Boston's at-large city council race frequently gets more than eight candidates for the four seats. To narrow the field to a manageable number, the city holds a preliminary election, in which the top eight get on the final ballot. Almost always, the full field includes candidates with no decent shot at winning a seat, so the prelim is really just a costly process for throwing a few of these hopeless folks off the ballot.
But, it's gotta be done, to make sure that November voters don't face an incomprehensible list of a dozen or more names. So it's hard to understand why anyone's worked up about doing it this year, just because the nine candidates are the minimum that triggers the prelim.
But it's particularly hard to justify asking any of the long-shot candidates to gracefully step aside for the sake of saving the commonwealth a half-million dollars. First of all, I'm pretty sure we should be in favor of participating in local democracy -- and getting the required signatures to qualify for the ballot is some serious participation.
But also consider that one of the four long-shots could quite easily become a city councillor. It's not hard to imagine. All it would take is two of the top five (the four incumbents and second-time candidate John Connolly) to find other interests in the next 29 months.
That's not at all unlikely. Steve Murphy could still land a job in the Patrick administration -- possibly even before the November election. Felix Arroyo could easily get a tempting offer to run some non-profit. Michael Flaherty could decide to resign to concentrate on running for Mayor. Who knows what Connolly will be doing (or running for) two years from now.
Let's say next year one of the incumbents leaves, and Connolly is no longer interested. The seat then goes to the sixth-place finisher -- ie, the top vote-getter among the long-shots.
So don't tell any of those long-shots to step aside -- someday you might be calling him Councilor Long-Shot.