The rumor mill

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  September 5, 2007

As a result, many think that Connolly’s best target is still Murphy, another subject of much discussion.

Most recently, rumors flew that Murphy had come this close to taking a job offer from the Patrick administration. The story — “wishful thinking” by other at-large candidates, says one Murphy aide — revived the perception that Murphy, a strong and early supporter of Governor Deval Patrick’s candidacy, is now a short-timer on the council, just waiting for the right opening at the State House.

That rumor may not be true, but it does offer a reminder: Murphy has Patrick in his corner. That could make him much tougher to beat this year, and is already helping Murphy in his stronger-than-usual fundraising.

Connolly himself may be uncertain about whom he should be targeting. He insists that he is running for votes, and not against any incumbent — but he has not yet released any platform of issues, which suggests to some that he is still deciding where his opening lies.

Michael’s big decision
After topping the ticket again in 2005, the fourth at-large incumbent, Michael Flaherty, is considered safe for re-election. Nevertheless, he’s the candidate being talked about the most.

Flaherty clearly wants to run for mayor in 2009 — even his staff talks about it openly — and many assume he’s definitely in that race, even though his fellow councilors stripped him of the council presidency this year.

But some wonder whether Flaherty has gotten cold feet about directly challenging Tom Menino for his office.

“Does he have the balls to go the route of Peggy Davis-Mullen and Maura Hennigan?” asks one long-time City Hall observer, referring to the last two challengers clobbered by Menino.

Or perhaps more important, do enough funders and organizers have the balls to support him?

Everything Flaherty does these days is viewed, within City Hall, in the context of that anticipated 2009 mayoral campaign, including a number of apparent attempts to improve his inner-city cred.

Flaherty surprised many this past week, for instance, when he voted with Team Unity and Mike Ross in a defeated proposal to allow non-citizens residing in Boston to vote in city elections.

Many also point to Flaherty as the hand behind Carlos Henriquez’s challenge to Turner. Henriquez, a 30-year-old community activist, came to work for Flaherty as a constituent-services aide two years ago. Should Henriquez win elected office in Roxbury, it would provide an influential ally in that neighborhood, which would be a huge benefit to Flaherty in a mayoral run.

But Flaherty openly supported Ego Ezedi, who ran against Charles Yancey in 2003, while other elected officials in Dorchester and Mattapan — and particularly Turner — rallied around Yancey and labeled Ezedi a tool of white politicians such as Flaherty. Yancey won.

The same fate now seems likely to befall Henriquez; in fact, Henriquez admits he is distancing himself from Flaherty to improve his chances.

That said, Flaherty’s inability to expand his influence into minority neighborhoods may be pushing him toward a decision that the mayor’s office is not in his future. Several council staffers say that Flaherty was planning a run for state senator (despite the significant pay cut) when it appeared, early in August, that Jack Hart was going to leave his seat to head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. Flaherty’s interest in a Senate seat, to some minds, indicates a change of career path from future mayor to future congressman.

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