In less than two weeks the 90-member Democratic Town Committee will endorse a candidate for mayor as well as others for municipal offices. The next day challenge candidates will commence to petition onto the ballot for the September 16 primary. Who has an edge?
History is on the side of the endorsed candidate for mayor, but with some recent close calls. The last time an endorsed mayoral candidate was defeated in a Democratic primary was 1975 when John Mandanici took out Bill Mullane. Mandy had strong pockets of party support to lift him over Mullane.
Mayor Bill Finch, by virtue of the power of incumbency, should have an edge going into the July 21 party convention, with former Mayor Joe Ganim holding his own from years of political alliances and working Finch opponents. A check with various political operatives shows the mayor has strength among town committee voters in six districts including Black Rock, South End, West Side and portions of the North End and East Side while Ganim has support in the East End, Upper East Side and portions of the North End and East Side.
Who are these people making the endorsement? They are party regulars who prime the pump of political campaigns. Some are on the government payroll, others elected officials, others neighborhood activists involved in their community.
Endorsed candidates for mayor, however, have had some close calls including 2003 and 2007.
The 2003 Democratic primary was a wild bomb-thrower that included six candidates five months after Ganim resigned office following his conviction on federal corruption charges. John Fabrizi, the City Council president, succeeded Ganim as mayor, but had his share of baggage as a party insider exploited by then maverick State Rep. Chris Caruso. Fabs won the primary with 4,240 votes to Caruso’s 3,937 with school board member Max Medina placing a respectable third. Fabrizi won the general election following a competitive challenge from Republican Rick Torres who’s running for the city’s top office this year.
Fabrizi, under pressure from party regulars following revelations of drug use and seeking court leniency on behalf of a sexual offender who was friends with his son, decided against another term in 2007 when polls showed he was well behind Caruso. Party players needed someone who could defeat Caruso. They prevailed upon then State Senator Bill Finch who edged Chris Caruso 4,263 votes to 4,051 in a 25 percent primary turnout.
Four years later as the incumbent Finch defeated Mary-Jane Foster by roughly 5,400 to 3,800 in a 21 percent turnout. The registration was higher that cycle as a result of Barack Obama running for president in 2008.
What will the turnout be this September? Ganim’s presence will likely bring out more voters both on his behalf and against. Finch will spend about $600,000, Ganim $300,000 and Foster likely $150,000 or perhaps more. That will equate to record spending in a primary. The current Democratic registration is roughly 38,000. Assuming a Finch, Ganim and Foster primary, will the turnout hit high 20s to 30 percent?
Possibly, which means somewhere between 11,000 and 12,000 Dems will turn out. That places a target number for victory around 4,500, perhaps a bit higher.