Boston’s 2013 municipal election was extraordinary not just as the first open Mayoral race in twenty years or the free-wheeling preliminaries, but because Marty Walsh and Michelle Wu secured victory with very unorthodox neighborhood coalitions.
Municipal campaign managers often speak of New Boston vs. Old Boston during elections. New Boston consists of communities of color and the group of progressive white neighborhoods (Jamaica Plain, South End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill) that usually vote with them. Old Boston refers to the ethnic white working class neighborhoods and more conservative middle-class white neighborhoods that also vote together, such as the South Boston, Charlestown, North End, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, etc. Over the decades a growing share of Boston’s population consists of people of color, however, leading to new possibilities for candidates of color and new political dynamics for all city-wide candidates.
Three of the four winning At-Large City Council candidates cruised to victory the traditional way. Compare these google maps I put together for voter percentages for Ayanna Pressley and Michael Flaherty:
The map of Stephen Murphy’s precinct votes looks similar to Flaherty’s, and they are both mirror images of Pressley’s base. Pressley was elected by New Boston, Flaherty and Murphy by Old Boston.
The first surprise of the 2013 elections was that the Mayoral race was decided more along class lines than the traditional New vs. Old Boston alliances. South Boston went strongly for Walsh, breaking ranks from middle-class white neighborhoods like West Roxbury. High-income progressive white neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and the South End backed Connolly, breaking ranks with communities of color. My neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, which looks like an extension of Roxbury on most electoral maps, was split exactly down the middle – 50% for Walsh, 50% for Connolly – and zooming in on my map of the Mayoral votes by precinct will show you that Connolly captured the higher-income whiter precincts in central western JP, while eastern JP, the Latin Quarter, and the Forest Hills neighborhoods went for Walsh:
The final surprise was Michelle Wu’s rookie 2nd place finish, which she accomplished with an unusual geographic base. Wu cleaned up in progressive white neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain, South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill. In addition, her base extended to Fenway/Kenmore and Allston. However, aside from Chinatown and a few areas of Roxbury, she did not perform as well in communities of color. This is an unusual coalition of neighborhoods to line up behind the same candidate, and to pull it off Wu needed extraordinarily high turnout from all of them, which she got: more than 91 precincts gave Wu 20% or more of their votes (the precincts in the darkest green). To put that in perspective, Michael Flaherty and Stephen Murphy together had only 44 precincts deliver 20% or more votes:
As usual, the at-large candidates who did not make the cut had trouble breaking out of the neighborhoods they live or work in. Follow these links to pull up voting maps for any of the remaining candidates: