First-person analysis from inside the winning mayoral campaign Mayor-elect Marty Walsh wasn't supposed to be the next mayor of Boston.
The wildly popular Tom Menino was supposed to run for an unprecedented sixth term and sweep to victory against Boston City Councilor-at-Large John Connolly, whom most observers had decided was in the race to set himself up to be the front-runner four years hence.
But when Menino suddenly bowed out for health reasons, the aforementioned Connolly was well-positioned to take advantage of having been in the race for mayor for months.
Not that anyone thought he'd run unopposed.
Before long, among others running for mayor were: Well respected minority woman, who was expected to be funded in part by the national women's campaign group; a well-financed incumbent district attorney; a well-known and well-liked Italian city councilor from Menino's home turf of Hyde Park; and a Hispanic city councilor with good name recognition and an impressive field operation.
All were seen by most insiders as having the best potential to successfully emerge as Connolly's strongest foe.
Virtually nobody predicted success for a little-known, eightterm state representative from Dorchester, who, unlike three of the five possible contenders noted above, had never even been on a citywide ballot.
Yet Marty Walsh is the next mayor of Boston and how he won is the stuff of future political legend and folklore.
Walsh surrounded himself with a small group of advisers who understood his potential to not only be a great candidate, but also to answer more succinctly than any of his potential foes why he really did understand the genuine concerns of Boston voters, how he genuinely cared about those concerns, and how he was best able to aggressively address those concerns.
He slowly pieced together a preliminary coalition of: constituents who had supported him during his legislative races; labor allies from his years fighting not just for a minimum wage, but for a livable wage; the gay community, where it was not forgotten he had been one of the key figures in the successful passage of a marriage-equality act 10 years ago; the liberal caucus of the state Legislature, whose members crisscrossed Boston telling voters how Walsh had fought for mental health, senior and human-services programs; the recovery community, which saw Walsh's successful efforts to take advantage of the second chance he gave himself by embracing sobriety as offering hope to thousands of others.
With all this, Walsh upset the predictions of all the prepreliminary polls and topped the ticket. But that was just half the battle.
A Boston Herald poll taken days before his successful preliminary upset showed that in a head-to-head matchup with Connolly, a candidate who already had been endorsed by both of the city's two biggest newspapers, Walsh was losing by 17 points with only five weeks to make up the large lead.
So how did Walsh do it? First, unlike his opponent who spoke almost exclusively of his commitment to reform the Boston Public Schools, Walsh insisted that while schools and education reform were indeed important issues, they weren't the only issues.
Jobs and crime also mattered as did many other issues.
Moreover, Walsh fought for the endorsements of those elected officials whom voters knew and trusted and eventually was able to secure the endorsements of both of Boston's congressmen; every elected woman who endorsed; and every elected official of color who chose to endorse.
More dramatic, he won the endorsement of all three minority candidates who had run against him and Connolly for months, with all independently concluding that Walsh was indeed the right candidate to be the next mayor.
There's an old political adage: You can't win if you don't run. My friend, and my candidate, Marty Walsh, chose to run against all odds; against all those who told him he was on a fool's errand; against all who said there was no way he could win. (Editor's note: Marty Walsh is a client of the author.)
On Jan. 6, 2014, Walsh begins the awesome task of running one of America's great cities. Don't bet against him becoming a great mayor.