The challenge for Marty Walsh

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh may be getting a free pass so far with the lack of opponents to his reelection but don’t confuse that with his first term going unexamined and unchallenged.

While the only name so far that anyone hears for taking on Walsh is City Councilor Tito Jackson, there is a growing willingness among pundits and activists to hold the mayor’s feet to the fire. Though $3.4 million in the bank will do a lot to cool off the flames of challengers, it won’t help shield Walsh from those who think a life unexamined is no way to reelect a mayor.

Boston magazine’s David Bernstein has a piece in the latest issue wondering why, with the list of stumbles such as the 2024 Olympics, the IndyCar fiasco, the federal indictment of two aides, and racial problems at Boston Latin School, more challengers haven’t surfaced. Bernstein highlights Walsh’s support from power players such as state Rep. Nick Collins, and city councilors Bill Linehan and Michael Flaherty, who either backed Walsh opponent John Connolly or weren’t in his camp the first time around.

“At a time when contenders should be amassing imposing campaign war chests to dethrone the king, the election so far looks like a game of Red Rover, with only one team lined up,” Bernstein writes. “But why? At least on paper, it seems odd, even shocking, that aspiring wannabes would let Walsh coast to a second term without a fight.”

At the same time, the Globe on Monday ran a story that a proposal for a major Walsh reform on municipal lobbying in City Hall languishes in the City Council with no push by either the administration or the council to get it out, allowing lobbyists to continue to perform their work under the radar and unregulated.

Much of what is working in Walsh’s favor is the fact there are historical obstacles to challenging an incumbent mayor with reelection baked into the process. Prior to Walsh’s election, there were just three mayors in the previous 45 years and even Walsh acknowledges the power of the fifth floor does wonders to tamp down outside aspirations.

“We were all kind of waiting,” Walsh tells Boston about the large field of candidates after the late mayor Thomas Menino decided to step aside after 20 years. “If the mayor ran another term, my window might have closed… There’s a lot of newer politicians out there. They’re deciding, is this their time, or do they wait?”

Rev. Bruce Wall has organized a radio forum this week on “how to elect the next mayor” with the focus on the Walsh administration fighting complaints by six black Boston police officers who were fired over a controversial drug test of hair samples. Wall is also planning to put all city councilors on the record for the issue and has vowed to help enlist challengers for the seats. He said he intends to send a questionnaire to both Walsh and the council that he says will be a barometer of their stances on the black community.

“If they do not respond, we’re going to take a very strong stance saying, ‘So you do take the black community for granted, and you don’t think you’re accountable to the black community,’” Wall told the Boston Herald.

Despite Walsh’s vow to be the anti-Menino when it comes to grudges and slights, the Wall effort is rubbing the mayor the wrong way.

“He has not reached out to me on that stuff, so he’s being critical of the administration without reaching out,” Walsh told the Herald. “And when I knew he was in trouble for his radio station, we reached out to him. So I’d appreciate it if we maybe we’d be able to have a little more dialogue.”

Walsh may be showing a bit of a crack in the armor.



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