Tuesday night, Mayor Thomas Menino will give his 20th State of the City address amid curiosity and speculation about whether the 70-year-old can and will run for reelection this fall.
The past year has not been easy for Menino, the city’s longest serving mayor, with health issues leaving him hospitalized for weeks, sports radio highlighting his continued athlete name flubs and a start up organization comparing him to Putin.
Despite the tough 2012, it remains to be seen if the issues have caused Menino – who has yet to say whether he will run again – any political harm.
Thomas Whalen, a Boston University professor and political historian, said that Menino is helped by his still strong get-out-the-vote effort and that there are no credible candidates to challenge him.
“There are no credible candidates out there that can offer a strong challenge unless he has another health problem develop or some unforeseen scandal. I don’t see him being vulnerable,” he said.
To help himself in his possible reelection bid, Menino must talk about his relevance, Whalen said.
“What he really needs to talk about is his relevance across generations and with no particular age or gender group,” he said. “He has to show people he’s still on his game.”
While Menino will turn 71 just after the upcoming election, a political science expert said that his age and health do not completely rule him out.
“There have been plenty of politicians that have served that have been 70 years old,” said Paul Watanabe, chair of the political science department at UMass Boston.
Despite that, Watanabe said that the audience of Tuesday night’s address will still focus more on Menino’s health and potential future than the content of his speech.
“My guess is that most of the attention will not be focused on substance or a policy agenda, but … hints about his political future,” he said.
Flubs and feats
In the past year Menino has had his fair share of missteps and accomplishments:
*Adding to the “Meninoism” list, the mayor mispronounced the names of Patriots Vince Wilfork and Rob Gronkowski while making a friendly wager on the AFC Championship game with Baltimore’s mayor. He referred to them as “Wilcox” and “Gonk.”
*In the same year that Menino challenged Bostonians to lose 1 million pounds, City Hall Plaza was also the site of a free Wendy’s giveaway that offered people “Son of Baconator” cheeseburgers.
*A startup group aimed at stirring Bostonians to change the city debuted itself with the launch of a video that compares Menino to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The founder of the Future Boston Alliance, Greg Selkoe, is also the owner of Karmaloop.
*Many have praised Menino for his push on making Boston a bicycle-friendly city and in 2012, the city’s bicycle-sharing system Hubway expanded and the number of bikes and stations grew.
*The Innovation District continued to grow in 2012 with celebrity chef Ming Tsai announcing the opening of a restaurant in the Fort Point area and the groundbreaking of a new building that will add hundreds of new residential units.
*While seen as controversial, Menino won praise from many people last year when he put his foot down and sternly spoke out against Chick-fil-A potentially opening near Faneuil Hall. The fast food chain came under fire after its president made anti-gay comments.