For the first time in his four campaigns for mayor, Kevin White carried the city of Boston yesterday.
In the past, White has won in selected neighborhoods, piling up votes in liberal and black sections of the city and staying close enough to his challenger in the rest of the city to pull out close victories.
But yesterday, in 19 of 22 wards, White won big, piling up spreads as large as 55 percent in one Roxbury ward. For the first time in his career he carried South Boston, which has never in recent years backed a winner.
The incumbent took East Boston, Charlestown and the North End by large margins, and he kept his usual edge in the liberal Back Bay despite the absence of support of someof the city's liberal leaders.
White picked up many of the votes cast in the preliminary election for Boston School Committee President David Finnegan--and in the city's black wards, where he was beaten by State Rep Melvin H. King in the primary, he humiliated his challenger.
After the September 25 preliminary election--when White beat Timilty by about 14 per cent--both candidates concentrated their efforts on attracting those voters who had chosen either Finnegan or King.
Many observers felt that the bottom dropped out of an already weak Timilty effort when black community leaders and groups failed to give Timilty the endorsements that he needed.
Although King told his supporters that they should "vote against White," he stopped short of endorsing Timilty.
State Rep. Barney H. Frank '62, Boston's other liberal leader who endorsed Timilty, said last night that the liberals' failure to lend Timilty their full support was "not helpful."
In South Boston precincts that Timilty won by a 30-per-cent margin four years ago, White piled up 53 per cent of the vote.
On Savin Hill, where White garnered only 39 per cent of the vote last election, he piled up 55 per cent of the ballots. H gained 10 percentage points in con- servative areas of Hyde Park and did better than ever before in Neponset and West Roxbury.
In short, White piled up votes across the city, manhandling a challenger who almost beat him four years ago.
It could have been a tough election for White, who watched racial violence flare in Boston in the past two months. But Timilty, who promised after the preliminary to "take his gloves off," never did, choosing to concentrate on condemning White's 'political machine."
In a basically issueless campaign, many observers felt that Timilty's failure to project a "mayoral image" contrasted with White's insistence that Timilty would be unable to run the city.
Only in the last weeks, when Timilty attacked the mayor on issues of racial violence and tax rates, did the state senator take on the issues many felt would help his cause.
White, always lucky, sat back and watched Timilty vie with the Pope and the Kennedy clan for headline space, just as the challenger had to cope with the World Series Red Sox four years ago.
And White, who spent $1.5 million on his campaign, apparently persuaded most of the city's voters that Boston had turned a corner in the last four years, away from racial troubles and a decaying inner city and towards a vibrant, rebuilt future.
His strong showing in Southie and Roxbury testifies to his careful handling of the delicate busing question--and perhaps paves the way for greater unity of a city split apart by race.
If nothing else, yesterday's returns show that for the first time the whole city is comfortable with White, at least more comfortable than with his perennial challenger