Boston primary vote seen as setback for Mayor White

Boston's politically embattled Mayor Kevin H. White may have been the big loser in the city's Sept. 22 municipal primary, even though his name was not on the ballot.

Only three of seven City Council candidates backed by the four-term chief executive and the full weight of his organization gained nomination, two of them narrowly.

With one-third of the nine current councilors not seeking new terms, the mayor, who has been up against an increasingly balky council over the past 18 months, was all the more determined to strengthen his support there.

The mayoral move, unprecedented in Boston political history, not only embittered incumbent councilors, who viewed it as an attempted purge, but other candidates and their supporters.

Not only did the reelection-bent councilors finish one through six in the 40 -candidate field for the 18 nominations, but none of the mayor's chosen seven was favored by more than 21 percent of those voters who went to the polls.

Further, Bruce Bolling, the only White-backed contender to finish in the top nine, comes from a well-known family on the Boston political scene and had strong backing from within the black community.

In contrast Councilor Raymond L. Flynn, one of the mayor's staunchest critics polled the largest vote in the 40-candidate council field, and in the process scored more than double the support of Mr. Bolling.

The other primary survivors from "Kevin's seven," as White's critics dubbed the mayor's endorsees, were Gerard McHale, a 12th-place finisher four years ago who scored 17th this time, and Pamela Gillman, a political newcomer who wound up 18th.

Besides the six incumbents and Mr. Bolling, the top nine included James Kelly , a South Boston resident and longtime antibusing activist.

On the school committee side of the ballot, where 10 candidates from a field of 13 were nominated, two blacks finished among the first five -- a first. They included the present chairman, John D. O'Bryant, and Jean McGuire, who was eighth in the 1979 final.

The strong O'Bryant showing came despite efforts by the Boston Teachers Union , angered over the recent tight-budget layoffs of 710 tenured teachers, to topple or at least scare current school board members.

Two other incumbents -- Elvira (Pixie) Palladino, and John McDonough -- barely won renomination, winding up in sixth and ninth place respectively.

For the first time a Hispanic -- Felix Arroyo -- won citywide nomination, finishing eighth in the school committee race.

Rarely has a school committee candidate finishing below seventh in the primary managed to win in the November election. And the post-primary battle for the nine council chairs is usually among the top dozen nominees.

A hostile council or school committee could make it hard for White who has two more years left in his current term and may already have his sights set on a fifth term.

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