Callers who dial the phone number listed on mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea’s website will find themselves directed to a rather unusual campaign office: his home.
McCrea, a South Boston businessman, is a different kind of candidate in this year’s mayoral elections. A former motorcycle racer, McCrea campaigns with homemade YouTube videos while his opponents run polished television advertisements.
Most significantly, McCrea runs for office having never held an elected position ‘- a fact that has become a cornerstone of his campaign.
Even with less than a week to go before the Sept. 22 primary, McCrea rarely fails to remind an audience that unlike his competitors, incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino and City Councilors-At-Large Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, he is not a politician.
It’s a term the 42-year-old contractor seems to treat as if it were a curse word.
‘Politicians don’t want you to see what’s going on,’ he said in an interview with The Daily Free Press. He has built his platform around exposing corruption in City Hall and bringing ‘total transparency’ to the mayor’s office.
At mayoral forums and debates, McCrea picked fights with Menino over what he claimed were shady property dealings. Menino repeatedly dismissed his charges as ‘nonsense.’
McCrea has also been openly skeptical about Yoon and Flaherty’s vows to bring change to City Hall.
‘They’re talking about transparency,’ McCrea said.’ ‘But the reality is their actions are in direct contradiction with what they’re talking about today.’
McCrea faced voters once before, unsuccessfully, in the 2005 City-Council-At-Large race. Four years on, he said he has ‘learned a lot’ and has gotten better at ‘getting [his] message out there.’
He said the political environment in 2005 was not as suitable to his brand of anti-politics.
In today’s tough economy, people are more attuned to the ‘backroom deals’ and other issues that he ‘couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to four years ago,’ McCrea said,
But some, such as Boston University mass communication professor John Carroll, question whether McCrea poses a legitimate threat to his competitors in Tuesday’s primary.
‘I don’t even think Kevin McCrea thinks he is going to come in second,’ Carroll said. ‘I’m not sure that’s the reason he’s in the race at all. I think he wants to highlight certain issues and make other candidates address those issues.’
Even McCrea’s own mother is unsure what the outcome of the primary will be.
‘Is he going to win? That’s an interesting question,’ Joanne McCrea said. ‘He should win because he would do a good job.’
McCrea, who was born in Brighton, returned to Boston after earning his undergraduate degree at Wabash College in Indiana. He named his company Wabash Construction, which he still owns today, after his alma mater.
‘ ‘He was always very focused, very intense, very competitive,’ Joanne said of McCrea as a child.
McCrea has been compared to Ralph Nader, a four-time independent presidential candidate, for being the mayoral race’s proverbial dark horse. He said he isn’t insulted, though in presidential elections Nader has always finished far behind more mainstream candidates.
‘I voted for Ralph Nader,’ he said. ‘That’s not a bad person to give your vote to.’
McCrea is the only mayoral candidate to strongly oppose City Council president Mike Ross’ ‘No More Than Four’ off-campus student housing ordinance, which makes it illegal for more than four undergraduates to live together in Boston.
‘Frankly, I think it’s probably unconstitutional,’ McCrea said.
Like his fellow challengers, McCrea said he is committed to reforming the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes program, under which Boston colleges and universities are affected.
He praised BU, which gave $4.6 million to the city in 2008 under its agreement, as ‘by far the best’ at giving back, but he said he wants to make the amount colleges and universities give a uniform sum.
‘[BU] gives a ton of scholarships, whereas Northeastern pays less than I do in taxes,’ McCrea said. ‘While the mayor may think I’m more of a pain in the ass than all the Northeastern students in the city, I think they put a little more of a strain on the fire, water and police services than I do.’
McCrea also stands with Yoon and Flaherty in his opposition of the Biosafety Level-4 laboratory, something he says he’s been against from the beginning.
‘I just don’t think it belongs in an urban environment,’ he said, proposing that a better location for the BSL-4 lab would be at a closed-down military base in Weymouth.
If he were to become mayor, McCrea said he would have to ‘look into what we can do legally’ in order to prevent the biolab from opening.
But McCrea also spoke of what may be the most important issue of all to college students in Boston: having a good time.
‘I don’t talk about it a lot, but what I really look forward to when I’m mayor is making this city a lot more fun,’ McCrea said.
He said he wants to have more diverse concerts at the Hatch Shell and to make it easier for Bostonians, students included, to party in the streets.
‘What it takes to get a permit to have a block party is like a Byzantine torture,’ McCrea said. ‘If 50 people want to close down a block and have bands play for a couple of hours I think that’s fantastic, but right now it’s really difficult to do that.’
McCrea has less than a week to convince voters that his underdog campaign deserves to advance final election on Nov. 3.
He said he cannot be certain of victory.
‘Am I going to win? I don’t know,’ McCrea said. ‘Do I feel good? I do feel good.’