Regardless of whether Raymond L. Flynn or Melvin H. King becomes Boston's next mayor, major changes can be expected in how the city is run over the next four years.
The two contenders on the Nov. 15 ballot are not sound-alike candidates, though each is more deeply committed to improving the city's neighborhoods than outgoing Mayor Kevin H. White appeared to be.
The Flynn-King matchup could present a particular challenge to the business community, especially downtown interests. During his 16 years in office, Mayor White has lavished considerable attention on the city's business interests.
Throughout their elective careers, former state Representative King and former state representative and current City Councilor Flynn have been outspoken champions of affordable housing for the city's low-income residents.
For this reason, foes of rent control and condominium conversion controls will hardly find either candidate to their liking. Neither candidate, however, seems likely to moderate his stance, outwardly at least, on such issues.
No matter how deep-seated their commitments to the neighborhoods may be, neither candidate is likely to back away from downtown development opportunities , especially those that might broaden the city's tax base, thus benefiting the neighborhoods.
Despite any policy disagreements, commercial real estate and other business interests might have with the two mayoral finalists, it is questionable they would choose to sit out the campaign.
But until the dust settles from Tuesday's preliminary election - something that could take a couple weeks - there may be no hint as to which man will garner the most support from outside the neighborhoods.
Having made it this far on shoestring campaign finances, Flynn and King might be content to continue with low-budget operations, relying more on the work of volunteers across the city than on money from special interests.
Were either candidate suddenly to burst forth with a major media ad campaign, he would risk being perceived as abandoning, or at least compromising, his independence.
Because King has become the first black in the city's history to win a spot in the final election, an even more awesome challenge confronts both mayoral contenders during the next 41/2 weeks: keeping the campaign's focus on issues and free from any suggestions of racism.
Contributing mightily to King's nomination was not only his near solid voter support from within the black community but also strength among whites in many other neighborhoods.
To win Boston's top office, he will almost certainly have to hold on to this substantial base and broaden it. Part of that may be accomplished through increased voter registration efforts over the next few days in areas where his appeal may be greatest.
Even more crucial to King's prospects for success, however, is adding new supporters from those who voted for other candidates in the preliminary election.
Flynn also will be going after the backing of these Bostonians, most of whom will be going to the polls in next month's election. He is by no means assured of support from the large number of voters who backed losing mayoral candidates.
As the candidates debate the issues, nit-picking over changes in an opponent's record, might not accomplish much and could boomerang. There is little doubt that efforts by former mayoral candidate David Finnegan to point up position changes in the Flynn voting record over the years did little to help Mr. Finnegan.
Election of the new mayor could hinge substantially on which of the two is more successful in broadening his ballot appeal not only within his carefully cultivated constituency but throughout the city as well.
If the mayoral campaign issue becomes bogged down on the question of Flynn's support for, and King's opposition to, forced school busing in 1974, the best interests of neither candidate might not be served.
Other less volatile but important issues facing the city might be more properly addressed in the coming weeks by the two men who have made such a point of their desire to bring all parts of the city together.
Most Bostonians already are pretty familiar with what Flynn and King have supported or opposed in the past. Now it is the candidates' big opportunity to forthrightly explain what they would do to make the city a better place in which to live and work and visit.