While local media and City Hall watchers are fixated on the race to fill the city-council seat that became available upon Jimmy Kelly’s death in January, there is another potentially important shift taking shape on the council: several factors have some wondering whether progressive Felix Arroyo may be the most vulnerable at-large incumbent this coming November.
ARROYO, a most vulnerable incumbent.
For one thing, while other candidates have already banked $50,000 or more, Arroyo’s campaign committee is barely in the black; his first fundraiser is scheduled for April 20. Arroyo has never been much of a fundraiser, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt him in the past. In 2005 he raised only about $130,000 — miles behind some of the other at-large city-council candidates — but still easily won re-election to one of the four available seats.
Still, there are other apparent challenges. Arroyo’s absence has been noted around town — and even in the council chamber, where he missed some sessions in December and January. Arroyo had gone to Venezuela as an election observer, and extended the trip into a six-week vacation.
“He’s lost a spark,” says one council insider, who suggests that Arroyo may have come to a realization that he is now too old for a mayoral run.
There’s another issue that has stayed out of the press but not off the rumor-mill: Arroyo’s divorce.
Last year, Arroyo divorced his wife; he is now living with the woman with whom he spent those extra weeks in Venezuela. Some say that it has hurt his image, particularly among the city’s Hispanic community. Others strongly disagree, including Arroyo. “My image is not based on my private life,” he says. “I’m divorced, and I have a person who I love in my life.”
Arroyo also says he remains as committed as ever to his agenda on education, housing, health, and safety issues. Other councilors give him particular credit for his ceaseless efforts to split the city’s planning and development functions, joined together at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, into separate agencies.
The conventional wisdom has been that the most vulnerable target among the four incumbent at-large councilors — all of whom say they are running again — is Stephen Murphy, not Arroyo. Murphy (who also divorced last year) is a relative moderate in a city where progressives are riding a wave at the polls.
But Murphy has beaten the conventional wisdom before. And this time he seems less vulnerable, partly because of anticipated support from Governor Deval Patrick, whom Murphy championed early and avidly.
Meanwhile, Michael Flaherty is considered safe, despite losing the council presidency, thanks to his widespread base of support and a half-million dollars in the bank. Sam Yoon, who is raising money handily, is also seen as a lock for one of the four seats.
That may leave Arroyo as the odd man out, if someone puts up a strong challenge to the incumbents. The only candidate so far who might be able to do that is John Connolly, who finished fifth two years ago in a hotly contested race, and who already has about $55,000 on hand. But there’s plenty of time for others to jump in. In particular, there’s a pretty blatant opening for a female candidate, some say. In this case, more might not be merrier for Arroyo.