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Tight race as primary nears for mayoral candidates

As the deadline for voter registration in the primary ended Wednesday with many candidates looking to spend their fundraising money on campaign ads, over one-third of voters only have a few weeks left to decide who they will vote for in the heated Boston mayoral race to replace longtime Mayor Thomas Menino.

Douglas Kriner, a professor of political science at Boston University, said he is not surprised that many voters have not made up their minds yet because they are not as informed about the mayoral election as other major political contests.
“The further down the chain of offices you go, the less informed the electorate tends to be, he said.  “As a result, it is really not surprising at all that so many voters have yet to make up their minds.”

A poll released by Boston political consulting firm Sage Systems on Aug. 23 found that about 35 percent of voters are still undecided on which candidate they will support.

Most candidates have focused on education, with a particular emphasis on renovating Boston Public Schools.

“Boston should be the first city in America to transform urban public schools and to offer every child a world class education,” said City Councilor John Connolly in his first campaign ad released on Feb. 25. “We all need our Boston Public Schools to work because great schools equal great neighborhoods.”

Connolly has continued his emphasis on Boston Public Schools and released an ad on Aug. 20 focusing on expired food in the school’s cafeteria.

“I walked in and I found boxes of expired food,” he said. “Most of our children were counting on the Boston Public Schools to give them their only healthy meal in a day. We uncovered it, we held hearings and we fixed it. As mayor, I’ll make education job one. Our kids are counting on us and we can’t let them down.”

SJ Port, spokeswoman for State Rep. Martin Walsh, said Walsh is also concerned with education and with fixing Boston Public Schools.

“If we keep kids in school, they are not out on the streets causing problems public safety wise,” she said. “We want to do good for students or workers. Marty believes in a holistic approach and that everything [in a community] ties together.”

Port said Walsh wants to double preschool and kindergarten seats in the next four years and to work on affordable housing for college graduates to keep them living in the city.

“Once you settle down and start a family, there are not enough seats in Boston Public Schools, so kids have to travel to different neighborhoods, but once kids get to high school, there are many empty seats,” she said. “We want to balance that out.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said in a campaign ad released on Aug. 23 that he is most concerned with lifting the cap on charter schools, launching universal preschools and better teacher training.

“My innovation plan brings businesses and universities together to create better jobs and it starts by strengthening our schools so our kids have the skills to compete with anyone in any state and all over the world,” he said.

Many polls have Connolly, Walsh and Conley as the leaders in the election. In the poll released by Sage Systems, Connolly leads candidates with 12 percent, Walsh follows with 11 percent and Conley with 9 percent of voters.

Close behind the top three in the survey include City Councilor Rob Consalvo and former State Rep. and City Housing Chief Charlotte Richie with 7 percent of voters each, City Councilors Michael Ross and Felix Arroyo with 6 percent each and Nonprofit executive John Barros and former health care executive Bill Walczak with 3 percent each.

City Councilor Charles Yancey, TOUCH 106.1FM radio station co-owner Charles Clemons and former teacher David James Wyatt were not included in the poll because their campaigns did not meet the requirements set by the firm.

Despite the amount of coverage from news outlets on the election, Kriner said many voters are still not as informed as they could be on the importance of the mayoral race and the candidates.

“Most voters are incredibly informed about politics in general,” he said. “[But] even in presidential races, it can be surprising the gaps in most voters’ knowledge about the candidates and key issues.”

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