In Boston Mayoral Race, Half of the Candidates Are Non-White

In a city long perceived as largely white, five African-American candidates and one Latino are running for mayor.

Posted: 09/16/2013 03:20 PM EDT

(Photos from left: Courtesy of Charles Clemons for Mayor, Courtesy of Charolette Golar Richie for Mayor, Courtesy of John Barros for Mayor)

In Boston, there is now a race for mayor that is drawing nationwide attention for its diversity of candidates.

The race to succeed longtime Mayor Thomas M. Menino has attracted about a dozen candidates in the Sept. 24 preliminary election. Of those, five are African-American and one is Latino. Never before has Boston had a mayoral contest with such a diverse set of candidates.

While Boston has long held an image as a largely white city, the capitol of Massachusetts is now a city where non-white residents make up a majority of the population. In fact, 53 percent of the city’s residents identify themselves as being of an ethnic background other than non-Hispanic white.

However, Boston has never elected an African-American or Latino mayor. Of the 25 largest cities in the United States only Boston and Indianapolis have not elected non-white mayors.

Whether that might occur in Boston this year is far from certain. Even though the large number of non-white candidates has received nationwide attention, many political analysts have said that Boston is likely to elect another white man, specifically an Irish-American, to lead the city.

“Boston is a majority minority city and this could well be a transformative election,” said J. Phillip Thompson, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Black people have not yet come together political in Boston. There are some compelling minority candidates in the race. But the problem is that there are several of them. If one of them makes it to the primary, there is potential that they may come together.”

Menino, an Italian-American who has served as mayor for the last 20 years, was the only non-Irish-American in City Hall since 1930.

According to recent polls, Boston City Councilor John Connolly has a slight edge over the crowded field, but the poll shows nine of the 12 candidates have a reasonable chance of making it into one of the two spots for the final election.

Former city housing chief Charlotte Golar Richie, an African-American candidate, came in second, slightly ahead of state Representative Martin Walsh and District Attorney Daniel Conley. The other African-American candidates are David James Wyatt, Charles Clemons, Charles Yancey and John Barros.  

Felix Arroyo, an at-large city councilor, is the lone Latino candidate in the race.

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