The Yancey Show

Charles Yancey has no shot at getting elected mayor of Boston in November. Charles Yancey is also a veteran Boston politician whom none of the 11 other would-be mayors of Boston can write off.

Charles Yancey has no shot at getting elected mayor of Boston in November. Charles Yancey is also a veteran Boston politician whom none of the 11 other would-be mayors of Boston can write off. And because of the convergence of these two sets of facts, it’s looking like no mayoral candidate will cause as much angst as Yancey will. And really, in the end, isn’t that the point?

Yvonne Abraham’s column asks today, “Is Yancey’s run for real?” She asks the question, seemingly knowing the answer already. She nevertheless gives Yancey, the 30-year city councilor from Dorchester, a couple paragraphs to defend his long-shot mayoral candidacy before she shreds it.

Yancey doesn’t come in for abuse because he would be a disaster as mayor; he comes in for abuse because, seemingly knowing the electorate knows he’d be a disaster as mayor, he’s chasing Mayor Tom Menino’s current job while also running for reelection to his own City Council seat. Yancey is best known for delivering long, rambling speeches, and for his willingness to turn any issue before the council, be it school transportation or public safety or hot dog carts regulations, into an opening for promoting a high school that few people aside from Yancey himself want built in Mattapan. The highlight of his political career came when Jimmy Kelly engineered Yancey’s election as city council president, as a way to spite Menino.

After a June education forum, Globe columnist Larry Harmon said Yancey “seemed more interested in touting the successes and educational achievements of his children than in offering new ideas for the city’s schools.” He loves telling war stories about ordinances he passed with the help of Councilor Tom Menino, but he’s done little to convince people he’s actually serious about wanting to be mayor. Thus Abraham’s asking, are you for real? Followed quickly by a shiv.

Yancey tells Abraham today that he isn’t pursuing a no-risk campaign strategy, running for two seats at once, because he’s afraid of taking the same risk that his city council colleagues Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, Rob Consalvo and Mike Ross are taking. He paints his strategy as a concession to his constituents: “My constituents were concerned that if I ran for mayor and did not prevail, that I would lose my voice in city government, and they were pretty insistent about that, so the compromise is, I’m running for both,” he insisted.

Abraham isn’t buying it. “If you’re serious about running for mayor, you shouldn’t be hedging your bets,” she writes. And this isn’t the first time Yancey’s two-seat strategy has come in for criticism. The Globe recently ran a tough editorial that argued, “If Yancey is so eager to make his presence felt at the citywide level, then he should give up on reelection to his council seat and allow new political leadership to blossom in Mattapan and other parts of the district, which suffer from disproportionately high crime and poverty rates. If he believes his local constituents can’t get by without him, then he should abandon the crowded, 12-candidate mayor’s race and leave the field to more committed candidates.”

Meet the Author

Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

Yancey, of course, has no intention of giving up his safe city council seat for a mayoral run he can’t win. But the real significance of Yancey’s dual candidacy is what it does to the rest of the mayoral field — folks who don’t just have to listen to him talking about the Mattapan high school at mayoral forums across the city, but who might suffer real political damage at Yancey’s hands, come September.

The same constituents who Yancey says won’t let him abandon his city council seat have elected him 15 times. He’s collected more than 6,000 votes in his last two mayoral-year races. Come September, thousands of his constituents are going to vote for him twice. Every one of those votes will come from some other mayoral candidate’s column, be it Consalvo or Arroyo or Charlotte Richie or Dan Conley. In a race where observers believe as few as 25,000 votes could be enough to send a candidate to November’s mayoral final, Yancey’s votes really matter. Even if this election doesn’t seem to matter much to him.