that,” said Gerry Cuddyer, chair of the city’s election department. Cuddyer said the city hired about 1,600 poll workers for Tuesday’s election and that hundreds of them speak a second language.

More than 113,000 people, or about 30 percent of registered voters, voted in the September preliminary election that narrowed the field of contenders to City Councilor John Connolly and state Rep. Marty Walsh.

Tuesday’s election will be the first time in more than 20 years that Mayor Thomas Menino’s name will not be listed as a candidate. He announced earlier this year that he would not seek a sixth term.

Cuddyer said that while she believes Tuesday’s turnout will be higher than the preliminary election, she doubts there will be any record-breaking numbers.

“Certainly, in the last couple of weeks we’ve been distracted by the Red Sox, and now I hope voters will focus their attention on what is very important for the city,” she said.

Tom Whalen, an associate professor of social science at Boston University, also said there will likely be more voters than in the preliminary election, but not a lot more.

“In the past, the World Series ended a lot earlier. Now, we’re talking just a few days between the end of the World Series and parade, and the mayor’s race. I think a lot of people are just tired out and can’t distinguish between the two candidates,” he said.

Whalen added that it would be “pathetic” for Boston if fewer than half of the city’s registered voters participated in the election to choose the next mayor, but that scenario could be realistic.

“And it’s not a ringing voice of endorsement from the city for whichever candidate wins … it makes their lives politically precarious,” he said.

As for turnout, Paul Watanabe, an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston, pointed out that there has been a one-on-one race since September and that he believe the Red Sox haven’t stolen enough attention away from the campaign to dissuade voters.

“There are enough words that have been spoken and I think the electorate is ready to make this choice, and those that are prepared and ready to vote will do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, voters in some of Boston’s neighborhoods will also face a choice on city council candidates and allowing a casino to be located in East Boston.

There are eight candidates vying for four at-large city council seats. While two of the candidates are incumbents, the two other seats are vacant. All but one of the district city council seats are contested. District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker is running unopposed.

Meanwhile, voters in East Boston will decide on the controversial issue of allowing a casino to be located at Suffolk Downs.

As part of the new expanded gambling law, a host community must hold a vote on whether to allow a casino. Because the track stretches into Revere, voters there will also have to decide the casino issue.

The race track had proposed a casino in partnership with Caesars Entertainment, which has since dropped out after a unfavorable background check.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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