Flaherty and Yoon form alliance against Menino

Flaherty-Yoon alliance jolts bid against Menino
Mayor dismisses union as a ploy

By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff | September 30, 2009

Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty’s surprise decision yesterday to promise a vanquished rival, Councilor at Large Sam Yoon, a prominent spot in his mayoral campaign and a post in his administration jolted a race that many had viewed as lopsided only days ago.

Flaherty, an underdog in his bid to unseat a popular four-term mayor, Thomas M. Menino, sought to demonstrate that his new alliance with Yoon is more than a simple endorsement. The former rivals donned Flaherty-Yoon buttons, ordered new campaign signs printed, Twittered a photo of the pair having lunch together, and appeared shoulder-to-shoulder in an early evening television interview.

“You are looking at the next generation of political leadership in the city of Boston,’’ Flaherty declared outside City Hall, clasping Yoon’s hand to the cheers of supporters. Flaherty pledged to name Yoon deputy mayor and to put him in charge of several issues that were at the heart of Yoon’s campaign: launching a new hot line for constituent services, overseeing a computer auditing system for city departments, and dismantling the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

But Menino bluntly dismissed the proposed partnership as “an advertising campaign.’’

“What do you mean ticket?’’ he asked in a telephone interview, scoffing at the term Flaherty used to introduce his partnership with Yoon yesterday. “Their names aren’t going to be on the ballot. Just one name is going to be on the ballot, and that’s Mike Flaherty.’’

Flaherty’s promise to make Yoon his deputy mayor appeared at first to be producing the desired effect, persuading some formerly dispirited Yoon supporters to more enthusiastically back his campaign.

“Probably lots of Yoon supporters were lukewarm on a purely Menino-Flaherty race,’’ said Jeremy Liu, executive director of the Asian Community Development Corp., where Yoon once worked. Liu, who knocked on doors, distributed literature, and held signs for Yoon during the preliminary election, said he went yesterday from being a mere “anti-Menino vote’’ to “definitely a Flaherty-Yoon vote now.’’

“People are really excited about reformatting the race, and I think there’s a lot of upside for the Flaherty-Yoon ticket,’’ Liu said.

Mel King, the former state representative who waged an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1983, said he and other Yoon supporters believe a partnership with Flaherty would give City Hall “more breadth and depth,’’ like a parliament that shares power between opposition parties.

“People are saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t think Boston would have any kind of politics like that, and now here it is,’ ’’ King said.

Bill Owens, a former state senator who backed Yoon in the preliminary election, called the Flaherty-Yoon team a “brilliant idea.’’

“This is a great opportunity to bring people together and to show people how government can work,’’ Owens said.

Flaherty was facing steep odds alone. Menino won 50.5 percent of the vote in the Sept. 22 preliminary election, to Flaherty’s 24 percent and Yoon’s 21 percent. Businessman Kevin McCrea won 4 percent.

Yoon’s backing is no guarantee that all of his supporters will vote for Flaherty on Nov. 3, and, even if they do, the preliminary election results suggest that Flaherty still faces a challenge cobbling together a majority when faced with Menino’s strong and seasoned political operation.

But Flaherty predicted a “change vote’’ energized by the alliance would push turnout from 81,000 in the preliminary election to as many as 140,000 on Nov. 3.

Yoon said he would bring Flaherty strong support among minority voters and “what’s called white progressives.’’

“Together we’ll be able to do more for this city than a fifth Menino administration ever dared to dream about,’’ said Yoon, who, like Flaherty, wore a red, white, and blue button that read: “Flaherty/Yoon ’09: Courage to Change.’’

“It’s two against one now,’’ Yoon said before he appeared with Flaherty on New England Cable News. The pair is planning a joint appearance on WFXT-TV this morning, and Yoon is planning to accompany Flaherty to the first debate of the final election, scheduled to take place tomorrow at 7 p.m. on WCVB-TV.

Deputy mayors are common in many cities, such as Baltimore, New York, and Washington, D.C., where they are typically named only after a mayor takes office. The last deputy mayors in Boston served under Kevin H. White, who served from 1968 to 1984. White appointed deputy mayors to oversee construction, human services, and administration.

“They had clearly differentiated areas of responsibility,’’ said Frank Tivnan, who was White’s communications director from 1969 to 1976. “Of course, occasionally, toes would tread on other people’s turf ,and that might have to be refereed by the mayor. But generally speaking, I think, the compartmentalization worked fairly well.’’

David W. Davis, who was White’s deputy director of administrative services, said “it was really convenient for the mayor to have a deputy to represent him in functions he couldn’t or didn’t want to participate in.’’ Davis said it remains to be seen if the Flaherty-Yoon partnership will succeed.

“If it really works and he really, really wants Mr. Yoon as the deputy mayor, then that’s one thing, and it’s pretty good,’’ Davis said. “If it’s simply a ploy to pick up 20 percent of the vote, well, welcome to the world of politics.’’

Flaherty said that the responsibilities and salary of Yoon’s job have not been worked out, but that they would be similar to those of the mayor’s chief of policy and planning, who oversees much of city government and earns $142,500 annually.

“Clearly, deputy mayors will serve at the will of the mayor,’’ Flaherty said, underscoring that he will be in charge, not Yoon.

McCrea, the other mayoral candidate eliminated in the preliminary election last week, signaled he might endorse the Flaherty-Yoon team, which he praised for supporting term limits. Flaherty has said that he would support a measure to limit the office to two four-year terms.

“The race is shaping up as a real choice between old and new,’’ McCrea wrote on his blog.