Embattled Arroyo wins key backing
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff, 10/28/2003
Battling to retain his seat in Tuesday's election, Councilor at Large Felix D. Arroyo has won an endorsement from the City Council president, Michael F. Flaherty, who says he wants Boston to keep its only Latino councilor in office.
The surprise endorsement could provide a much-needed jolt to Arroyo's campaign, as the only person of color in an at-large City Council seat fights to keep his job.
Flaherty's support has also quickly proved divisive on the council, with Councilor at Large Maura Hennigan accusing him of trying to engineer her ouster.
Arroyo placed fifth in last month's preliminary election, a result that would shut him out of the council if he does not move up the list in next week's general election. But Flaherty's support could be a boon to Arroyo, particularly since the council president is popular in parts of the city where Arroyo has little support.
''It's very important that the City Council's only Latino member continue to serve the interests of a growing Latino community in Boston,'' Flaherty said yesterday. ''I have great respect for Felix Arroyo. He deserves to be reelected.''
The move could help Flaherty's political standing among Hispanics and progressive voters. He could also help his fortunes on the council if he helps Arroyo win, but the late endorsement means he runs the risk of alienating some of the strongest supporters of other candidates, political observers say.
Hennigan accused Flaherty of endorsing Arroyo to hurt her reelection bid. Hennigan said Flaherty wants her off the council because she has been a consistent critic of Mayor Thomas M. Menino's administration and of council leadership. ''He is targeting to defeat me, and that's the best way to accomplish that,'' Hennigan said. ''It just goes to show that when you're independent and talk about issues that some people aren't comfortable with, there is a price to pay for that.''
Eight candidates are vying for the four at-large City Council positions. This year's field is especially crowded; besides four councilors seeking reelection -- Flaherty, Arroyo, Hennigan, and Stephen J. Murphy -- challenger Patricia H. White is also in the running. Her third-place finish in last month's preliminary vote makes it probable that one of the four incumbents will be pushed out.
Flaherty's endorsement of Arroyo was first announced during a televised forum Sunday evening on the Boston Neighborhood Network. Both men said they would try to schedule a joint appearance before the election, but none had been set up as of late yesterday.
Flaherty is also actively supporting White, the daughter of former mayor Kevin H. White.
Hennigan finished fourth in the preliminary contest, about 1,500 votes ahead of Arroyo, and appears to have the most to lose from Flaherty's endorsement.
Hennigan said she is happy for Arroyo, a political ally, and expressed confidence that she would win despite Flaherty's endorsement.
Arroyo said he was thrilled to have Flaherty's backing, saying it shows his ability to work with people who do not share his political beliefs.
''It's always important when a member of the council makes it known that he wants to work with you, particularly when that person is the president of the council,'' said Arroyo.
Last month, Flaherty had a run-in with the council's three minority members, with Chuck Turner saying Flaherty's refusal to let some issues be debated by the council amounted to ''institutional racism.'' When Turner made that remark, Arroyo quickly distanced himself from it by saying he respected Flaherty and leadership of the council.
Flaherty said that Arroyo's actions contributed to his endorsement. ''Felix's defense of my record and my character meant a great deal to me and my family,'' he said.
Rick Klein can be reached at [email protected]
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 10/28/2003.
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