The Sept. 22 preliminary election was supposed to narrow the field of mayoral candidates from four to two. But while incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino and City Councilor-At-Large Michael Flaherty will be the only two names on the ballot for general election today, City Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon continues to have an impact on the race.
‘When we came together, it was a game changer in this race,’ Flaherty said in an interview with The Daily Free Press, referring to his pledge to make Yoon his deputy mayor if elected. ‘It’s something new and different.’
The position of deputy mayor is not new. Mayor Kevin White appointed several deputy mayors during his tenure from 1968 to 1984, but Flaherty said this is the first time a team has preemptively run.
Yoon says the partnership, widely dubbed ‘Floon,’ has been working well. The two have even been coordinating their outfits before heading out on the campaign trail.
‘It brings together the unique experience that each of us has, and it just shows that there’s a new way to do politics in our city,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t have to be about me, me, me, but two people who were rivals who may differ on some things can actually agree on enough to bring about change.’
Flaherty said Yoon will be in charge of dismantling the Boston Redevelopment Authority and will take the lead on affordable housing, but for now there are few specifics on exactly what the role of deputy mayor would entail.
Yoon, Flaherty said, would essentially be replacing Chief of Policy and Planning Michael Kineavy, who has taken an unpaid leave of absence after emails he deleted became the center of a public records scandal Flaherty has called ’emailgate.’
Flaherty called Kineavy ‘technically the mayor’s deputy.’
Flaherty said he made the decision to ask Yoon to be his deputy soon after the preliminary election, for reasons including the fact that their combined vote totals nearly equaled Menino’s majority.
‘I can do math, I went to [Boston College High School],’ Flaherty said, ‘I know that half the people that voted didn’t vote for Tom Menino, they actually voted for the both of us.’
Boston University mass communication professor John Carroll thinks Flaherty is going to need all the help he can get to unseat the mayor.
‘It’s very hard to run against an incumbent who’s as entrenched as Tom Menino,’ he said. ‘Flaherty has done an incredible job as far as being real competition.’
Though Carroll said there is very little downside to having Yoon on the ticket, he sees how some voters could see the partnership as gimmicky relative to the actual structure of the office Flaherty seeks to inhabit.
‘There is no deputy mayor in Boston,’ he said. ‘He could appoint a deputy dog if he wants. It doesn’t really matter from a technical standpoint.’
Menino has come out hard against ‘Floon,’ calling the collaboration ‘jobs for votes’ at an Oct. 1 debate. Menino spokesman Nick Martin said in a Sept. 29 Boston Globe article that ‘these are desperate tactics by a desperate individual.’
Flaherty and Yoon even sing a song about their joint campaign, ‘Flaherty and Deputy’ set to the tune of ‘Ebony and Ivory.’ But they deny that they are gimmicky.
‘To charge the stuff with gimmickyness [sic] is basically saying, ‘don’t pay attention to some of the serious things that Flaherty and Yoon are bringing to the table,” Yoon said.
At Yoon’s post-primary celebration in Dorchester, supporters were not quick to commit to Flaherty, but Yoon insists they have since changed their minds.
‘It’s become clear to my supporters that there’s so much of what my campaign fought for that we’re going to be able to do through this joint ticket,’ Yoon said. ‘There was a really smooth merging of the campaigns.’
Political activist and 1983 mayoral candidate Mel King was a Yoon supporter who has since come to endorse Flaherty.
‘They listen,’ he said. ‘And the willingness to listen is a willingness to change.’
Flaherty’s work during this campaign, King said, has shown a willingness to integrate a diverse ‘cross section’ of the city into his administration.
‘The fact that he is willing to embrace Yoon and then get former mayor Ray Flynn and myself together is a powerful symbol for a city that still has its race issues,’ King said.
But if ‘Floon’ does come up short this time, Flaherty said he may not be finished in Boston politics.
‘I’m going to stay involved most definitely and probably that evening I would challenge [Menino] to a rematch,’ Flaherty said in an interview with The Free Press after an Oct. 19 debate.
‘I care that much about our city,’ he said. ‘I’m not going away.’