Barring supernatural intervention next Tuesday, incumbent Thomas Menino is expected to top the ticket in Boston's four-candidate mayoral preliminary. The final vote will take place November 3.
With 16 years of executive service under his belt, Menino is the longest-serving mayor in the city's history. So it is no surprise that he is seen as the leader of the political pack.
Menino has not faced a vigorous challenge since 1993. This year, the focused and intelligent candidacies of City Councilors Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty, as well as the campaign of inspired maverick Kevin McCrea, have some voters thinking it is time for a change.
Even the city's two dailies lately seem to have shed their assumptions that Menino should be mayor for life.
With the national economy still in meltdown, and city finances likely to be even more painfully strained next year than they are now, Boston desperately needs a vigorous debate about how it will confront an uncertain future.
The Phoenix believes that Sam Yoon is best equipped to challenge Menino in November's final election.
Yoon and Menino are studies in contrast.
At age 39, Yoon is a member of a rising generation.
The child of Korean parents, having become a naturalized American citizen when he was 10 years old, Yoon identifies with the aspirations and challenges of the immigrant community that makes up an increasing portion of Boston's population.
Yoon's degrees from Princeton and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government have sensitized him to the importance of new ideas.
And Yoon's time spent as an urban public-school teacher and a community organizer, as well as his work in community development, demonstrates that he has the grit and determination to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty.
The fact that he is the first Asian-American ever to be elected to a Boston citywide office demonstrates that Yoon can transcend the narrow preconceptions that on too many occasions still choke local political life.
As President Barack Obama has done in Washington, Yoon here at home offers reasonable hope that new people with new ideas can yield new results.
In more concrete terms, Yoon seeks to dismantle the Boston Redevelopment Authority, replacing it with a Department of Community Development and Planning. His "smart cap" plan would allow successful charter schools to serve more of Boston's students. And he is committed to creating jobs in the new "green economy."
Beyond specific proposals, Yoon has pledged to open up our stultified City Hall to transparent oversight, and to the bright, energetic minds of Boston's institutions. An advocate of term limitations, he has promised that, if elected, he would serve a maximum of two terms.
Yoon has captured the hearts of those who long for a change in Boston.
But if he is to be mayor, Yoon must first convince a majority of voters that he has the head for the job. Despite this newspaper's enthusiasm for his candidacy, we recognize that Yoon's electoral experience, while promising, is limited.
To capture the mayoralty, Yoon will have to offer more than ideas. He is going to have to speak to specifics and — perhaps most vexing of all — explain how he will pay for his programs.
Boston politics are notoriously bruising. A tough election is only a warm-up for the even tougher job of governing this cantankerous city.
Menino is a wily and capable incumbent. His long tenure — he has outlasted Mayors James Michael Curley, Kevin White, and Raymond Flynn in office — is built on the fact that people consistently underestimate him. They do so at their peril.
A race between Menino and Yoon should ensure voters have a real choice in November.
Vote for Sam Yoon in Tuesday's election.