Flynn opens new mayoralty era in Boston

Boston's mayoral election has been branded ''historic.'' According to some political analysts, it was and it wasn't. More specifically, it was not a typical Boston election, but it did parallel some election trends elsewhere in the country.

Raymond L. Flynn easily won the election Tuesday, defeating his opponent Melvin H. King by a 2-to-1 margin. Both candidates ran campaigns that were dramatic departures from Boston's norm.

They ran ''nitty-gritty, door-knocking campaigns,'' making appeals to voters citywide. They spoke of restoring Boston's decaying neighborhoods, of providing better housing, of helping the troubled public schools, and of unifying the city. And both scraped by with very small campaign budgets.

Mr. Flynn ran as a neighborhood ''populist.'' He says he wants to promote Boston's booming downtown, but also to make sure that the neighborhoods don't get left behind. He has pledged to work with blacks and whites to unite the city , which has a tenacious reputation for being racist.

Mr. King is the first black ever to make it to the final election. His ''rainbow coalition'' stressed the ''politics of inclusion,'' and especially appealed to minority interests in Boston.

Neither candidate sought a campaign with racial overtones, but race clearly played a role in the election. Flynn received very few votes from minorities, while King garnered about 20 percent of the white vote.

The fact that King ran so strongly in the preliminary election in September is ''very significant,'' says John Marttila, a political analyst in Boston. But he adds ''the first predictor of voting behavior is still race.'' For King to have received more than 25 percent of the white vote in his first final election would have been far above what Mr. Marttila says can be expected in other cities across the nation.

Boston has a minority population of about 25 percent. According to raw demographics, Marttila says, if Boston stays true to the national trend, it may be 10 years before enough of the city's white voters team up with the minority voters to elect a black mayor.

In contrast, Chicago and Philadelphia, which have both elected black mayors this year, have significantly larger percentages of minority voters.

Despite his defeat, King and his supporters say great progress has been made. In his concession speech, King said there were two winners. The coalition did not win, he said, ''but it can never be said that it was defeated.''

As in many other cities, voter-registration drives before the election increased the electorate by 25 percent - adding mostly minority voters to the rolls. King predicts that this process will continue, and that blacks will continue to expand their power at the polls.

In addition in Tuesday's election, two blacks were elected to the 13-member Boston City Council, and three blacks joined the school committee.

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