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Mayoral contest stays hot to its end

Koch, Mahoney still trading barbs

By Robert Preer
Globe Correspondent / November 3, 2011

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Quincy’s contentious mayoral race between incumbent Thomas P. Koch and challenger Anne M. Mahoney is heading to a conclusion in next Tuesday’s election amid a flurry of accusations.

Mahoney has repeatedly charged Koch with nepotism, political favoritism, and reckless fiscal policies. Koch has responded saying Mahoney has turned to negative campaigning to make up for a lack of any plans for the city.

Late last week, the conflict between the candidates turned personal in a flare-up over an incident that occurred in a debate at the Quincy Access Television studio. Mahoney, who is vice chairwoman of the Quincy School Committee, said she was taken aback when Koch made physical contact with her arm while he was trying to make a point.

“He didn’t just grab it; he squeezed it,’’ Mahoney said in an interview afterward. “I was surprised. It was off-putting when someone is grabbing your arm. You wouldn’t see that sort of an exchange between two men.’’

Koch said he had been unable to speak because Mahoney had refused to relinquish the floor, and the moderator did not intervene. “I gently lowered my hand to her forearm,’’ he said. “I was trying to be diplomatic. We were sitting next to each other.’’

The hotly contested race for mayor in Quincy contrasts sharply with low-key mayoral races in other communities south of Boston. In Braintree, Brockton, and Weymouth, first-term incumbent mayors are facing candidates who are not well-known, established politicians.

Koch, 48, of North Quincy, is seeking a third two-year term in the Nov. 8 election. He unseated former mayor William J. Phelan in 2007, then defeated Phelan again in a rematch two years later.

A top aide to then-mayor James A. Sheets in the 1990s, Koch was commissioner of the city parks department for 12 years. Earlier, he served as director of the Council on Aging.

Mahoney, 46, a West Quincy resident, is serving her second term as a citywide elected School Committee member. As vice chairwoman of the panel, she is the highest-ranking elected committee member. By law, the mayor serves as School Committee chairman.

Mahoney works as a strategic marketing consultant. She and her husband, Kevin Mahoney, founded Cyclone Design, a Quincy graphic design firm.

Koch has maintained a big fund-raising advantage over Mahoney. Going into the final two weeks of the campaign, Koch’s spending topped $232,000, while Mahoney had spent about $25,000, according to reports filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Koch went into the final days of the campaign with a balance of almost $36,000. Mahoney’s balance as of Oct. 21 was just under $8,000.

Both candidates have been knocking on doors and appearing at campaign coffees and sign-holding standouts. Since early September, the rivals have faced off in a series of debates and candidates’ nights.

“Our momentum is picking up,’’ Mahoney said last week. “We’ve been working day in and day out.’’

Said Koch: “I don’t take anything for granted. I’m working very hard.’’

Before she launched her candidacy in the spring, Mahoney had been critical of Koch’s handling of the city’s school budget, which the mayor cut last year. She said she decided to run for mayor after Koch named longtime city councilor Daniel G. Raymondi, a lawyer, to the $110,000 a year job of public works commissioner. She said the hiring was an example of Koch’s rewarding a political ally with a lucrative city job.

Koch defends the appointment, saying that Raymondi has broad knowledge of the city and that his legal background is a strong asset in the position.

Mahoney also has focused attention on members of Koch’s family who are on the city payroll. Koch responds that relatives who work for the city were hired before he became mayor.

The candidates have clashed over Koch’s redevelopment plan for downtown Quincy, as well as the proposed location for a new Quincy High School track.

In his public statements, Koch has stressed his success at stabilizing city finances, maintaining services, and moving forward with a downtown plan. He also points to the recent opening of the Quincy Concourse connector road downtown and plans for a new Central Middle School.

“We have a clear record of achievement. We’ve made tremendous progress during a difficult economic time,’’ Koch said.

Mahoney has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Suffolk University and also worked as a senior executive at Verisk Health, a health care advisory firm. She said she would use the financial expertise she developed in the private sector to eliminate waste and inefficiency in city government.

“You have to understand your business,’’ she said. “You have to know where your finances are coming from, and you have to strategize.’’

Robert Preer can be reached at