O’Malley is victor in race for Boston City Council

Handily defeats Hennigan for vacated Sixth District seat

Matthew J. O’Malley greeted supporters at his campaign party last night after he won the Boston City Council seat for the Sixth District, vacated by John Tobin. “I cannot wait to get to work,’’ he said. Matthew J. O’Malley greeted supporters at his campaign party last night after he won the Boston City Council seat for the Sixth District, vacated by John Tobin. “I cannot wait to get to work,’’ he said. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / November 17, 2010

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Matthew J. O’Malley, the young, hand-picked successor to John M. Tobin Jr., will take his place on the Boston City Council after a convincing victory over James W. Hennigan last night in the race for the vacant Sixth District seat.

O’Malley garnered 60 percent of the vote to top Hennigan’s 40 percent, according to the unofficial City of Boston election results posted online last night.

“I’m just absolutely elated,’’ O’Malley said in an interview last night. “We ran a strong, positive grass-roots campaign, and I’m so humbled and so honored. I cannot wait to get to work.’’

O’Malley gathered with hundreds of supporters last night at the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain to celebrate his victory.

O’Malley and Hennigan emerged as the favorites in what was originally a five-person race. They advanced to the finals after placing first and second respectively in the Oct. 19 preliminary election.

The 31-year-old O’Malley never looked back. Tobin endorsed him quickly after news broke in July that he would leave the council to take a senior-level post at Northeastern University. O’Malley captured more than 52 percent of the preliminary vote and rode that head of steam into the council chamber.

“There’s no sadness here whatsoever,’’ Hennigan said last night. “I worked hard on the campaign, talked to people about what I truly believed in, but now that it’s over, I’m very happy, because I have a wonderful family, four children, and I look forward to spending some time with them again.’’

“It’s disappointing, but we’re proud of everything that we did and everything that we tried to overcome in the last week,’’ said Patrick Sheridan Rossi, campaign manager for Hennigan. “We put on a really strong effort with the resources that we had and hoped it would push us over the top, but unfortunately that was not the case. The gap was just too large to overcome.’’

O’Malley, who is a Roslindale native and Boston Latin School alumnus, is also a seasoned political veteran, despite his age. He interned for the City Council at age 16 and made two unsuccessful bids for a citywide seat, including his first race at age 23, headquartered in his parents’ basement. He has also helped run winning campaigns for other politicians.

“I’m very happy for Matt; I think it’s great news,’’ Council President Michael P. Ross, who supported O’Malley’s candidacy, said in a phone interview last night. “We have a lot of work to do, and I welcome his energy, his enthusiasm, and his hunger to serve our city.’’

Hennigan came out of the preliminary race motivated, but in the end, he could not match O’Malley’s dollars or ability to get out the vote in the expansive district, which consists of Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill.

Hennigan, of West Roxbury, had been endorsed by Councilors at Large Felix Arroyo and Stephen J. Murphy, as well as the influential International Association of Firefighters Local 718 and several other labor unions. He is also part of a political legacy.

A 56-year-old insurance salesman, Hennigan is the brother of Maura Hennigan, who represented the district before Tobin and who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Thomas M. Menino in 2005. His father, James W. Hennigan Jr., was a state representative for Jamaica Plain.

Yesterday’s election came two weeks after the national midterm election and state gubernatorial race, but it bore little resemblance. Where the congressional and governor’s races were marked with negative advertising, scandal, and controversy, the City Council contest was genteel, with both sides commending the other on a well-run race.

“We ran a positive campaign,’’ O’Malley said. “Jim is a good man, and it was a good race. It will make me a better councilor.’’

Hennigan echoed the sentiment.

“I wish Matt the best,’’ he said. “I always told people there were two good people running for City Council, and I truly believed that. We had a few differences, but that’s always going to happen in a political campaign.’’

Hennigan said he will take the day off and rest today before he starts to make calls tomorrow to gather volunteers to raise money for The Salvation Army, something he does every year.

Turnout was surprisingly high yesterday. Unofficially, 8,811, or about 18.5 percent, of the district’s 47,525 registered voters cast ballots.

“I was thrilled with the turnout,’’ O’Malley said. “It shows how engaged the people of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain are. I wanted to put together a campaign that reflected the vibrancy and diversity of the district, and the fact that we were able to carry both neighborhoods is huge.’’

Voters trickled in yesterday afternoon at the Spring Street Community Room in West Roxbury.

“Matt O’Malley,’’ declared Susan Deugenio after casting her ballot. “I’ve known him for years. I know the family, and he’s a really good person.’’

Deugenio said her daughter knows O’Malley from Boston Latin. She also likes the fact that he works “for the betterment of animals.’’

O’Malley joins a busy City Council that has to decide the fate of Chuck Turner, the councilor who was convicted on federal corruption charges. The council also has to decide on a new president as term limits end Ross’s turn in the chair.

O’Malley said yesterday that Turner should resign and that, barring “something convincing,’’ he would vote to expel Turner.

Ross said he hopes to have O’Malley sworn in after Thanksgiving, with a target date for his first council session of Dec. 1.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at Globe correspondent Aram Boghosian contributed to this report.

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