Boston's Mayor Flynn Weighs His Political Future

Local leaders predict he could be tapped for a post with Clinton or run for governor

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BOSTON Mayor Raymond Flynn is taking a long look beyond the walls of City Hall.

This year, after spending much time campaigning across the country for President-elect Clinton, Mayor Flynn is flirting with the idea of securing a position in the Clinton administration.

The three-term mayor, who served as president of the United States Conference of Mayors last year, has built a strong reputation as a national urban leader. An advocate for the homeless, he drew attention to troubled US cities during the presidential campaign. Flynn is also well-liked in Boston; he was reelected in 1991 with 75 percent of the vote.

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Before Mr. Clinton began naming people to his Cabinet, rumors started swirling here that Flynn was in the running for the posts of labor secretary or secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But Clinton has since tapped Robert Reich of Harvard University and former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, respectively, for these positions. Thus, some speculate that Flynn will be offered a lower-level undersecretary position.

"I think it's possible that he might be offered a position," says Lawrence DiCara, former Boston City Councilor who is considering a run for mayor in 1995. "But I anticipate it might not be a position worthy enough of him leaving the mayor's office. Ray Flynn enjoys being mayor." Flynn's interest has waned

As for Flynn himself, after first building up the idea of taking a post in the new administration, he has played it down in recent weeks. He has even said he would flat-out refuse a post, even if one were offered to him. Although Flynn was unavailable for comment this week, Mr. DiCara suggests that the popular neighborhood mayor might not like living away from his home turf.

"We have spoken about his going to Washington and I think he is ambivalent about it," DiCara says. "On the other hand, I think there are few Americans who, if called by the president and told: `I want you,' would refuse."

According to William Schneider, a political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Flynn's support of urban American may hurt his chances for a post.

"Flynn is so clearly identified as one of the national leading urban advocates - if not the leading urban advocate - that [Clinton's people would say] `He would be trouble because he would be an advocate for the cities and he would put pressure on the budget and we don't need that,' " Mr. Schneider says.

Boston City Council President Albert (Dapper) O'Neil says he does not expect that Flynn will be tapped for a post because he jumped on the Clinton bandwagon too late. Like other Democratic leaders in this state, it took Flynn a little while to warm up to the idea of a Southern governor as a presidential candidate. Councilor O'Neil notes that Flynn courted several leaders before finally supporting Clinton.

"Those people around President-elect Bill Clinton must be saying to Clinton: `You know, Mr. President, at first he was with Mario Cuomo. Then he went from him to Ross Perot. Then after [Clinton] got the nomination - after it was all over - then good ol' Ray jumped on board.' I don't think they're going to give him anything," O'Neil says. Governor's race in 1994

More likely, he adds, would be the possibility of Flynn running for Massachusetts governor in 1994. Some other likely contenders include incumbent Gov. William Weld (R), US Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D), Boston University president John Silber (D), and State Sen. Patricia McGovern (D).

But winning the gubernatorial election may not be easy for Flynn. His political identity is tied with cities, Schneider says, and that could alienate him from suburban voters.

"It is a rare mayor who becomes governor of his own state," he says. "Ed Koch tried to become governor of New York. He couldn't do it because he came to be identified too much with the city." Two exceptions are Gov. Pete Wilson (R) of California, who served as mayor of San Diego from 1971 to 1983, and Maryland's Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D), mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987.

If he decides against running for governor, the popular mayor could decide to run for a fourth mayoral term in 1995.

Despite his popularity in Boston, local leaders were not pleased with his frequent campaigning trips around the country. O'Neil says Flynn should have spent more time tending to business here.

"He should have been here. The people of this city elected him to be [mayor] - not to be traipsing all over the country for a man running for president," O'Neil says.

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