This is the second part in a series of profiles about the candidates facing off in the Nov. 5 election.
City Councilor John Connolly, running to be the next mayor of Boston against Mass. Rep. Martin Walsh, has focused his campaign on education in order to keep college students in Boston after they graduate and to make children in the Boston Public Schools more competitive.
“Every campaign is different and every candidate is different,” Connolly said in an interview. “I look at Boston right now and I think there are a generation of younger Bostonians who want to live in the city that recognize the strength of living in a diverse city, but they need the schools to work, they need be able to afford a place and they want to know that we have a rich social and cultural life.”
Connolly said he wants to work to keep successful young people in the Hub.
“Microsoft and Facebook were born here, but they didn’t grow up here,” he said. “The city needs a real comprehensive strategy to retain young talent in the city. We need to have a real housing strategy to make it affordable for recent college graduates to stay, but we also need an economics strategy to draw companies from across the tech spectrum to come to Boston. The result is we lose a lot of talent that would otherwise stay in the city.”
Natasha Perez, spokeswoman for the Connolly campaign, said as a former BPS teacher, he has always valued education as one of the most important modern issues.
“[Connolly is] a father of a student in Boston Public Schools,” she said. “He feels like education is a key piece that will transform Boston into a city where everyone can live, work and raise a family. The issue of education is so important to John Connolly because he believes that education is connected to the economy and public safety.”
Connolly was the first person to declare his candidacy, declaring his plan to run on Feb. 26 before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced that he was not seeking a sixth term.
Perez said advances to education would improve public safety and reduce crime in at-risk neighborhoods.
“[We] want to live in neighborhoods that are safe and healthy,” she said. “And we do that by making sure that kids aren’t dropping out because that’s where the crime starts.” While Walsh has received a greater number of endorsements during the race, many people have chosen to support Connolly through donations. Since the beginning of October, Connolly has raised approximately $600,000, compared to Walsh’s $210,000, according to various news outlets.
Mass. Rep. Sal DiDomenico, a long-time friend of Connolly, endorsed Connolly on Oct. 9 because he said education has always been his top priority in the State House.
“I’ve seen John do good things for our schools, for our seniors and really take a strong stand — you always know where John Connolly stands on issues,” he said.
DiDomenico said he hopes as mayor, Connolly can boost the academic rankings of BPS.
“He will make sure that they’re [BPS children] competing,” he said. “Not just with neighboring cities, but with neighboring states and with kids across the world.”
DiDomenico said Connolly would follow in Menino’s footsteps to address the needs unique to each neighborhood and would be able to unite the city by ensuring that residents in all neighborhoods would have the same access to opportunities and resources.
“He’s not just looking at a few groups of people who are going to be helped by his policies,” he said. “He looks at the city as a whole, and particularly our children. He wants every child to have a good opportunity to succeed across the city.”
Perez said Connolly wants to tackle the issue of encouraging college graduates to stay in Boston by promoting arts culture around the city, funding transportation improvements such as late-night Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority service and creating affordable housing through foreclosure interventions and micro-units for young professionals.
“There’s so much talent coming out of places like BU [Boston University],” Perez said. “We want to make sure that the BU student who comes here from anywhere across the country, or the world, wants to remain in Boston. We do that by having opportunities for affordable housing and creating an education system and helping neighborhoods and creating an economy where they want to stay here even longer and raise their families here.”
DiDomenico said Connolly is the best candidate to be mayor.
“I have no doubt that John Connolly will be a great education mayor for our kids and we’ll be lucky to have him,” he said. “He’ll make sure children have a seat and a voice in City Hall and the mayor’s office.”
Kyle Plantz contributed to the reporting of this article.