Candidates in the 2009 Boston mayoral election said they are reaching out to college students for support as the race gears up for the Sept. 22 primary.
Incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino is seeking an unprecedented fifth term, with City Councilors-at-large Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty and businessman Kevin McCrea looking to unseat him.
Yoon said young people are the key to winning this race.
‘Young people elected Barack Obama,’ Yoon said. ‘Young people will absolutely make the difference in this mayoral election. Young people are idealistic and they know the importance of change.’
College students are potential contributors to Boston government, Menino campaign spokesman Nick Martin said.
‘One in three individuals is between ages 20 to 34 in the city,’ Martin said. ‘The mayor not only wants to see young people take an active role in politics but also in city government.’
Flaherty campaign communications director Natasha Perez said the mayor needs to make Boston a place where students want to stay after graduation in order to spark their participation on a local level.
‘As a rule, I would say college people understand the connection to the presidential race and national politics,’ Perez said. ‘They feel less connection to local politics, but that’s how they make the decision to live and where to work and where to raise kids.’
Right now, the city must try to keep students here after graduation, Perez said.
‘Boston is known for its youth, and the best and brightest come to Boston for college,’ Perez said. ‘But when it comes time to settle down, they leave.’
Martin said besides hosting events to provide resources for young adults, Menino stresses the benefits students bring to the city.
‘We want to make sure these kids stay in the city because it’s a great resource for the city, and they provide great innovative ideas,’ Martin said.
Menino has stepped beyond his political engagement to emphasize on getting young people involved, Martin said.
‘Engage young professionals at the college level to bring them into an active role,’ Martin said. ‘There are face-to-face meet and greets with the mayor or staff at the campaign office.’
Perez said students can also become involved by participating and volunteering for a campaign.
‘The most import thing is to get involved. Once you are in your community you become more invested in it,’ Perez said. ‘Understand that connection between city government and what happens in their day to day life.’
McCrea said he is young at heart and believes he shares many of the same values that college students today have.
As the mayoral race tightens, all candidates are busy preparing for the primary, which will narrow the field of four candidates to two.
‘The mayor is extremely proud of the record he has, but right now he’s focused on the city,’ Martin said.
Of whether he will be able to unseat Menino, Yoon said, ‘Absolutely, but it won’t be easy.’
He said college students will contribute to his prospective win.
‘College students should vote for the right idealist candidate like me,’ he said. ‘If enough people want Boston to be a world-class city, it will be victorious.’
Perez said BU should consider inviting the candidates to speak to the students face-to-face at a forum in order to enforce the role of students in the election.
‘You won’t have a voice unless you let people have a voice,’ Perez said.